The Melrose Valhalla — 25 years of Melrose Place

Back when the internet was just jumping off in the early 1990s, there was a certain subset of GenXers who didn’t have the foresight to get into dotcoms and instead went the grad school route. We weren’t special, and we’re certainly not rich like our counterparts who went the web/startup route, but we were pretty happy to apply a lot of overthinking of intellectual theories to our greatest procrastination: watching television as a group.

In my case, and that of my friends, our study break was Aaron Spelling’s Melrose Place. Melrose started the year after I’d entered a grad program in women’s studies at Emory University, at the time the only doctoral program in the field. It felt bold, off the beaten path and definitely on the cutting edge of, “What are you doing to do with that degree?”

By the time grad school rolled around, I was well-versed in answering that question and giddily applying theories about race, class, gender, and sexuality to how we make meaning through popular culture and social movements. Today it might seem obvious to offer cultural critiques in places like Crunk Feminist Collective, Bustle, The Establishment, Jezebel, etc. but in the early 1990s without social media and blogging not yet a thing, it was exciting to think about how to apply theories, many derived from activism, to cultural output.

Here’s one example of that: on the 25th anniversary of Melrose Place, a zine called the Melrose Valhalla. Why “Valhalla?” It was just a word and a notion that struck me as funny: a hall, in Norse mythology, where the souls of heroes were welcomed.

In the early 1990s, before we could pick apart everything celebrities said or did on social media, there was still a little Hollywood glamor left. Ah, the good ol’ days: when we could just immerse ourselves in characters and plotlines, however soapy, and enjoy episodic TV from week to week. And no need to worry about spoiling. Unless someone gave you a videotape of the previous week’s episode and spilled the beans, big reveals were revealed as part of a collective of watchers.

A few other grad school friends and I managed to publish four issues of the Melrose Valhalla — to be accurate, we published three before our own group imploded in a Melrose-ian-like fashion. What happened? God, who knows with women in their early 20s? Like Melrose’s characters we struggled to define ourselves against strictures and stereotypes and reconcile new identities with possibilities yet to present themselves. And, alas, no communal swimming pool in L.A. Though there may be hints in issue #4 — see “The Great Posse Explosion (What to do when your posse busts up).”

But because I’m a packrat/archivists, we do have three issues of the Melrose Valhalla to accompany your first time watching or rewatching Melrose Place, which ran from 1992–1999. Enjoy!

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