“Wonderful girl! Either I’m gonna kill her, or I’m beginning to like her!” – Han Solo on Princess Leia Organa
“Well, ex-cuse me, princess!” – Link on Zelda in 1989’s The Legend of Zelda
“I swear I have never met anyone who irritates me so much… other than you.” – Blair Warner on roommate Jo Polniaczek
“I watched The Facts of Life fairly often; I bet I remember pretty accurately how sexually charged the interactions between Jo Polniaczek and Blair Warner were.” – You, right now
No. You don’t. I promise you that you don’t. It’s ten thousand times more intense than you recall. Here is a parody of the Jo/Blair relationship from (bizarre, short-lived, mostly-terrible-yet-sometimes-sublime gay version of Saturday Night Live) The Big Gay Sketch Show.
(Yes, that’s a pre-SNL Kate McKinnon as Blair.) Now here is a fan video compiled only of scenes from the actual Facts of Life, set to what I believe is a One Direction song:
Here are Blair and Jo trying to go to a costume party:
Jo: You can’t go as Jane Fonda.
Blair: Why not? Who are you going as?
Jo: Peter Fonda.
Blair: You realize of course you’ll have to pick someone else.
Jo: Not on your life, I already got my leather jacket, my boots, and come this Friday night I’ll be Easy Rider.
Blair: You can’t go as Peter Fonda, he’s a man!
Jo: It’s not Peter Fonda, it’s what he represents, bikes, freedom.
Here are Blair and Jo learning to live together:
Mrs. Garrett: All right, girls. What’s all the shouting about?
Jo: Could you tell Mrs. Onassis here to stay out of my way? With her face creams and cologne bottles and hair sprays, I tell ya, I walk in here sometimes and I think I’m in a drugstore. I look around for the checkout stand.
Blair: She should talk. It’s not easy sleeping next to Mr. Goodwrench.
The 1980s were a strange and wonderful time. When else could you possibly turn on your television to find a series about an all-girl’s school featuring a butch-femme version of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Adam’s Rib? I can’t imagine that the writers realized what they were doing at the time — presumably trying to show two kids from different backgrounds overcoming their differences to become friends — but they ended up writing Some Kind of Wonderful meets The Princess Bride with teenage girls.
Every one of Jo and Blair’s interactions falls into one of the following categories: Unhand Me You Brute You Awful Brute You’re Covered In Oil And You’ll Get My Hair Greasy, My God I Hate You Come Closer And Breathe Into My Mouth So I Can Tell You Just how Much I Hate You, and LEAVE HER ALONE SHE’S MINE. Blair’s not just from the right side of the track; her father owns most of the track. Jo’s not just a motorcycle-riding, jeans-wearing rebel without a cause, she’s the Artful Dodger in Jo March’s body in James Dean’s clothes.
The very first time they meet (Jo’s just ridden up to their school on her bike) Blair mistakes her for a delivery boy (“Your entrance is around back,”) which perfectly sets up the belligerent class and sexual tension that will seethe between them for the next eight years or so.
Imagine the first ten minutes of The Princess Bride if Westley had resisted being Buttercup’s Farm Boy and the two of them mostly yelled at each other, Beatrice-and-Benedick style, and you’re pretty much there.
I can’t exactly recommend revisiting the entire series run, even for the glory that is the Blair/Jo relationship, but there are a few highlights that are well worth watching for the first or fifteenth time. There’s the episode where Blair turns on her country club friends after one of them tries to humiliate Jo at a dance (“At least when I insult her, I know what I’m talking about!”), the episode where Blair tracks down Jo at a roadside motel to stop her from getting married and to come live with her instead, the episode where Jo gets a job as a mechanic (PHWOAR)…
Before I go, I leave you with this. Remember how in the film version of Fried Green Tomatoes the director got rid of the lesbian relationship between Ruth and Idgie but called the food fight in the kitchen “an analogy” for the love scenes between them? If you do not remember, enjoy watching subtext become pretty much just text:
Compare that to The Facts of Life‘s paint fight scene in season three. Jo sets things off at about the 2:30 mark.
Let us leave our star-crossed lovers here, covered in paint and thinly-disguised metaphors for girl-on-girl sex, riding motorcycles and combing their hair into the sunset.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.