A Meathead Watches Gilmore Girls (“Rory’s Dance” and “Forgiveness and Stuff”)
I was asked already if I’m even enjoying doing this. Through eight episode’s worth of reviews, it is apparently becoming clear to at least some readers that this might not be my favorite show. And to a certain extent, that’s true. My preferred shows are a laundry list of predictable answers: The Wire, Breaking Bad, Terriers, etc. Those are all great shows. But I’ve seen those shows, often times more than once, and rewatching old favorites strikes me as too easy a thing to do.
Then there is my wife and our friends. They love Gilmore girls. I want to know what it is about this show and not others that so captures their attention. Maybe I’ll never know – my reaction to certain episodes is very different than theirs – but surely it’s worth the attempt.
Finally, there is the promise of greatness. These first few episodes haven’t been greats. The show’s biggest fans willingly concede this. “It gets much better,” they’ve promised me and I trust them. Ask me again in a few weeks though.
Rory shrugs off Chilton’s first dance, much to Emily’s consternation, and then, perhaps more surprisingly, to Lorelai’s. We’re meant to think that Emily and Lorelai are forever at odds but there are moments where their interests – but not their methodology – overlap. Rory agrees to go and Lorelai agrees to make her a dress. Rory asks Dean if he’ll accompany her and he agrees haltingly. He is not a dancer.
Emily wheedles her way to Lorelai’s before the dance. She wants to see Rory off but discovers Lorelai has injured herself. They watch Rory leave with Dean but Emily then remain to care for Lorelai. It is a motherly act tinged predictably with passive aggression. The way this show portrays conflict is so different than what I am used to. Forget the absence of swearing – although the next post in this series will revisit that issue – and focus instead on the never-ending series of freely-flowing critical comments. Perhaps more amazing is how often these comments are seemingly absorbed, as though passive-aggressive conflict is a perfectly normal, perfectly healthy thing.
Speaking of conflict, Chilton has thus far produced three substantive characters within the broader Gilmore girls mythology: (the boring) Max Medina, Rory’s academic rival Paris, and Tristan. Tristan is an amalgamation of every 80’s teen movie bad guy. He’s arrogant, he’s presumptuous, he’s preppy. He’s basically vintage James Spader circa Pretty In Pink. The ongoing tension between the three results from Paris’s unrequited love for Tristan, Tristan’s occasional pursuit of Rory, and Rory’s position squarely between two people that she does not like but cannot avoid. At the dance though, Rory has backup: Dean.
Dean attracts everyone’s attention precisely because he sticks out. He isn’t of this crowd, not only financially, but academically, but his difference here is a strength, one that Tristan is immediately threatened by. And because teenage boys are testosterone driven maniacs, Tristan’s solutions is to think about butting heads with Dean, a plan which goes surprisingly poorly for a man surrounded by his own people on his own turf. Dean’s having none of it, warns Tristan against additional bad behavior, and then leaves with Rory in tow.
This, I should note, is precisely the sort of conflict I can easily identify with. Having once been a testosterone fueled maniac too, as well as having been paid to spend three years working with testosterone fueled maniacs, I recognize this pattern of conflict all too well. It makes sense to me. And because it doesn’t come to blows in this particular case, it strikes me as a particularly useful conflict mechanism.
Earlier I decried Emily’s and Lorelai’s passive-aggressive relationship. Here I am praising two boys almost coming to physical conflict on the basis of traded words. I didn’t title this series, “A Meathead Watches Gilmore Girls” by accident after all. My response to this particularly male. “Conflict like this!” I want to shout at the television, “But not like that!” As if there’s a right answer. As if there’s a better way. As if all human beings don’t tend toward inefficient dummy-dom.
Having left the dance, Rory and Dean end up at a local dance studio (what) where they settle down to read a book (what) and eventually fall asleep together (what). Lorelai and Emily fall asleep waiting for them, waking up the next morning to an empty house. As you can imagine, Emily’s and Lorelai’s response to this is vicious. Emily decides that this would be a perfect time to criticize Lorelai. Lorelai decides this would be a perfect time for Emily to leave. And when Rory finally appears – after a reassuring call from the dance studio’s owner, Patty – Lorelai responds as though Rory at 16 is what Lorelai was at 16. Lorelai suggests birth control – woah! – and Rory balks, understandably, expecting more trust than she’s getting despite assurances that nothing (sex) happened. Save for a young couple reading novels together in an oddly unlocked dance studio.
“Forgiveness and Stuff”
Stars Hollow is having a Christmas Pageant – the War On Christmas hasn’t made it into twee Connecticut apparently – but tensions haven’t cooled between Lorelai and both Rory and Emily, although they’re fighting for entirely different reasons. The critical bombs Emily threw in Rory’s late-night absence were extremist and Lorelai (quite rightly) isn’t interested in enduring that anymore. Meanwhile, Rory isn’t quick to forget Lorelai’s immediate distrust. But, life moves on. Lane counsels Rory to think about gifts that would make Dean happy, not gifts that might serve a transformative purpose in his life. This, I imagine, might be hinting at a theme.
Things have gotten so bad that Lorelai ends up not being required at the Gilmore’s annual Christmas Party. Rory still is though, and so it ends up that Rory attends and Lorelai doesn’t. This suaree, which we’re meant to believe is a serious to-do, is attended by few other couples, and maybe I’m missing something, but its hype doesn’t match its execution. This year’s will be memorable though. First, Emily lies about Lorelai’s absence, insisting that it is because she is sick, rather than the fault of the war between them, something Rory predictably notices. Then, Richard has what appears to be a cardiac macguffin and is hospitalized.
Emily and Rory are desperate for Lorelai, who has been consoling herself, first during a fences-mending conversation with Dean, and then at Luke’s Diner. Luke closes down when Lorelai gets the call about Richard and he drives her to the hospital. He spends the majority of the evening by her side and in case we hadn’t known before, it is plainly clear that Luke pines for Lorelai, although silently and shyly. Emily notices Luke’s presence but is too consumed by understandable fear and a desire to control what she can: getting Richard the best care that she can easily afford.
The cardiac event ends up being nothing major but it does get Lorelai and Emily in the same room. Lorelai puts out fires that Emily either will not or cannot, something that she is capable of appreciating at least. But Lorelai’s afraid too and in fact balks at actually seeing her father in a hospital bed. She has good reasons for her cleavage with her parents but at the end of the day, they’re her parents.
Meanwhile, the night in the hospital also lays the groundwork for the fact that when Lorelai needs him, Luke is willing to literally drop everything to be at her service. He is, in this regard anyway, ideal. (He is also, we are meant to believe, less attractive to Lorelai than Max Medina, which is dumb.) As this season goes on, it will be extremely difficult to believe that Lorelai and Luke aren’t together. It frankly strains all credibility. He has thus far been portrayed as basically the perfect man. Everybody but Lorelai can see this and I boggle at the idea that we’re meant to endure and “will they or won’t they” for seasons. That though is for another day.
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