Over the month of April, I’ve had a tooth issue. There was pain – not so much that I’d take a painkiller, but enough to influence my life. I couldn’t put any pressure on the back left side of my mouth. The UGA dental clinic told me that my #18 molar had literally fallen apart. Under an old filling, it had broken into two pieces. Since we can’t stitch bone back together, it had to come out. I scheduled the removal for 1 PM on Good Friday, sharing the pain. It wasn’t that bad, actually; not much worse than a filling. I was told not to do anything the rest of Friday, so I sat at home and watched TV. Here on Sunday April 20, most of the pain has gone, but I’m not supposed to eat crunchy foods or exercise. My body needs time to heal, to let blood and tissue fill the hole.
The analogy writes itself, I’m also trying to fill holes in my soul. I’ve had TV to keep me company, though I have no expectation of salvation in HD. My tastes over these past two months have tended towards lighter, more comedic fare. It’s been more challenging to find than I thought. The simple comedies of my life have been replaced by less expensive documentaries and “reality” shows. Dramas get higher ratings in general, it seems. The top comedy is The Big Bang Theory. On that show, none of the male scientists are attractive or desirable. It’s brilliantly designed to get the audience to laugh AT smart academics like me. Someone succinctly wrote: “I am proud of knowing a lot about those things. I am proud of being enthusiastic about the things I love and The Big Bang Theory wants to tell me not to be. It wants me to be like Penny, intellectually inferior but far more socially acceptable.” Why would I want to watch my culture reviled? “The Big Bang Theory is the worst kind of bully – the one that pretends to be your friend and then takes the piss out of you behind your back.”
I turned to other shows, current and classic. Friends and Frazier appear from time to time. My preference has reversed from ten years ago, as I find the New Yorker youngsters more pleasant than Seattle upscale older folk. That surprised me. It’s also interesting to compare their attitudes about sexuality with 2014 shows. I’m amazed by the crassness of Baby Daddy, supposedly on a family-oriented network. It’s not family TV. Then again, this list of Family TV to watch together includes Dancing with the Stars, the sexiest show on TV, including those with exposed boobies. What do I know?
I don’t need cruel cynical shows. For instance, I tried watching Veep on HBO, because critics online seem to like it. But none of the characters were appealing or likable. Why would I want to watch nastiness? The show Girls felt like the writers hated women and men. Don’t get me started on Game of Thrones, where the books were so disheartening and brutal that I stopped reading. I’d rather watch Mixology on ABC, and I have seen every episode. The characters there aren’t role models, but they’re at least trying to enjoy their experiences and break free from cynicism. Complicated is fine, but I’d like to be able to find possibility. If I want to see hopelessness, there’s the rest of my life. Or news from Ukraine or the Central African Republic.
Sometimes shows show hope to some, but not others. Thanks to E!, I’ve watched many episodes of Sex and the City, plus the movies. It’s complicated, as noted by The New Yorker. Is it even a comedy? The serialization, as characters change, feels more like a drama. I can find more humor in essays about the show like Race, Gender, and Class: A Hegemonic Analysis and Postfeminist Representation Politics. I can’t find a dream girl on the show – Charlotte’s too libertine for me – but can I find hope?
No. I’m too much of a romantic. Looking at the lead females, Samantha had too much trouble with intimacy. Miranda settles. Charlotte eventually gets a good pairing and a baby, after a failed marriage, with a moderately attractive Jew instead of a handsome Protestant. Then we reach the protagonist, Carrie Bradshaw. The turn in opinion on her character is interesting, from celebrated at show’s end in 2004 to unsympathetic ten years later. Neither is fair. Carrie is a strong woman, an attractive quality, but I don’t find Carrie appealing because she is scared of romance. As the New Yorker writes, “true love turned her into a fake.” She runs away from her decent relationships, pining for the powerful emotionally unavailable man and hoping he will change for her. Then, at 38, she panicked and took to Paris with The Russian. In the end, Mr. Big comes and saves her. Yet they have no children, and she kisses another man in movie 2. I appreciate the growth and change during the show’s six seasons plus movies. It’s got depth and a journey, more than I first imagined. As I look at the parting message, it’s strikingly conservative. The most traditional, Charlotte, has an easily solved marriage problem in her wonderful marriage with two kids. Miranda, with one child, neglects her husband, almost loses him, and then has to live exiled in Brooklyn. Carrie struggles nervously through marriage and gets no offspring. Samantha gets a fling, but where could she be at 70? Looking at relative outcomes, you could think the writers were given money by Focus on the Family.
I turn to a show that did get money from a family-friendly development fund, Gilmore Girls. There are fewer sex partners in Stars Hollow, the setting of Gilmore Girls, but interestingly more divorces. Both Lorelai and Luke rush impulsively into matrimony, not to each other. In the end, at 39, she manages to make her way back to Luke. We don’t get the movie to see their future, so I can imagine them with a son along with their daughters from other people.
Lorelai and Carrie begin their series at the same age, 32, women I can consider. In contrast to Carrie, Lorelai is a TV crush – no Clarisse McClellan but very appealing. Beyond outward qualities that Lauren Graham is prettier and Lorelai doesn’t smoke, Lorelai possesses most of the qualities that draw me: Sociability, wonder, laughter, intelligence. She’s not always courteous, but four of five is not so bad. Carrie has at most two. And Lorelai lives in a happier universe, where one doesn’t fake for love. The bullies aren’t around every corner. One can try to embrace happiness. I’d rather be there, at least at 11 AM Monday through Friday.
The funny part is that now that I can start fantasizing about jobs again, I can see myself moving to New York but not small town Connecticut. Strange, eh?