A new month, and a new challenge. In February, we’re going to assign each other topics instead, and see what we get out of it. This week, Kelly wanted me to write about my top three favorite TV shows and what they have taught me about the world and myself. Two out of the three of these are going to be pretty obvious to anyone who has known me for any significant length of time. The third one, well, I haven’t even figured that one out yet so I think its going to surprise all of us.
The West Wing: I like to think that I was a pretty good kid – there wasn’t a lot I was bratty about. But I did tell Kelly she wasn’t allowed to watch the West Wing with my dad and me. It was our thing and I didn’t want her anywhere near it, especially when I was taking guitar lessons on Wednesday nights and we had to race home to catch the next episode. I could tell you about how the West Wing taught me about optimism, the ability to pick up and keep fighting even at the end of a really bad day. I could also tell you about how the West Wing taught me to value my intelligence, not to hide it, even when people were weird about it, because smart people are going to save the world. I could also tell you a bit about how the West Wing inspired my civic mindedness, my belief in government, but you can just read about that in this Vanity Fair article. All of that stuff is true, and all of it has stuck with me but I think the most important thing the West Wing taught me was this – complexity is not a vice. The world is complex place, and its questions have complex answers, when they have answers at all. Don’t be afraid of it.
“Every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren’t very many unnuanced moments in a country that’s way too big for ten words.”
Veronica Mars: My first year in college was rough. I wasn’t happy where I was, I wasn’t happy to leave home, and I did all the things one usually does when one is unhappy. I didn’t eat much; I id in my room and did a terrible job making friends aside from my wonderful roommate, who was forced to put up with me because she had mono (Hi Jenny!). So I was in the right place in my life for deep, immediate, and irrevocable attachment to a fictional narrative.
I started watching Veronica Mars at my friend’s house over Christmas break (hi Megan!) and by the end of it I had probably spent more time at her house than wit my family. We drove out at 10 pm to go buy the second and third season from Target. And then I spent most of my second semester of college unable to sleep because I was so fixated on the cliffhanger they’d left us with. Over the next few years I’d introduce the series to new friends and old friends, write fanfiction, and then finally donate $100 to the KickStarter campaign that would bring the series back to life for me. When I found out they would be making a movie, I cried a little.
So what did I learn from Veronica Mars? It’s all twisted up with my first year of college – but I learned that you can get through the things that seem unbearable. That time keeps passing. That sometimes letting yourself be loved can be the hardest thing in the world, but that it’s almost always worth it.
Gilmore Girls: Okay, I decided. So Gilmore Girls is a fantasy – and a fairly white, privileged one at that. As I am a fairly white, privileged person, it’s easy for me to identify with. I don’t have a good story about this one, or a plethora of lessons. I can’t even tell you about the hard times that Gilmore Girls has gotten me through, because its been almost every minor crisis since I started college. There’s something about a character on television who was known for being smart and quiet, for reading too often and too much that warmed my heart. There’s also something to the fact that Rory ends the series about to start a great job, with no boyfriend in sight. People who live their lives in stories can also have their own.
Okay, so maybe there was a life lesson in there too. I think there’s something to be said about he fact that all of these shows celebrate strong, smart women, and that I watched all of them when I was at that age where being a strong, smart women was pretty hard. I was pretty lucky growing up. There were real people in my life that celebrated strong, smart women. But I’m really glad I got to see it on TV too.
(But also Supernatural, guys. This is SO HARD)