Thursday, December 27, 2012

The good guy principle

For anyone who watches Gilmore Girls, you're in for a treat with the blog that I've concocted for this evening. For those who have not watched the show or have no interest in it, I apologize but you may be either so confused or annoyed by the references listed throughout that you might just tire of the post and move onto something that better suits your taste. I don't blame you.

Tonight I'm writing this for me.

This morning I was reminded of something that often slips my mind when I'm away from home for extended periods of time. If you read the first paragraph of this post, then you already know what I'm going to say. I often forget about Gilmore Girls.

This is a show that is rarely on television anymore. If you wake up early, you might be able to catch a single episode on ABC Family. Otherwise, you need to own the DVDs like I do. All seven seasons or bust.

Rarely have I ever made good use of the DVDs I own. The second disc of The Little Mermaid Special Edition, yes. Pride & Prejudice, the 2005 version with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, also yes. But when it comes to television series, not so much. I may like owning them, and occasionally return to them, but I certainly don't watch them over and over again.

Then there's Gilmore Girls, a show of which I've seen each episode at least five or six times. Some probably over a dozen times. It's hard to believe I've even been alive long enough to do so.

But it's got me thinking about what an important aspect of my life the show has come to be. Not only for the amount of cleverness and wisdom that I receive from each and every episode - which is plentiful, I will tell you - but for the my own experiences that directly correlate with plotlines I grew up watching.

I didn't choose to become a journalist off of a whim. Most of my interest in pursuing the career came from the subtle brain-washing of television journalism - and by that I don't mean CNN coverage, but the presentation of journalism in the entertainment media. Rory Gilmore, for example, is a budding young journalist who writes about the repaving of a parking lot and is lauded by her high school newspaper adviser. She ends up interning at a top news firm when she's in college. At the end of the series, her job search takes her on the road with Barack Obama (and the show ended while he was still running in the primary against Hillary Clinton, which is pretty awesome foresight if you ask me).

One subject, however, which I've always found personally significant is the variety of relationships on Gilmore Girls. It's inevitable that when you watch a television program, you end up rooting for various characters to get together. It's the same in cheesy teen dramedies, science fiction shows and children's TV (where would we be without the romantic end to Lizzie McGuire?, I kid).

Since I'm young, I tend to align myself with Rory. Which means I have a choice of several boyfriends. The first is Dean Forester, the second Jess Mariano and the third Logan Huntzberger.

For those who have decided to continue reading despite not knowing anything about Gilmore Girls, here is perhaps where the discussion becomes less centered around the show. Because what I really wanted to discuss today were the various tropes exemplified by Rory's dating life and how I've grown to see those tropes in different lights as I've grown up.

Dean will from here on out be the "good guy" trope. Jess will be the, unsurprisingly so, "dangerous guy" trope. Logan will be the "sketchy, but charming guy" trope.

In the earliest days of Gilmore Girls, the "good guy" trope began to take its full form in Dean who was a doting boyfriend, a modest and humble worker and a respectful and funny complement to Rory's early temperate neuroses. He was the perfect guy. And while things began to take a turn as Rory and Dean grew older - years after they'd broken up and in the midst of his failing marriage - there was still some sense that if they had remained together things would've ended up happy, however dull for lack of drama.

Jess brought some spice into the story with his unpredictability, his willingness to get into trouble and to convince other people (i.e. Rory) to get into trouble with him and his passionate and intellectual tendencies. He's the trope that all girls love, but also love to change. It's fun to imagine the "dangerous guy" as a lifelong partner, but only if he can be altered to become more like the "good guy" trope. And that just won't happen.

Then there's Logan, who despite becoming a kinder and more respectable character in later seasons, was always tainted by the notion that he was a filthy rich boy who was detached from ordinary life. He believed money could buy happiness, sex could heal wounds and frivolity was the essence to a happy youthful life.

At one point in time, each of these various tropes had their pull on me. The earliest was the "dangerous guy" who satiated my love for Holden Caulfield-esque breakdowns and Converse All Star-wearing, black skinny jean sporting men. I liked the idea of a guy who needed work because he seemed like the most emotionally available. I was going through a period of mutual self-discovery and self-loathing, which seemed a perfect complement to the brooding anti-hero type.

Luckily I wasn't dating then, just growing into my own and wearing black nail polish whilst listening to Green Day. It was a younger time, a more immature time. I would end up dating someone who resembled this trope somewhat, but that was short-lived and luckily the years had changed me enough to get over it quickly.

And soon I was on Team "sketchy, but charming guy". The idea of someone who was clever and detached, but seemed to have his life put together enough to keep me happy was intriguing. If he was smart, he needn't be devoted or loving. What mattered was that he have the traits I'm looking for in a man. If he didn't appreciate me back, then hopefully I could change that.

I started dating, and immediately got mixed up with a guy like that. He was clearly on his way to great things; he was smart and accomplished, and he had a lot of confidence. But what he didn't have was any respect for me. It wasn't meant to be for obvious reasons. But I continued to date, looking for the guy with the ambition and not the heart.

Again, time changes perceptions. And I think it was experience - and a re-opening of my eyes - that made me remember the character I'd been so long overlooking and who is most valuable when it comes to dating. "Good guy" receives his name for a reason. He really is perfect. In all the ways that are necessary anyway.

That doesn't mean that the perfect guy has to be in every way infallible. No one is without faults. And certainly no one fits tropes, even television characters.

But when I finally took a second to look back at Rory's boyfriends on Gilmore Girls - the ones I'd fawned over and compared my own relationships to since I started dating - I realized that it had taken me way too long to arrive at the kind of person who fit the "good guy" bill.

Maybe, however, I did this the right way around.

In the show, Rory starts out with Dean "good guy" Forester. She seems to grow bored with the stability and ends up secretly pining after Jess "dangerous guy" Mariano. Eventually the instability of Jess makes her go through a period of solitude and datelessness. Then she goes for Logan "sketchy, but charming (and frankly needs work) guy" Huntzberger. He gives her what she wants, but never what she needs. And in the end, when he proposes, she realizes that she can't imagine a life with someone like him. She chooses her career instead.

It took me a while to get past those Logan-esque and Jess-like tropes, to realize that what was stalwart and steady was what I should treasure.

I remember posing the question early on with my dad and amongst my friends. Who is your favorite of Rory's boyfriends?

Well my answer kept changing, switching back and forth between Jess and Logan for many a moon. Until about a half a year ago, when I decided that the drama of those characters may have made for good television, but that what makes for a good life is something more intrinsically satisfying. Something that doesn't bum you out as often as it makes you excited.

So I pick Dean now. And as I popped in the DVDs for the first season of Gilmore Girls again, it surprised me that it took me so long to come to this conclusion. I doubt I'll be changing my mind ever again.

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