Tag Archives: literature

Gilmore Girls: an in-depth analysis

Gilmore Girls is the best show ever made. No other TV show will ever live up to its standards. The other day, after watching the Pilot for the 500th time (Rory is so sweet in the first season!), and reading several essays from “Coffee at Luke’s: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest” I sat down and wrote down my thoughts on the show, ranging from why I love it to an analysis/discussion of the characters and themes on the show. (Warning: SPOILERS)

Of course I love the fast talk and witty banter, but I also recently realized that Gilmore Girls (GG) is one of the real feminist shows out there, for the simple reason that it reverses the entire gender formula. In most TV shows and movies, women are just accessories to men, and exist only to serve these men or obsess over them. But in GG, Rory and Lorelai are fully formed independent women, and the men in the show exist only to support them and, let’s be real, obsess over them. Think about all the men on the show who serve as romantic interests to Rory or Lorelai – Luke, Jess, Logan, Christopher, Dean, and Jason. In short, every important male character on the show except for Richard. They all have something in common. They are all extremely jealous and overcome by their infatuation with a Gilmore girl, but more importantly, none of them ever really finds happiness with them. Yes, Luke and Lorelai end up together in the end (as we had all hoped and expected), but this was the third time they were getting together. Before this, their relationship pretty much crashed and burned.

No man can ever keep hold of a Gilmore girl because Rory and Lorelai don’t need men. They may want relationships, but that’s an entirely different matter. They are too independent, and move forward too quickly for anyone else to keep up with them.

The other problem – and this is especially true for Lorelai, is that one life isn’t enough. Lorelai always insists on keeping her Stars Hollow life separate from the life she grew up with. Yet the reality of it is that she constantly has one foot in both places. This is, I think, the root of her boy problems.

For the majority of the show, Lorelai dates outsiders because she clings to her parents’ life – as much as she despised it, there is a large part of her that fits in very well with that society, even if she cannot admit it to herself. And so nearly every man she dates (Max, Christopher, Jason) is discarded at some point, because none of them can fit in where she needs them to: Stars Hollow.

And then along comes Luke, who’s really been there all along, and while it seems perfect on paper, the reality is that for a long time, they can’t make it work. There are different issues that crop up – Lorelai’s parents, Christopher, April – but the real problem is that Lorelai is suddenly tied down. When she is dating Luke, Stars Hollow becomes her only life. But she has always wanted more, just like her daughter. At least Rory’s ambitions are tangible, though, in the form of her time at Yale and future career as a journalist. Lorelai’s yearning, though, can’t be given a name, because she herself doesn’t know what she wants. She knows what she doesn’t want, though, and that is being stuck in Stars Hollow indefinitely.

Because Stars Hollow, with all its charm, is frozen in time and space. It doesn’t offer much chance for growth in any way. Even the characters we love, like Miss Patty, Kirk, Sookie, and Jackson, do not change over the seven seasons. Sookie didn’t even date much at all before deciding to settle down with her produce guy, whom she sees every day. The only character who grows (besides Rory and Lorelai) is Jess, who was never truly a part of the town anyways. There are other characters who show growth, such as Paris, and Emily, but they are not residents of Stars Hollow, so they are allowed to change and grow with time.

Lorelai cannot bear to be stifled in the way all other Stars Hollow residents have been, and so time and again we see her returning to her parents’ elite life in one way or another. And because she could never choose just one life, it is her indecision between the two that defines her.

This is evident in the way she raises Rory, too. She wants to protect Rory from the rich elitist life, but at the same time, she wants to give Rory all the opportunities she never had. And by constantly trying to give Rory “freedom” she is, in a way, smothering her, just like her parents did to her. And though it takes a long time for Rory to rebel, she eventually does. One of her first acts of rebellion is taking part in a cotillion. Though she does this mainly to please her grandmother, it is the first step in a series of small defiances that lead to a larger one. She continues to work towards the life her mother shunned: picking Yale over Harvard, dating rich boy Logan, and finally, joining the DAR and moving in with her grandparents when things finally come to a head with the separation.

Rory at this point in time is not the Rory we know. She stole a boat, for God’s sake. So why is she acting like this? It’s easy to blame it on Logan (very easy for me, since he is my least favorite of Rory’s boyfriends – look at the way he treats her!), but there’s more to it. When Logan’s dad, a.k.a. Mr. Jerkface, tells her that she doesn’t have it in her to be a journalist, she has a meltdown. Why now? Jess questioned it once before, and though Rory expressed some concern in the moment, it didn’t shake her confidence. But Rory is now finally at a point in her life when she has to decide for herself what she wants to do. All her life, Lorelai has led her by the hand, but it’s been a few years now since she started rebelling against her mother’s ways, and she is just starting to see how these acts of defiance have shaped her life. So when she is faced with criticism, she can’t handle it. Because if she can’t be a journalist, which she associates with everything familiar (Lorelai’s lifestyle), then the obvious choice is to turn towards her grandmother’s lifestyle – right? The problem is that she never takes the time to stop and think; like her mother, she just keeps going. It takes Jess asking her what the hell happened for her to finally turn her life around again.

Once her life is back on track, though, there’s no turning back. This Rory is a far cry from the Rory we knew in Season 1, who was always so wrapped up in some book, that she was too occupied to notice real life happening around her. Rory does eventually get pulled out of her world of books, but for a while, it is how she experiences life. And her relationship with books is a bit like her relationship with Stars Hollow. She begins to realize that as much as she loves reading/Stars Hollow, she cannot allow it to pull her away from her ambitions. Even so, at the end of the day, she always has her town and her books to turn to when she needs to go back home.

This has been a long, incoherent, love letter (of sorts) to Gilmore Girls.

Copper Boom.

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Common Misconceptions about Sherlock Holmes

1. The deerstalker hat: Sherlock never wears this hat. In fact, he rarely wears head wear at all (except when he’s in disguise). When he does, Conan Doyle mentions a top hat. The hat was probably first introduced by Sidney Paget, illustrator for The Strand. It later gained popularity in theatrical adaptations until eventually, it became difficult to find a Sherlock Holmes avatar existing without this iconic hat.

2. Sherlock Holmes frequently says “Elementary, my dear Watson.”: False. Only once or twice in the 56 stories written about Holmes does he say ‘Elementary’. On several occasions Holmes says ‘my dear Watson’ in the middle of a sentence, but never does he ever say “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

3. Sherlock Holmes always smokes a Calabash pipe: The curly, distinctive pipe that is always associated with Sherlock Holmes is never mentioned in the books. In fact, Conan Doyle never even mentions that Holmes prefers pipes to other forms of tobacco. Sherlock never would have even used a Calabash pipe, because it mellows the smoky mixture, and Sherlock preferred strong, harsh tobacco. This was, most likely, a Hollywood invention.

4. Sherlock Holmes was old: Holmes was born in 1854. The first story, A Study in Scarlet, is set in 1881, making him 27 at the time. This means that for most of his adventures with Watson, he was a young man. Obviously he grew old at some point in time, but he was not always old.

5. Sherlock Holmes was a drug addict: it can be easy to assume this, but first the context of the stories must be taken into account. At the time when the stories were set, it was not uncommon for people to take drugs. In spite of this, Sherlock Holmes did not frequently take drugs. He mentioned that he only took drugs when his mind required stimulation, or when he did not have a case to solve. Moreover, he only took morphine and cocaine (which were legal, over-the-counter drugs at the time), NOT opium. Opium is only mentioned in The Man with the Twisted Lip in which he must pretend to take opium in order to solve a case.

6. Sherlock Holmes was gay: this is false. Holmes was, to a great extent, asexual. Watson married in The Sign of Four, and loved his wife very much. The relationship between Holmes and Watson was purely platonic. This myth is largely perpetuated by such adaptations as the Guy Ritchie movies and BBC’s Sherlock.

7. Sherlock Holmes loved Irene Adler: Again, Holmes was asexual. While many interpreted A Scandal in Bohemia to indicate that Sherlock Holmes loved Irene Adler, this is not true. Holmes was a famously misogynistic man, and therefore Watson’s surprise at Holmes’ respect for Irene Adler comes through in his writing. But that’s all it was. Holmes’ feelings towards Adler were admiration and respect, not love.

8. Sherlock Holmes was a very serious man who never laughed or smiled: on the contrary, Holmes laughed or smiled in almost every single story, sometimes sarcastically. In fact, Sherlock Holmes was totally capable of feeling and conveying normal human emotions, which brings me to…

9. Sherlock Holmes was socially handicapped: this is the misconception with irks me the most because it is simply not true. There are various claims to this myth, including: he cannot deal with or understand other people’s pain, he does not feel emotions, and he cannot understand social interaction. None of this is true. Clearly he has to be able to understand pain in order to help people. In the Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, he stoops to a criminal level in order to save a woman’s engagement. In this same story, he becomes engaged to a woman, which shows that clearly, he must have a total understanding of social cues and norms in order to manipulate a woman to the point that she falls in love with him. He regularly acts kindly towards women and his clients in general.

Up next: Thoughts on the Reichenbach Fall (BBC Sherlock)

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Finding a Novel about Women that’s Not About Love – Not as Hard as You’d Think

“It’s Frustratingly Rare to Find a Novel About Women That’s Not About Love” says The Atlantic. As always when I find people attacking women writers and their subjects, or female characters and their interests, I was indignant and bothered when I first came across this article. When the initial anger passed, though, I stopped to think about whether there was any truth in this statement or not. What I discovered is that there is not. There is just about the same amount of romance in a book featuring a female protagonist as there is in a book featuring a male protagonist (for the most part – romance novels are obviously excepted).

The way I see it, there are two ways to approach this question. The first is to assume that when the writer says “About Love” she means the book is exclusively about love – enough so that it can be classified as “romance”. The other way to look at is that “About Love” simply means that a large portion of the story is devoted to romance, but it is not the main focus of the story. I’m going to talk about both these interpretations to show just how wrong The Atlantic is.

Let me list out 12 books I’ve read recently which feature both male and female protagonists, and are written by both men and women. I think that I have quite varied taste, and an open mind, when it comes to books, so I’m fairly confident that I’ve made a reasonable selection. (I’m limiting the books listed to those published in the last 200 years, simply because society before then was much more patriarchal than it is now).

Going with the first method (the main focus of the novel is love), then:

  1. 1984 (George Orwell) – fail
  2. The Museum of Innocence (Orhan Pamuk) : pass
  3. The Other Boleyn Girl (Phillipa Gregory) : fail – while the main character of this book, Mary, does love the King, the larger focus of the book is not her romance (or lack of romance). It is her relationship with her sister, her family’s ambition, and her ultimate decline in the court (hence the title).
  4. Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) : fail – Kathy and Tommy’s journey together is a vital part of this story, but ultimately, the story is about the society they live in and how this affects Kathy personally.
  5. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) : fail – this story is, more than anything, a coming of age story
  6. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) : fail – I already know that I’m going to be disputed on this matter, but hear me out. If Jane Eyre was a love story, the sections on her life with her Aunt Reed and her experience at Lowood would have been much briefer, believe me. This novel truly is a bildungsroman, so it fails this first test, albeit the fact that the person who helped her realize who she was may have been a man.
  7. Out of Africa (Karen Blixen) : fail – again, this will be disputed (and the movie adaptation doesn’t help), but the love aspect in this book was so insignificant it is barely worth mentioning. It is much more about Karen’s experiences in Africa, and her relationships with the people and animals she finds there.
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) : fail – this is not a love story. But because the protagonist is male, I’m almost positive everyone will agree with me (whereas most people are happy to jump to the conclusion that Jane Eyre is a romance novel simply because the protagonist is female, when it is just as much a coming-of-age story as The Perks of Being a Wallflower is)
  9. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand) : fail
  10. Atonement (Ian McEwan) : fail – keep in mind that this is the story of Briony, not the story of Celia and Robbie. I think the point of the story is quite evident in the title of the book.
  11. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) : fail – again, many will argue about this, but this is a story of a woman who has to live with the decisions she has made. Men do shape her decisions, yes, but this is an internal journey for Anna, not “about love”
  12. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) : fail – there are many interpretations of this novel out there, but to me, The Great Gatsby embodies the American Dream, wanting something you have, and the difference between reality and dreams. Not a love story.

The only novel that passes this first criterion (the focus of the story is love) is The Museum of Innocence, which is both written by a man, and features a male protagonist.

Okay. On to the next case: the story features love prominently, though it is not the main focus of the novel. I’m going to use the same list of books.

  1. 1984 (George Orwell) : pass – Winston’s relationship with Julia is substantial enough to qualify as a love affair.
  2. The Museum of Innocence (Orhan Pamuk) : pass
  3. The Other Boleyn Girl (Phillipa Gregory) : pass – Though, you should remember, the book is set in 16th century England. Women are raised to think that their lives revolve around men.
  4. Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) : pass – Kathy and Tommy’s romance does help Kathy shape her views and thoughts about the world around her and her ultimate fate.
  5. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) : pass – Pip waits for Estella for a good ten years, if not more, and his interest in her only cements his place in society.
  6. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) : pass – For all I said about this book not being a romance novel, Jane’s love affair with Rochester does play a huge party in the story.
  7. Out of Africa (Karen Blixen) : pass
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) : pass – for all that The Atlantic said about heroines being supporting characters in their own stories, I’d almost argue that Sam was the lead in this book. She shapes Charlie’s life and experiences so much that it’s hard to argue that Charlie has the sole claim to the title of “main character”
  9. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand) : pass – although I’m not sure Howard Roark can actually feel love.
  10. Atonement (Ian McEwan) : pass
  11. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) : pass
  12. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) : pass

Guess what? Every single novel on the list passed. Out of the 12 books, 6 have female protagonists, and 6 have male protagonists – regardless, love plays an important role in each book. Why? Because love plays an important role in life. It’s frustrating when people refuse that men are often searching for love, because they are too. It’s a human instinct and almost a societal requirement.

And even after all this, if you aren’t convinced, here are some honorable mentions of books with female protagonists that lack a substantial ‘love’ angle: The Help (Kathryn Stockett), The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee – does this count if the main character is only 6 years old?), The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy), and The Thirteenth Tale (Diane Setterfield). The list is limited by my own reading list, but I’m sure there are many more such books.

I think the writer overplays some of her points. “These female characters had love stories of heartbreak, but no stories of solitary self-discovery.” That’s a misleading statement, because there’s no such thing as ‘solitary self-discovery.’ No man is an island, and we are all the product of the people around us. Of the novels I’ve listed, I’d say about half were stories of self-discovery – and those include books with a female protagonist. Even stories with male characters on the path to self-discovery are not totally solitary – I’d say a huge part of Holden Caulfield’s journey was shaped by his younger sister, Phoebe. And she may not be a love interest, but what about The Great Gatsby? Jay Gatsby as we know him today would be a totally different person without Daisy.

Now I’m not arguing with everything the writer of the article says. I realize that there are still many problems with the way women are perceived in our world, and that, like it or not, we still live in a largely patriarchal society.

But don’t invalidate the books we cherish and love by saying that the women in these books are motivated solely by a desire for marriage and children. Don’t discredit the whole of our sex.

Link to the article: http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/07/its-frustratingly-rare-to-find-a-novel-about-women-thats-not-about-love/277621/

 

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