I'm Shreya. I have opinions on television. If they're wrong I'm sure you'll tell me in the comments. 

unapologetically feminist, working on being a better ally

Enlightened: Episodes 2-3

Enlightened: Episodes 2-3

Mike White.jpg
Shreya Durvasula and Mark Barry

Since we last joined our characters, Amy Jellicoe – freshly re-optimized by the Open Air recovery clinic, and armed with her adorable yellow dress and seemingly undying positive energy – was marching into Abbadon Industries charged with changing their practices from the usual corporate evil towards a better path revolved around ‘clean drugs’ and helping the community. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to how that went…

So Amy’s new job at Abbadon is at the dreaded level H – and now revolves around data entry with co-workers she clearly sees as beneath her. Out of the ensemble, I was drawn mostly to Omar (Jason Mantzoukas, who also plays Rafi on The League) and lovable awkward Tyler (Mike White, who is both the show creator and also better than you). Over the course of these two episodes, we see Amy’s struggle with accepting this new role and these new people as worth her time. The awkward silences came in spades with the multiple times that Amy kept ‘running into’ her former assistant, Krista, and her former co-workers. I enjoyed how this show has now given Amy a tool in conversations with her former co-workers – the constant threat of a violently angry outburst. It’s not quite the feeling that you’d get from a ‘loose cannon’ male who might just punch someone in the head… It’s something that no one would dare mention because it’s somehow less acceptable for a woman to be so out of control of her emotions (stereotypes aside). So it just sits there as the elephant in the room. And while Krista may want to end her conversation with Amy and decline her lunch invitation, she’ll allow Amy to stay there and ask three more questions for no other reason than that she’s terrified of her.

Amy has two revelations in the episodes. One, her crisis of faith spurred by Abbadon’s complete lack of motivation to change in the slightest was stemmed by Tyler’s desire to read the book that she’d cast aside in exasperation – Change: Now or Never! To be honest, who wouldn’t want to read that obvious page turner! *raises hand*

Second, after not being able to afford to work at a homeless shelter (apparently recovery, inner bliss and self-righteousness has a price tag of $48,000) and finally figuring out that Tyler is much cooler than Krista, Damon and the rest of that vapidness, offers him a pity-lunch-friend-date.  I guess a little change is better than none at all.

I hope that Amy’s character turns into more than just conflict with pretty much everyone. I can’t stand any interaction that she and her mom have, and any introduction of Luke Wilson’s character inevitably ends with proselytizing. I have faith in this show because its good moments are very good.  I know that the character of Amy Jellicoe will never be the sitcom stereotype of the wise-cracking likable protagonist; I just want to relate with her a bit more. I would settle for raging against the system with her, but I tend towards ideological radicalism so then the show might only be for me.

What do you think Shreya? Am I a perpetrator of patriarchy by suggesting that I don’t like Amy Jellicoe? Is she changing in a way that you or the viewing public would be better for seeing? Also, how adorable is Mike White?

SD: SO adorable, but then again, I am partial to awkward gingers. I don't think it's necessarily a gender issue that Dern and White are trying to address here, but an age one. Another female protagonist that is exceedingly unlikable is Girls' Hannah Horvath.   Hannah is narcissistic  self-absorbed, and yet, not only is there more discourse around her, more people are also watching the show. I'm sure the hype/backlash/notoriety as well as the graphic sex scenes help attract new viewers, but both Lena Dunham (creator of Girls) and White & Dern have given their characters enough depth that the audience should be able to relate to them. In Amy's case though, it's not that the audience can't relate to her, it's that they don't want to. 

How many other shows on TV prominently feature a woman, particularly a woman over the age of 35? I can think of Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie and Glenn Close in Damages, both excellent shows in their own right. And both also sadly under-watched.

Like you Mark, I enjoyed the tense interactions between Amy and her past colleagues. Laura Dern displays her prowess and milks the discomfort on those scenes perfectly. I hope we get to see Damon fleshed out better, right now he's just the douche. I realize we are seeing him through Amy's eyes, but I think it would help us understand their dynamic better. 

Three episodes in, the show's main hypothesis seems to be "change is hard". The academic and medical communities have spent a lot of time and money trying to figure out how and why people change.  That a change in attitudes will lead to a change in behavior is accepted, but the how and why is still elusive. While the fact that Amy declines Krista's invitation to lunch seemingly means that she's making an attempt to change, I would argue that the closing voiceover sequence shows us otherwise. 

Both the opening and closing sequences are clearly projections of Amy's fears, hopes, and desires. As Amy tries and fails to re-establish the same relationships she had before, by imagining pathetic and miserable existences for her new coworkers, by doing something nice for Tyler, she can now portray herself as this burst of sunshine who is helping them. Like you said, it's no secret that Amy thinks she is better than the crew on Level H. So does she want to actually get to know them? Or does it just make her feel better? 

MB: I don't know... after re-watching the third episode I found the closing sequence as less Amy projecting her ideas as to what horrible lives her co-workers have and more as small vignettes showing us glimpses into the struggle and squalor that working class individuals are put through to maintain the appearance of 'normalcy;' whether it be forcing yourself to go to work while unbearably sick and dealing with the guilt of infecting your co-workers, coping with children who may or may not respect you, or just stressing while wondering how to make ends meet. And all this for a data entry job that Amy still sees herself as too good for! Can Amy be a small ray of sunshine who isn't quite as run down by the wheels of capitalism (though that medical debt will put the screws to her sooner rather than later)? I'm cautiously optimistic.

And whether these actions are truly altruistic or just self satisfying will be answered as stories continue to evolve. Regardless, after the re-watch I'm starting to come around on Amy's character a bit. You make a great point about television shows starring women who aren't in their twenties and ideal sex objects. As television has shown that it can evolve with more difficult story lines that are anything but ideal (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, just about everything on HBO), I truly hope that these same archetypes (hot woman for guys to ogle as just one example) can be evolved out of as well.

SD: If we can relate to Walter White or Don Draper, I can't see why we can't relate to Amy. I mean, really. You're more optimistic than I about Amy's change, Mark. Let's see how this plays out. 

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