Let me start of by saying that I HATED the Gilmore Girls. The quippy, rapid-fire dialogue, the theatrical, low-stakes relationships between everyone and everyone else, the adorable real-problem-free town that they all exist in (where never shall be heard, “Oh no! Another homeless man froze to death!” but are often shall be heard, “Oh no! We lost the venue for our bake sale-slash-judgement-free community event!”), I hated it all. I was raised by a single mother and actually had (and have) a great relationship with her, AND YET the Gilmore Girls dynamic with a mother who acts like a college student and a 12 year old that acts like a college student, where both of them just GET ALONG like it ain’t no thaaaaang! Pop culture reference! High five! is BULLSHIT. It rankles me and I hate it. So if you like the Gilmore Girls (and many, many do), you will probably think Bunheads is juuuuust fiiiiiine.
Firstly, the name. If you don’t know, “bun heads” is a name reserved for ballerinas… because they wear their hair in buns on their heads. Bun-heads.
From such a name I expected a show that got into the world of dance. Dance! I am very interested in that world. I would love to see a program about a choreographer training new dancers, and the back-stage machinations that must work together to bring the production to stage, with a backdrop of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, stage fright, divas, fame whores, politics, and personality. That sounds great. I understand it wouldn’t sound great to everyone, but considering the MARGINAL connection that Bunheads has to ballet, it is astonishing that they should chose such a title, since it will surely turn away or confuse those who AREN’T interested in dance, which is probably the majority. Those who do get it will be disappointed because the show isn’t really about ballerinas.
So what is the show about? Plucky, unlikeable Michelle- she is gunning with all of the guns towards the newly coveted “aDORKable” moniker and achieves merely dippy and not even able – is a dancer. In Las Vegas. The pilot opens with a line of identical, feathered show girls high kicking and it is not even close to immediately discernible which one we are intended to be noticing. They start to talk, and even then it takes a second for our protagonist to assert herself. And the feeling then is, “Oh. Her?”
Michelle is a quippy, rapid-fire talker (uh-oh) who has an admirer. It’s Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off! His character is played like a low-IQ, high income, possible pervert that inexplicably has zeroed in on Michelle as the object of his gifts, dinners and affection. She blows him off as often as is polite – and with that, let me break off here for just a minute.
Here the show traipses over something of fairly serious importance. Michelle has an unwanted admirer. She doesn’t tell him officially to go away or stop calling on her, but it’s known his affections are not welcome. He is allowed (by whom?) into the group dressing room backstage (!!!!) where Michelle lies and puts him off. He returns the next night, plying her with more gifts and offers for dinner. After a crushing audition, her spirits and defences are down and she accepts his dinner offer. WHAT THE HELL, GUYS!? The executive producer of this show is a woman, which is actually shocking considering that an emerging theme that will continue to the three-quarter mark of the pilot is that “your stalker might actually be prince charming” and “at no time should you be clear or direct about what you want in terms of your relationship with said stalker, since gifts and dinners are nice” and “if someone gets you incredibly drunk and then convinces you to MARRY THEM IN VEGAS” this is in no way a violation.
That is the premise, since this is exactly what happens. The sober Cameron gets the narcissist Michelle black out drunk, she confides in him her malaise, dashed hopes, bent dreams, he promises to FIX EVERYTHING and she – while drunk – agrees to marry him.
He has no problems taking her up on this. She wakes up – or comes to – in a moving car driving on an ocean road and notices a wedding band on her finger. This is what creator and producer Amy Sherman-Palladino is positing as a reasonable premise for a show targeting a female audience. Baffling, insulting and even harmful, this is the foundation upon which Bunheads is built. Pasty, much older man lands resistant much younger Las Vegas dancer because he is wealthy and persistent and easy with the bottle.
I had the same issue with the movie Crazy, Stupid Love in which the 14 year old son of Steve Carrell learns the important lesson that even if a woman (or girl) says no to your advances, persistence will wear her down and in the end she’ll give you naked pictures of her with which to masturbate until your age gap is less significant and then you can have the sex you have earned and deserve after such a tireless campaign of attrition.
PITY. Women are supposed to PITY the foolish desire of men they don’t desire in return. POOR GUYS. Never mind your own desires, ladies! These poor, poor men WANT you! And you said no? How could you?! I am sickened and ashamed! What if they try again and again? What if they try a whole bunch even after you said nicely, then petulantly, then angrily, that you weren’t interested? Don’t you owe it to them to allow their desire for you to direct your actions? I think you do. I think you do! Yes you do! Oh Yes! GOOD GIRL. Those poor little puppies should get what they want and what they want is YOU! And probably – most likely in fact – your stubborn refusal to acknowledge their desire was just you getting in your own way! They’ll make you happy if you just LET THEM. Because happiness is something you get from men who are willing to dole it out to you. That’s where your power lies, ladies: with the men who are rich, or persistent, or willing to get you too drunk to resist, or all of the above! It’s your choice to make, women. Choose wisely.
So Michelle comes to in a car cruising along an ocean-side highway with the irritating admirer she has been avoiding who is now her husband. Fortunately for him, she is too hung over and apathetic (with or without the “a”) to make any decisions for herself, and with one mugged “yeesh” by way of reaction, she continues to hang her head out of the car as they drive towards her new life: his.
Here we really delve into the Gilmore Gulch of television worlds. His home is a town called Paradise, where he has a beautiful house (shared with his mother), an ocean front view from his bedroom (in the house shared with his mother), an ex-girlfriend who is still in love with him (and is the favourite of his mother, who he lives with), and a mother who runs a ballet studio that is on the lot of the home he SHARES WITH HIS MOTHER.
At this news, Michelle gets a lil’ P.O.’d and really, that is the extent of her anguish at this overturning of her entire world that has been peppered with omissions and without consent. The stakes are low – so low you wouldn’t trip over them in the dark. No one is taking this life seriously: not the producers, not the writers, not the characters and certainly not Michelle. So when Cameron dies in a car accident by the end of the pilot, it’s a hiccup not a gasp even for those that love him the most: his Mother (WHO HE LIVES WITH) and the new bride he wed when she was drunk. What? Oh, yes, because Cameron and Michelle quickly had sex in there somewhere after he promised again to give her exactly the life she didn’t even realize she always wanted – and yet it’s what she always needed! – and Michelle’s rubbery heart began to melt and ooze towards the realization that maybe getting black out drunk on someone else’s dime was the best decision she ever made. But no, because he died.
Now Sherman-Paladino was also the producer of Gilmore Girls so the similarity isn’t a coincidence. On these grounds you could argue that the style of this show is just that: a style. It’s a little bit farce, a lot vaudeville, and it’s “smart” – in that the characters, instead of speaking, spew a stream of references to everything from pop culture to classic literature. (Remember the Gilmore Girls episode where they won’t stop mentioning Daughter’s copy of Franny and Zooey? Because she’s SMART, you guys.) And it’s chock full of women just like you wanted, FEMINISTS! My beef with this style (in addition to the very subjective fact that I DO NOT LIKE IT) comes up when the plot glazes over the gross and abusive nature of Michelle and Cameron’s relationship in order to push plot. She’s a flawed character, the plot tells us, that is why she made such a foolish decision! But isn’t it just a part of her loveable goofiness? The style is happy to let Michelle absorb all of the blame for this decision with those same adorable flaws, leaving Cameron (his character has a name, but who cares) to die a near martyr; the frog, now semi-transformed into Prince Charming with one furtive fuck, croaks. POOR GUY.
AND NOW MICHELLE LIVES WITH HIS MOTHER. Was ever an couple more odd? Mismatched? Were ever zanier circumstances contrived? NO! Everyone is delighted with the mess of conflict and coincidence and cosmic crapola that our hapless heroine is entrenched in! Watch her mug and pose and natter non-stop to an audience of no-one as she inexplicably STAYS AT THE HOUSE and begins her new life with her mother-in-law of 24 hours.
Oh yes, and did I mention – I believe I did – that the mother runs a ballet studio full of 12 year old girls (and a few lean lads) who will now be the sometime focus of the show? It’s true. So let’s call it Bunheads. And never watch it again.