Season/series finale season is upon us, which means that many shows that focus on relationships are ending off with proposals and weddings. Last week, I watched the penultimate episodes of three shows that included marriage themes, two of which led to nothing but eye rolls and the final which gets only half points.
Case study #1: Gilmore Girls. Though I must admit that this week’s series finale was actually very, very good the preceding episode was…not. Logan officially lost any points he had ever won with me with the way he approached proposing to Rory. First: it is not romantic to propose in front of a crowd, on stage or at a microphone as part of a speech. It’s arrogant and manipulative, because he made it clear he was assuming she would say ‘yes’, and he forced her to factor in his potential public embarrassment in her immediate response (the *only* time a public proposal is okay is if it’s a formality after the couple has discussed and agreed on it privately beforehand). Logan makes matters worse when Rory calls him outside so that they can discuss the question privately, and he informs her that he’s accepted a job in San Francisco, decided on her behalf that this fits with her career goals, and figured out exactly where they should live, complete with backyard avocado tree. Not only have they never discussed this possibility, it’s actually the exact opposite of what Rory had been saying for several episodes, which was that she really wanted to consider her career options carefully and prioritize the best offer over being geographically close to Logan. Up to this point, Logan had been entirely supportive of that idea. After thinking about it, she turns him down, asking if they can go back to the plan they had just a few weeks previously. But Logan says it’s all or nothing, and treats anything but marriage as a step “backwards” (getting into another TV cliché I hate, which is that marriage is the definition of relationship success and the only possible marker of progress). To Rory’s credit, she refuses to let herself be manipulated in this way, and breaks up with him.
Case study #2: Grey’s Anatomy. Cristina Yang is a tough, assertive (to say the least), driven young woman, and she has been very direct about what she wants for her wedding (simple with just a few close friends at city hall). Whether they should ever get married at all given their dysfunction is one question, but what bothered me in last week’s episode (I’m writing this before the season finale has aired on Thursday night) is that Burke completely goes against everything she has expressed and lets their mothers swoop in and start planning a big wedding with lots of guests, flowers, bridesmaids and a white, lacy, frilly dress for Cristina. In his case, the attitude seems to be that first of all, what he (and by extension, his mother) wants is what really matters, and second, Cristina is just a silly girl who doesn’t know what she really wants anyway–what woman doesn’t spend her life imagining that walk down the aisle with all eyes on her acknowledging that she has achieved the pinnacle of womanly success in landing a man?
Case study #3: Bones. I watched most of the first season of this show, but was far from impressed, so last week’s episode is the only one of the second season that I’ve seen. From what I gathered, Hodgins had tried to propose to Angela several times previously, but although was reasonably confident she wanted to marry him at some point, something about the ways he had tried to propose had been “off” for her, so she had turned him down (he immediately beats Logan in that he was flexible and didn’t make it all or nothing). I don’t like the suggestion here that she’s kind of flaky and overly picky in what she wants from a proposal, or that she can’t quite communicate her desires to her partner (just how will men ever be able to under stand those crazy, irrational women-folk?), but I liked part of the way it paid off. Before a date they have planned, she goes in to his office to get him and finds that he has set up a gesture to tell her (in a way that is admittedly gross, weird and kitschy all at once) that it doesn’t matter if she wants to get married or not–he’s committed to being with her just as she is, including all her reservations about marriage as a concept. The formalities are not important–as he puts it, she’s enough. First of all, he’s listening to and accepting her, and second, he’s not making the mistake of thinking marriage and only marriage=success. The big asterisk to this being good for me is that all of a sudden, she not only decides that this makes her want to get married immediately (the following week, just in time for the season finale), and a simple city hall wedding will not do–she wants big, lots of guests and lots of attention, and she damn well wants him to do all the work for it, because that’s how those crazy women folk are and that’s how men have to show that they love them.
Sigh–one show, at least, came close to keeping my (very marriage-cynical) pupils in place while talking about a wedding, but even that one had to mess it up in the end.