A Tale of Three Weddings

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.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    At least the fact that Rory turned Logan down has the effect of repudiating his approach. That’s good, because I suspect a lot of women feel they’re supposed to find a proposal like that romantic. Not to mention they’re supposed to find a take-charge guy appealing: there’s “take charge” and there’s “run roughshod over everyone else’s carefully formed plans”.

    The other two… barf.

  2. Purtek says

    Yeah, it’s amazing that I was so grateful to see a man listening to his partner on any level at all. But I really wish Rory would also have told Logan off on how that proposal method is just not cool.

    The season finale of Grey’s took that one in a totally different direction. Not only did they decide not to get married (his call, because he thought she didn’t really want to enough, even though she was adapting to his every need), it ended with Cristina staring around their apartment pointing out to Mere that all the things he valued most were gone. She looked like she was going to burst into tears, and when she finally did, she said “I’m free” with this relief. It was incredibly scary, and while I saw him as very controlling, I didn’t think the show was going to go in the direction of explicitly abusive. I don’t know how to feel about it at this point.

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    Very true re: Rory and Logan. Guess it would just be too much if the woman actually called the guy explicitly on his bullshit. This way, the viewers who like to blame the damn woman can still interpret her as a flake. Good for ratings!

    Re: Grey… huh. Me, neither. That’s… he sounds like a narcissist: controlling, concerned she’s not appreciative enough of his wonderfulness, dissatisfied with even excessive kowtowing. “Controlling” IS abusive, so I’m wondering if maybe it’s good they acknowledged it. So many people see it as just a little character flaw. No, the “control freak” character flaw is when you have to have everything on your desk at right angles and feel anxious when people muss it up. Demanding that people also arrange THEIR lives to suit you… that’s the definition of abuse.

  4. Purtek says

    “Controlling” IS abusive, so I’m wondering if maybe it’s good they acknowledged it.

    That’s my potential “pro” for this situation, except I’m not entirelysure at this point that’s where they’re going (it was a really short scene), though “I’m free” and this absolute relief in her tears was pretty apparent to me. Also, if they’re going to go there, I like that they’re showing it can happen to even the strongest woman because that’s even more appealing for the control freak, and it highlights, to me, the “not her fault” in a way that a classic “doormat” character would not.

    The “con” is–can this show really handle talking about this stuff? I don’t think he’s leaving the show, so are they still going to be working together? Just as we’ve talked about with the challenges to writing rape storylines, an abuse aftermath story makes me nervous. Worse, I wonder if they’re not actually going to go there, in which case…not impressed.

  5. SunlessNick says

    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).

    I’d love it if her answer – in public – had been, “I’d have said yes if you hadn’t pulled this stunt.”

  6. Purtek says

    I’d love it if her answer – in public – had been, “I’d have said yes if you hadn’t pulled this stunt.”

    I think when I rewrite the series in my mind (which I do a lot when shows I once liked go bad), this is what will happen, only with a lot more words and ranting, because it’s still Gilmore Girls. It will include many iterations of “Have you lost your freaking mind? No, seriously–have you? Stop watching so much TV, it’s fried your brain”

  7. Jennifer Kesler says

    Purtek, that’s all very true. They’re probably trying to ride the fence and suss out what the audience wants, at which point the story will go in whatever direction, right or wrong, with no consideration for social integrity.

  8. sbg says

    So glad I’m not the only one to notice the bizarre wedding-ness of this year’s TV finales (Boston Legal, while not the finale, had a wedding thing in their last episode, too). I don’t even watch any of the shows, but the theme was hard to miss.

    So hard to miss I almost expected Supernatural to toss in a shotgun wedding at the end last night.

  9. Purtek says

    Betacandy–I don’t know that “social integrity” is in the vocabulary of most TV producers, so yeah, I agree. I also heard Shonda Rhimes said they want to make Grey’s more “fun” next season, which doesn’t bode well for this theme.

    sbg–Do you think it’s worse this year than others? I wondered if I was just noticing it because I’m inclined to be exceedingly cynical about marriage/weddings right now?

  10. sbg says

    Hee, I know several people that have been pointing out all season that Ellen and Bobby would make an awesome couple. (Although, despite my love of Ellen, I’m not sure she’s good enough for him.)

    Are you trying to make me queasy? Because I’ve been queasy all week and SO don’t need any more of it. ;)

    Of course she’s not good enough for Bobby. (You won’t be surprised that I didn’t buy her “I was out buying pretzels!” story and still think she can’t be trusted any further than she could be thrown.)

    Oh. Topic? Uh…Boston Legal’s wedding turned into a comedy (not especially funny), with the groom desperately trying to get the vows in before his very pregnant (and in labor) fiancee could have the baby, because he didn’t want a bastard child. To which I couldn’t help but grumble about how it already WAS a bastard child, whether or not it was outside the woman’s body, and being officially married at the time of its birth signified nothing other than his need to control the situation to have an outcome he wanted.

    His poor pregnant fiancee should have left him at the hospital bed.

  11. MaggieCat says

    Do you think it’s worse this year than others? I wondered if I was just noticing it because I’m inclined to be exceedingly cynical about marriage/weddings right now?

    I’m always extremely cynical about weddings and marriage, and I do think it’s actually worse this year. I can’t remember another week of television that involved at least 6 wedding stories on major shows from almost every network.

    I’ve never watched GG and I haven’t been watching Bones this season as it’s on opposite Friday Night Lights, but I did tape the Grey’s finale because I couldn’t believe that they would actually go through with the marriage. I’ve found this entire storyline unbelievably offensive because my views about marriage and weddings line up pretty well with a Cristina who’s not being brainwashed: not important to me in the least, but for the right person I would do it if it meant something to them. As long as I didn’t get sucked into some glittery frosted nightmare from hell. As I said, I taped it (it was on opposite the Supernatural finale) so I only caught the last 15 minutes with the scene of Mere cutting Cristina out of the dress. I have to say, even without seeing the rest of the episode before that her reaction made sense to me.

    I have been accused of not having a romantic bone in my body though. (Not true, btw. I just prefer to shmoop over the little things, and not in public.)

    So hard to miss I almost expected Supernatural to toss in a shotgun wedding at the end last night.

    Hee, I know several people that have been pointing out all season that Ellen and Bobby would make an awesome couple. (Although, despite my love of Ellen, I’m not sure she’s good enough for him.)

  12. Pat Mathews says

    For those who didn’t watch the entire episode of Grey’s Anatomy, Burke’s mother swooped down and shaved Christina’s eyebrows (?? What was wrong with them and why should they be shaved off completely? I have seen people who have done that and my opinion of their self-chosen social status is not high) and declared that at last, she was a Burke.

    At which point I fully expected Christina to kick her meddling butt out the door, except that she doesn’t react quickly, she thinks things through. The rest of the episode she kept wandering around freaking out and demanding surgical action. “She shaved my eyebrows and said I was a Burke! I want to cut something up Right! Now!”

    Oh, yes, Brad’s security is in The Rules and in respectability as he was reared to define it. I’m sure he’s the salt of the earth – reliable, responsible, honest, etc – but control freakery decidedly goes along with the personality. For a study of said clash of personalities going back to the 1880s, I refer you to a play later made into an Anthony Hopkins movie (and localy staged as being set in the Upper Midwest in the 1950s), “A Doll’s House.” Which I certainly hope Denise is made familiar with very early on; it will tell her what to expect!

  13. MaggieCat says

    *Hee* I suspected that would get a strong reaction. ;-)
    (I’m not entirely sure she’s told everything she knows, but I still think she’s one of the good guys.)

    To which I couldn’t help but grumble about how it already WAS a bastard child, whether or not it was outside the woman’s body, and being officially married at the time of its birth signified nothing other than his need to control the situation to have an outcome he wanted.

    Heh, and I was sitting there muttering about how marrying after the child’s birth legitimizes the child according to American law in most states, and in others marrying + having his name on the birth certificate and signing a declaration of paternity does the same thing. (That second one occurred to me since I was born before my parents got married, and just recently heard the story of my father appearing in court to do just that.)

    I agree with you on why he was doing it though. But that is a known part of Brad’s personality- it’s how he copes with stress in a world where he was raised with certain rules that he thinks he’s supposed to follow without realizing that a lot has changed while he was trying to get his ducks in a row. Denise knows that and knows what she’s getting into, so while I can feel for the annoyance of having him running around like a chicken with its head cut off while she’s trying to give birth, I don’t have a problem with her tolerating it. You take the good with the bad when you love someone, and Brad being a traditional conservative spaz is part of that.

  14. Jennifer Kesler says

    You know, they have TVs on at my gym, and I’ve seen 3 different weddings during various 10 minute stretches in the women’s locker room. I thought that had to mean there were more than usual this year.

  15. MaggieCat says

    I’m always extremely cynical about weddings and marriage, and I do think it’s actually worse this year. I can’t remember another week of television that involved at least 6 wedding stories on major shows from almost every network.

    Yes, I’m quoting myself, but that’s because I completely forgot that last week How I Met Your Mother finally got to Lily and Marshall’s wedding and ER had a wedding storyline as well, bumping the total to 8 wedding stories on every major network plus the CW in just two weeks.

    Yeah, that’s gotta be more than normal.

  16. Purtek says

    Pat Matthews: The eyebrow thing was seriously one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen in my life–it just seemed like part of the total humiliation of this woman.

    But, to recap our # of wedding/engagement/proposal storylines (because it reassures me that I’m not just cynically paranoid):
    already mentioned: Grey’s, Gilmore Girls, Bones, Boston Legal, ER, How I Met Your Mother (=6; I’m not sure which other two the count of 8 listed above included)
    others I’ve noticed and would add: Brothers & Sisters, Desperate Housewives (x2, because: 2 weddings in the finale), going back a few months, The O.C. (total=10)

    Missing any? Seriously, is this all about it being time to reinforce the (heterosexual) institution of marriage? Because it frightens me rather a lot, though I’m comforted to know it’s not just me.

  17. MaggieCat says

    My original count of 6 storylines included: Gilmore Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, Bones, Desperate Housewives (Gabby), Desperate Housewives (Susan), and Boston Legal. Then I added in ER and How I Met Your Mother to end up with 8.

  18. Patrick says

    In defense of How I met Your Mother, the wedding has been in the works since the series started – the proposal was in the first act of the very first episode.

    So it wasn’t so much a ratings stunt as scheduling an expected event as a season-ender.

  19. Jennifer Kesler says

    Fair enough… still leaves us with 7, which strikes me as a good bit higher than usual.

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