Seriously, Bunheads, people. <–Okay, weird name is weird; I totally agree.
But, how is Bunheads fair?
Okay, so I’ve been an Amy Sherman-Palladino fan since forever. Can we say Gilmore Girls and Roseanne (once upon a time)? Actually, if you think about it, Roseanne helped to change writing on TV, which has caused a change in writing in media in general, since geek-god Joss Whedon (All hail, our lord and master!) and pop-culture-divinity Palladino came out of Roseanne’s stable of writers.
But, yeah, fan. Long-time. Me.
And Bunheads? Quiet possibly the strangest collection of geekdoms in the History of Ever: there’s literature (classic and modern); music; movies; ballet, which one wouldn’t think of as a geekdom, but it totally is; and generally just the insular, individuated geek cultures that groups-within-groups and cultures-within-cultures create as a matter of course.
Honestly, there should be some sort of quiz or something to see how many references that a viewer of Palladino’s shows gets ‘cause—I swear—my bestest of best rate is probably only still 80%, and I think a lot of that is because I was a Literature student.
If you’re getting every reference–and you’re not Palladino or her Inner Circle–I want to meet you. We can get coffee or something.
I WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND!
Okay, yeah, Bunheads is kinda geared towards teenage girls, but—BUT!—this is Palladino! This is a woman who creates/writes such interesting characters with such undeniably poignant and meta observations that it’s approachable and identifiable for more-than-just teenage girls.
Not only is this scene introducing a new generation of people to the wonders of They Might Be Giants, but for those of us who watched Looney Tune Adventures, we’re being reminded of the episode “Tiny Tune Music Television” as well as even older references to Audrey Hepburn’s beatnik dance in Funny Face (incidentally referenced again in “Channing Tatum is a Fine Actor”).
Or how about the Mice in The Nutcrackers being recast as Wall Street Bankers “’cause they’re rats?”
Or the heart-wrenching moment at the end of the first season in “A Nutcracker in Paradise” when Sasha (and, really y’all, Sasha is so supposed to be one of our primary “ins”—intelligence, snark, culturally literate, and with issues with a capital ISSUES—just like Michelle) invokes Dead Poets Society by standing on a chair—reminiscent of the desk-standing scene at the end of the movie—in a hospital and dressed as Clara—which manages to somehow terrifyingly cite the deceased Neil Perry—declaring “Oh captain, my captain.”
If nothing else, that one moment should indicate how multi-valiant and smart this show—and this creator—is: in one scene—not even one scene—Palladino drastically and dramatically re-frames Michelle’s character from a washed-up once-professional ballet-dancer-cum-Vegas-showgirl-widow with no place in Paradise (an interesting philosophical connotation) to an exciting, challenging, free-thinking, controversial mentor that causes her students to reevaluate everything in their own lives ala John Keating (Dead Poets Society) and Katherine Ann Watson (Mona Lisa Smile), while simultaneously re-framing Sasha—really, all the girls but Sasha in particular—from a typically blasé teenager from a broken (well, breaking) home to an independent individual suffocating in Paradise (again, the metaphor just knocks me over) trying to find a way to be who and what she wants to be rather than what everyone else is telling her to be.
Okay, as much as The Onion AV Club didn’t like this moment, I did. I’m having foreshadowing moments with this thing here. I really am.
Yeah, this all might be a potentially tired trope but one that is always relevant at the same time. And, in an amazing Third Wave Feminist text*? Yes, please.
Seriously, who writes better female-centered worlds than Palladino? She presents us with worlds that are women-dominated (but not domineering–except for Sasha…and Paris…and Milly–okay, occasionally domineering) and presents a multiplicity of femininities In a world that needs ALL THE FEMININITIES out there and illustrated so that no one thinks that one has to be female in just one way, we all need this like breathing.
So, yeah, really an A+ text. 10/10. Would recommend.
If you don’t like Bunheads, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.
*Yes, problematic text is problematic. I kinda think that all texts are problematic in some way, but yeah, this is still definitely one of the smartest Third Wave Feminist meta-narrative texts on TV right now.