From Groundhog Day to Gilmore GirlsJames J. O'Meara
Groundhog Day (1993); 101 minutes. Director: Harold Ramis; Writers: Danny Rubin (screenplay), Harold Ramis (screenplay); Stars: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky
Gilmore Girls (2000–2007) Created by Amy Sherman. Stars: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Edward Herrmann, Melissa McCarthy.
“She began to sing about trying over and over again until you succeeded. Ignatius quivered as the philosophy of the lyrics became clear. He studied her grip on the trapeze in the hope that the camera would record her fatal plunge to the sawdust far below. On the second chorus the entire ensemble joined in the song, smiling and singing lustily about ultimate success while they swung, dangled, flipped, and soared.
“’Oh, good heavens!’ Ignatius shouted, unable to contain himself any longer. Popcorn spilled down his shirt and gathered in the folds of his trousers. ‘What degenerate produced this abortion?’
“‘Shut up,’ someone said behind him.
“‘Just look at those smiling morons! If only all of those wires would snap!'” Ignatius rattled the few kernels of popcorn in his last bag. ‘Thank God that scene is over.'”
— John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
In recent months I’ve been finding more and more evidence in film and TV of an archetypal pattern in which our protagonist endures an indefinite repetition of events until he manages to escape by offloading his karma onto another and rising to a new, higher level.
So it might seem natural to think I had seen, and possibly been inspired by, the Bill Murray/Harold Ramis comedy Groundhog Day. Truth be told, not really. I like a lot of Bill Murray’s stuff, but in general I have a mulish resistance to seeing “what everybody is seeing,” and especially if there’s some kind of “uplifting life lesson” involved and/or “indie cred,” as in too many of Murray’s more recent, “Academy-worthy” works.
However, since you Constant Readers have come to rely on this writer as an honest broker and committed profession — and it being the 20th anniversary, after all — I recently girded my loins to sit down and by God, watch this thing. These thoughts are my results.
For the same reasons above, it’s probably not necessary to give a detailed account of the plot (if necessary, you can find a synopsis all over the internet, such as here) but for convenience you can think of it as having a classic, Syd Field three act structure with two plot points; it’s even used in online courses:
Define the three acts according to the two main plot points.
At first his normal life where he is a weatherman, the second act would be once the days start repeating themselves and he feels like a lost soul and even killed himself a number of times, the third act would be once he starts doing something good with his gift when he tries to redeem himself and becomes basically a good citizen instead of the selfish and arrogant weathermen he was at first
And, of course, a character arc
Describe the hero’s transformation (called the character arc)
At the beginning he was a total jerk self-absorbed and arrogant weatherman, then with the day started repeating themselves and slowly he started to lose it, after a while he began to realize that maybe there was something positive he could do with all this time and started improving himself which at first was for personal gain (like when he used it to get with Nancy and the dozens of times he tried to get with Rita) but after a while he realize that becoming a better person was the best way he could deal with what was happening to him, and so he did become a model citizen saved a number of lives. At the end of the movie Phil Connors was completely different to when he started being now kind, unselfish and generous . . .
Or, for a more detailed analysis:
“Will Phil become a good person, get Rita, and get out of Groundhog Day?”
Inciting incident: Phil and Rita go to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day.
First beat: Phil wakes up stuck in Groundhog Day, is freaked out.
Second beat: (end of 1st act, point of no return) Phil wakes up in Groundhog Day again, realizes he is really stuck. He begins his journey by taking advantage of the situation.
Third beat: Phil, having grasped the ego-centric power of being stuck in the same day, begins to pursue Rita to no avail.
Fourth beat: (midpoint) Phil, stuck and miserable, tries to end his life and can’t.
Fifth beat: (highpoint) Phil, humbled, finally becomes friends with Rita. She urges him to self improve.
Sixth beat: (end of 2nd act, emotional low point) In the process of self-improvement,
Phil realizes that the old bum dies at the same time, no matter what Phil does to prevent it. As the bum dies in his arms yet again, Phil looks up to the heavens.
Seventh beat: (resolution beat) Phil has become great, and his greatness inspires Rita to bid on him at the Bachelor’s auction.
Obviously, the notion of indefinitely repeating the same day is the innovation here, and what fits it into my area of interest:
“[F]ormer Monty Python member Terry Jones also included Groundhog Day in his top 10. “What’s so remarkable about it,” Jones observes over a pint in a north London pub, “is that normally when you’re writing a screenplay you try to avoid repetition. And that’s the whole thing here, it’s built on repetition.”
But Phil does not pass the buck; rather, he manages to overcome karma, or fate, by “changing himself.”
It’s all expressed in the trajectory of his relationship with Rita. He wants her, he tries to seduce her—first with meanness, then by fraud, then with recitations of French poetry and engineered perfect moments. It is only when he gives up, when he accepts the blessing of her company, free from desire—at which point she, too, magically becomes a far more interesting character—that she is delivered into his arms.
“Magically”? This is man in the street magic, Disney magic. The ‘magic’ that Evola spoke of — and he was aware of the unfortunate connotations of the English word — was the serious, difficult, even dangerous science of the mages, or in other words, spiritual initiation. And in line with the Disneyesque “boy gets girl” angle, our script analyst above adds this devastating sting to the end of the character arc:
. . . although you could argue that he became everything Rita said she wanted her ideal men to be, thus staying a selfish individual only looking to please Rita and didn’t do all those things out of pure kindness and generosity.
Is Phil’s “transformation” anything other than what the manosphere would call “Game”? Act Two certainly looks like Phil is developing his game, and when that fails, does he “become unselfish” or merely develop a more subtle game?
Perhaps that is, actually, a strength of the film; with all the talk about Game over the past few years, Phil’s character is a bit more ambiguous than is realized by the hordes of “spiritual enthusiasts” who have claimed the movie for their own.
However, the simpler interpretation — Phil decides to be good — seems more in keeping with the simple gimmick of the repeating day. I confess that one of my qualms was that the movie would, in fact, repeat the same day, with Murray simply reacting differently, but the filmmakers have, admittedly, come up with many subtle and amusing ways to suggest the passage of time without hitting you over the head with it.
Still, how plausible is the whole idea? Anyone who takes seriously the ideas of the alt-Right should find this more than a little dubious. After all, no less a pop culture authority than TVTropes evinces it as an example of:
Rousseau Was Right: The film’s message: There is love, kindness and decency in everyone; you just need time to bring it out.
Just time? Isn’t this just a variation the liberal shibboleth “we just need more education”? As Charles Walter Aubrey recently wrote
This all stems from the Socratic idea that people only hurt one another through ignorance. Therefore if only everyone were educated and enlightened then we can achieve a multiracial utopia where everyone is equal and peaceful because everyone understands one another. Of course, it’s a childish idea that Nietzsche utterly destroyed in Beyond Good and Evil.
There are people out there whose will to power involves harming others for its own sake, and liberals don’t seem to understand this. They believe that people have a default position of “good” and that “evil” only happens when they steer away from this default position (education, as they see it, seeks to preserve the “good” in people, not to make people better, smarter, or stronger).
Is it really plausible that Phil would learn to be “good” at least as conventionally defined by the movie or by Rita? Let’s look at some variations on Groundhog Day’s three acts that come to mind see if they seem more likely.
“The movie was shot in Woodstock, Illinois.” – TVTropes.com
One immediately suggested itself when Ramis, on the commentary track, noted that the film was not shot in Punxsutawney, PA but in Woodstock, IL. The need to find a “more filmable” substitute for a run-down hick town, and the name “Woodstock” immediately called to mind The Gilmore Girls and my own meditations on what I’ve called “liberal psychogeography”: despite their “big city”, cosmopolitan airs, liberals, when they have the money and choice, prefer to live in small, even rural towns — once they’ve been cleansed of those actual unfortunate rural townsfolk (they don’t have to worry about the darkies, since they’re kept out by the same price of admission mechanism, which is “fair” because based on meritocracy; no need for embarrassing signs and bylaws, and the ones who do “make it” can be kept around to “show how diverse we are here”). Such towns, ranging from Martha’s Vineyard to The Hamptons to even small “college towns” like Ann Arbor or Madison, or remote outposts like Billings, MT, are the real life equivalents of movie stand-ins like Woodstock, IL.
Thus did my mind turn to The Gilmore Girls as a more subtle version of Phil’s Dilemma.
The GG show pitch or set up can be succinctly captured in the title of the first in a series of GG-inspired “TV novels : Like Mother, Like Daughter, which already hints at the repetition theme. Rather than one protagonist repeating, or trying not to repeat, the same day for an indeterminate lifetime while manipulating others, we see each generation of the Gilmores seeking to manipulate the next into repeating their own life.
The backstory is that at 16, the rebellious Lorelai Gilmore becomes pregnant with the boy next door. Perversely, her parents are delighted, since they view Christopher as an ideal match, but Lorelai ups the ante by running away to the impossibly quaint and conveniently nearby small town of Stars Hollow, raising the child herself in a potting shed out back of the bed and breakfast where she works first as a maid, then manager, and ultimately owns. As the series opens, Rory is now herself sixteen, and to finance private school, Lorelai makes a deal with her estranged parents: in exchange for paying Rory’s tuition, they will both appear each Friday night for dinner. The series follows Rory from entering Chilton Academy to graduating from Yale, as parents and grandparents attempt to help (or “control”) both children.
We can begin to see the parallels here with Groundhog Day, especially when we realize that rather than playing out the same day over and over, it is Lorelai who, rather than changing over the last 16 years, has stayed the same, and is now trying to superimpose her life on the now 16-year-old Rory, under the guise of “don’t listen to your controlling grandparents,” while her own parents, especially the grandfather (the ur-WASP Edward Herrmann), see a chance to change Rory’s life on their own terms and make her develop as Lorelai should have, into another WASP matron.
Thus, we have a smug, egotistical, verbally quick and witty person who is thrown out of their usual routine and lands in a bed and breakfast in a charmingly eccentric small town, where they relive their life through another, while trying to “improve” not themselves but the other by more or less subtle manipulation. It’s Groundhog Day without the redemptory third act.
Since Lorelai’s smug hip Leftist character is written from the perspective of smug, hip Leftists, thus petted and pampered, we have a chance to watch the second act of Groundhog Day from Phil’s perspective: mocking the eccentric but dumb townspeople and doing everything to avoid making a commitment to others (except, Lorelai would point out in her pointing out way, her wonderful daughter, but of course she is her anyway).
Phil: “They’re hicks!”
The main character, Phil Connors, despises everyone around him. They are all his intellectual inferiors. So naturally, his version of Hell is to be stuck in a town with a bunch of dumb hicks. But Phil is not evil, so his Hell turns out to be a kind of Purgatory, from which he can only be released by shedding his selfishness and committing to acts of love.
Phil . . . learns to appreciate the crowd, the community, the dumb hicks and their values. He decides to improve himself by reading poetry and by learning to ice-sculpt and make music. But most of all by shedding his ironic detachment from the world.
This, of course, is what Lorelai — and Rory — never do — shed their selfishness and ironic detachment, and certainly learn to appreciate the hicks and their values. That, apparently, would be to give in to “the parents” — the elder Gilmores, or the Establishment in general — and join their world of coming out parties and D.A.R. teas; just as Phil has to become Rita’s Mr. Right. By the series finale, Rory has dumped another guy after he, Good Phil-like, proposes, while Lorelai seems to be starting up, for the third time or so, with Luke, whom she left at the altar a few seasons back, to marry Rory’s father 16 years too late, then dump him . . .
Speaking of Luke: if it seems odd to think of a female Phil, most of Phil’s more masculine characteristics have been offloaded to Luke, who’s sort of a ruggedly handsome Bill Murray; unshaven, sloppily dressed, misanthropic. His scraggly beard, backwards ball cap and open plaid shirt suggest nothing as fashionable as grunge but rather the classic Bill Murray dirtbags from earlier Murray/Ramis collaborations such as Stripes, Meatballs, and above all, Carl the Groundskeeper from Caddyshack (who fights his own repetitive war with a rodent).
Lorelai, on the other hand, has Rita’s list of Perfect Man requirements, at least implicitly, and presumably more PC, but not being, like Rita, “raised a Catholic” she never lets that stop her from bedding down with someone new. Anyone hooking up with Lorelai would be well advised to follow Phil’s advice and “rent first.”
Luke also facilitates one characteristic the Gilmore Girls share with Bad Phil: sitting around diners stuffing themselves with childish comfort food (smoking would be un-PC, though). Like Phil, neither one changes, so weight gain is not a problem. And speaking of diner owner Luke, director Ramis in the commentary track makes much of the diner waitress being played by one of his favorite comediennes, Robin Duke. Our Luke dispenses the junk food while ragging them for it, the odd combination — why is he serving it if he thinks it’s bad for her? — bringing together Duke’s waitress and Rita’s censorial voice, underlining his oddly feminine role to Lorelai’s Phil.
As for the other locals, the Girls, like Phil, have acquired encyclopedic knowledge of the townspeople and their colorful foibles, but, as I pointed out my earlier essay, they exist entirely as figures of fun and mockery (in which Luke, though a townsman himself, joins in, thus underlining the doubling of Phil) for “brilliant” Lorelai and Rory, rather than, as with Phil, growing from “hicks” to “people to help.” And since, as we said above, the show, unlike the movie, is conceived from her point of view, they are beloved by the naïve townsfolk, (well, maybe not Luke so much) and even subject to periodic festivals, just like Good Phil at the final dance.
Rather than diss Groundhog Day, I should salute it for providing a contrast that opens up a new perspective on Gilmore Girls. Lorelai has stumbled into the same, or similar, time warp as Phil, but persists in her egotistic exploitation of others — just nicer than Phil does, since his misanthropy is offloaded onto Luke — passing the buck, I knew I’d find it somehow!
Real-Lorelai seems just as clueless about her role; in “the last Lorelai Gilmore interview,” we are told
I felt every year, even under Amy’s leadership, that the show evolved. For the last episode, we tried to match the final shot with the first scene from the pilot, so we went back and watched the pilot — which I haven’t seen for so long. And the show is really different from that pilot, which was more dramatic at the time than your typical WB show. And I think it evolved and got more comedic over the years; every year was an evolution.
Really, evolved? They why on Earth try to match the last shot . . .
. . . with the final shot of the pilot episode; especially since no one knew the show was being cancelled yet?
In Stars Hollow, like Woodstock, it’s always Groundhog Day.
1. See, for example, my three part series on Mad Men and Advise and Consent starting here, as well as forthcoming essays on A Dandy in Aspic and the Coleman Francis trilogy.
2. Off the top of my head: such as Lost in Translation (saw first 10 minutes on cable), The Life Aquatic (bought the Criterion release, watched it, then sold it), Rushmore (watched it on cable 10 years later), etc. Conversely, the same quirk no doubt also accounts for my interest in films – lousy or just ignored — like the ones cited in the previous note.
3. I felt rather like Walker Percy when forced to finally read A Confederacy of Dunces: “There was no getting out of it; only one hope remained—that I could read a few pages and that they would be bad enough for me, in good conscience, to read no farther. Usually I can do just that. Indeed the first paragraph often suffices. My only fear was that this one might not be bad enough, or might be just good enough, so that I would have to keep reading. In this case I read on. And on. First with the sinking feeling that it was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement, and finally an incredulity: surely it was not possible that it was so good.” — Preface in John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1980).
4. Although some guy named “Lon” argues for a 5 part model, based on Kubler-Ross’s stages of dying.
5. Creative Writing 101 http://bbacreativewriting.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/groundhog-day/
6. The Hidden Structure of Movies, Rules #4 and #5, here.
7. “Groundhog Day: the perfect comedy, forever” by Ryan Gilbey; The Guardian, Thursday 7 February 2013, here.
8. This is the reverse of what seem to happen online, in accord with “The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. First given a name by the boys at Penny Arcade, it is a theory that seeks to illuminate why so many people seem to degenerate into antisocial Jerkasses online, when they might only be mildly unpleasant or even polite in-person. The equation is “Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad” … normal people become more aggressive when they think their behavior carries no real-world social consequences.”
9. “Reliving Groundhog Day” by James Parker, The Atlantic, February 20, 2013, here.
10. See his An Introduction to Magic. Reviewing the English translation of Volume I in New Dawn, Jay Kinney first notes that “Magic (or Magick, as it is sometimes spelled, in order to distinguish it from stage magic) is a word fraught with dubious connotations. It summons up images of robed figures, surrounded by clouds of incense, standing within magical circles, and conjuring demons to do their bidding” and then succinctly describes Evola’s concept of Magic as “there is a capacity inherent in Man to raise consciousness above the call of the body and the distractions of the mind; a capacity that can lead to an immortal awareness. The means to this awareness is through a rigorous discipline wherein the transitory ego is shed, and the individual consciousness is wedded to the Eternal. In so doing, one passes beyond the conventional notions of Good and Evil, to a place where, in Gustav Meyrink’s words, only “truth” and “falsehood” exist. To know this is not a matter of intellectual knowledge, but of spiritual experience, i.e. of gnosis.” See “Magic and Awakening.”
11. Phil first succeeds when gaming Nancy, then fails with Rita. The situation reminds me of Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a wonderfully dreadful sci/fi tele-movie co-produced by US and Canadian public television. Imagine Total Recall crossed with Tron and done on a Wang computer. Anyway, Raul Julia (who must have thought he was signing on for some Masterpiece Theatre production) finds his mind sucked into a computer network, so, since he can now imagine his own reality, he decides to amuse himself by cyber-seducing one of his co-workers. His outside monitor, who rejoices in the name of Apollonia James and somewhat resembles Andie MacDowell, is disgusted by his “playing with himself” and inserts herself into the simulation, bearing stone tablets with rules of proper cyber-conduct, lest he be terminated; needless to say, they eventually hook up and escape from their dystopian world. Raul’s control over the crap-cyberized world corresponds to Phil’s predicament, frustrating them but also giving both godlike powers which they initially misuse, although in Phil’s case it’s the co-worker who lays down the law. Oddly, a reviewer at IMDB insists that “There was a time when I watched this film over and over because I was so addicted to it,” while another insists that “Red Zone Cuba [wasn’t] as hollow and boring as this.”
On the other hand, TVTropes.com insists that Phil’s transformation is, in fact, an example of the “Crowning Moment of Heartwarming“ trope: “And the best part of this? He wasn’t even really “arranging” it, and certainly not in any attempt to take advantage of Rita. The dance and all that follows is his “reward” for being able to earn genuine admiration and love from both Rita and the citizens of Punxsutawney under no selfish pretenses.” We’ll soon suggest reason to question how pure Phil’s motives could be at that point.
12. “The Egalitarian Oversight” here.
13. See Paul Kersey’s “Because Life is So Brief and Time is a Thief When You’re Undecided: The Racial History of Gary, Indiana and the Need for Restrictive Covenants.” We can see the inverse process in the descent of Detroit from “The Paris of the Midwest” (Wall St. Journal) to national punchline; see Kersey’s Kindle book Escape from Detroit: The Collapse of America’s Black Metropolis.
14. See “The Gilmore Girls Occupy Wall St.” here and republished in The Homo and the Negro.
15. Although, to be fair, it’s easy to be ‘subtle’ when you’re doing a TV show that could last, say, seven seasons rather than a 100 minute movie.
16. If you don’t know the series, or haven’t read my article previously referenced, you can get up to speed on Wikipedia here or on any of dozens of websites. Coffee at Luke’s: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest by Jennifer Crusie and Leah Wilson provides a mixed bag of essays in the “Philosophy and” mode; for serious academic headaches, consider Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity: Essays on Family and Feminism in the Television Series by Ritch Calvin (2008); Screwball Television: Critical Perspectives on Gilmore Girls by David Scott Diffrient and David Lavery (2010); or most recently and most perhaps deadly, Gilmore Girls – Sieben Jahre in Stars Hollow: Der inoffizielle Guide zur Serie by Peter Osteried (2013).
17. Lorelei named her daughter, known to most as Rory, after herself; an egotistical act that, typically, she cloaks as a half-assed “feminist” gesture. Later, we learn that she herself was named after her paternal grandmother, who also married her own cousin, which discovery is played as an “icky old rich White people thing” while actually, of course, again demonstrating the deep strain of egotism in the family line as well as the almost Gothic repetition motif.
18. The mother/daughter of Absolutely Fabulous, despite occasional flashbacks to Edina’s youth, are the opposite; daughter is completely different and openly hostile to mother’s lifestyle. Watching “Modern Mother and Daughter”, the French & Saunders skit that birthed Ab/FAB, it’s easy to see now-a-comic-superstar Melissa McCarthy and whatever-happened-to Lauren Graham in the roles. Other than Ab/Fab once or twice appearing in the trademark pop cultural references on GG, I don’t know of any influence.
19. Dr. Hannibal Lecter: “No. We begin by coveting what we see every day… You know how quickly the boys found you. All those tedious, sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars, while you could only dream of getting out. Getting anywhere, getting all the way to …” Stars Hollow, CT? The relevance of Lecter will become clearer as we move on.
20. The age difference of Lorelai and Rory is the same as Claggart and Billy Budd, another fun New England couple.
21. The superimposition of the two lives only becomes blatant in a late episode where Rory’s father’s new wife gives birth, and Lorelai – of course – spends the episode daydreaming about the events around Rory’s birth.
22. Bill Murray of course is the master of this kind of pre-emptive verbal assault hiding as humor. According to Wikipedia, “The New York Times noted that the character talks fast and uses words to keep her “loneliness at bay” which, while opinion, seems to be a relatively insightful view of her … On the characteristic of talking fast, Sherman-Palladino noted: “Just by listening to Lorelai’s vocal patterns, it says volumes about this woman: First of all, that she’s bright enough to put that many words together that quickly… and it says a lot about her emotionally, that she’s got a deflection shield that’s sort of the way she gets through the world.” Lorelai’s ego-driven verbosity recalls James Joyce, at least as interpreted by Colin Wilson, who concludes that Ulysses “remains the kind of book that must be read while one is young and impressionable, and willing to take Stephen Joyce-Dedalus at his own valuation as a rebel who was determined to fly close to the sun. Once we begin to see him form the Wyndham Lewis point of view — as a rather tiresome young man clamoring for attention — it is difficult to read the book without impatience.” The Books in My Life, Hampton Roads, 1998, p139.
23. We welcome Rory’s acerbic Jewish school rival, Paris Geller, who is acutely conscious that no matter how smart she is, everyone will always do whatever Rory wants, because “you look like birds dress you in the morning.”
24. Comments at http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/feb/07/groundhog-day-perfect-comedy-for-ever.
25. Again, there’s a lot of Lecter (or in this movie, “Lecktor”) in Lorelai: “I’m glad you came. My callers are mostly clinical psychologists from some cornfield university. Second-raters, the lot.”
26. According to The Onion’s AV Club, “Scott Patterson was just awful to deal with on-set, I’ve heard, much like Chevy Chase.”
27. Lorelai even managed to dump the future Don Draper himself, Jon Hamm; he talked too much about his Porsche.
28. There’s almost a running gag of people buying or renovating a house for Lorelai, including Luke and her mother, only to get the shaft when Lorelai’s adorable little mind changes. It’s another manifestation of the “you look like birds dress you in the morning” syndrome.
29. “For Luke Danes, food identifies the duality of his character. This is a man who runs a greasy diner . . . and yet is himself a health nut. . . . These contradictions symbolize the duality between what Luke projects on the outside — a gruff .belligerent, and uncharitable personality — and what he truly is on the inside — a sensitive softy who, despite his vocal protests, is always there when people need him.” Coffee at Lukes p123. Luke thus incarnates both Phils simultaneously, in keeping with the theme of superimposed rather than sequential time.
30. Typically, despite thus adding to their number, the Gilmore Girls regularly mock the various local customs and traditions, just as Phil becomes more and more openly hostile to Groundhog Day. Either of these rants would easily be delivered by Lorelai or Luke:
Phil: “This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. (raising his voice) What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. (turns to the crowd) You’re hypocrites, all of you!”
A few loops later . . .
Phil: “Once again the eyes of the nation have turned here to this . . . (silly voice) tiny village in Western Pennsylvania, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah . . . (serious) There is no way . . . that this winter . . . is ever going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s gotta be stopped. (beat) And I have to stop him.”
31. “Gilmore Girls Forum” here.
32. Having already cited Portlandia in my previous essay as an updated Stars Hollow, it’s interesting to note that the show that started singing about “The dream of the ’90s is alive in Portland” opened its second season with took note of the “hipster luddite” trend with “The dream of the 1890s is alive in Portland,” thus becoming even more like Stars Hollow, or Woodstock, Il, continuing the theme of everything new is old again. Meanwhile, Stars Hollow itself goes on and on: “If you’ve had a Stars Hollow-shaped hole in your soul ever since Amy Sherman-Palladino abandoned “Gilmore Girls,” . . . “Bunheads” will fill that vacancy. If “Bunheads” were any more like early seasons of “Gilmore Girls,” the CW could probably file suit. The tone, the music, the giddy repartee, the pop-culture shout-outs, the jingly-jangly almost magical realism of it all has been perfectly maintained and transplanted from Stars Hollow to a sleepy coastal town in California . . . “Bunheads” centers on Michelle (Sutton Foster), who is basically Lorelai Gilmore minus 15 pounds . . . Mom is Fanny Flowers (Kelly Bishop, essentially reprising her role as Emily Gilmore). “Stars Hollow Gets an Ocean-Front Makeover and Wears It Well” By Dustin Rowles, here.
I believe the idea in Groundhog Day was to show that whatever one has learned, one can unlearn through proper work. One suspects that Murray’s character was a learned, and not an intrinsic, asshole. Else nothing could ever be changed. He eventually learned how to behave, like he learned to play the piano.
Another champion of the idea of eternal return was Petyr Ouspensky. However, unlike Phil, Ouspensky’s Ivan Osokin was not interested in learning to play the piano, or really even getting the girl. Nor was he able to change much of anything, in any case. It was only after discovering that “life was taking him nowhere” that life began to have meaning for him, and only then was he able to recognize the “magician,” and understand that change meant a change of Being.
Recently I had the distinct unpleasure to sit through another Bill Murray movie, Scrooged. Throughout the film were placed conspicuous flyers urging, I guess, the audience to “free South Africa.” These people are not even subtle anymore, and haven’t been for a long time.
Oh James, you have done it again. Raised the vapidity and banality of modernity to a new level humour. I guess I should not have taken my TV to the dump and thrown rocks at it.
I always have to read your essays twice. Once through and once with the notes. All that scrolling hurts my eyes though. Oh well, it is worth it.
I read on Wiki that Buddhists think this movie is great. Yeah right.
As with Coomaraswamy, the best stuff is often in the notes!
Go West young James!
I always linked the repeating day in Groundhog with the cell in Cristo. They are both crucibles and also, despite at first appearing to be hellish confines, both the path to redemption and mastery for their occupiers.
The only thing I would have added to Groundhog would have been a Mondego type.
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