Thursday, September 5, 2013

Connecting Through Stuff She Loved: One Tree Hill

So I watched One Tree Hill. It was one of Jenna’s FAVORITE shows. 

All. Nine. Seasons.

It is effing ridiculous.

No really. The first time I watched and it got to the intro, it BURST into laughter. It took a good three, four episodes before I finally got used to it.

Basically it’s about people fucking up and Chad Michael Murray squinting and people making poor life choices to emotional music. Also basketball and brother stuff. And then in the last couple seasons… I have no idea. Still basketball I guess. But also some baseball. And an overly precocious child. The music remained a thing.

There was also a lot of slapping for some reason...


Like... a LOT of slapping... 


Seriously, don't these people know how to use their WORDS?!

But all jokes aside, it was the closest I’ve felt to Jenna in quite a while.

A few months ago, Jenna’s old roommate Paige got in touch with me about a recurring dream she’d for the third time. Jenna kept asking her about me. She was wondering why I wasn’t talking to her as much anymore.

There was more about the dream that shook me to say the least. Conversations Jenna had apparently “had” with other people (that those people had mentioned thinking about on completely separate occasions), even the mention of inside jokes… Stuff that Paige had no way of knowing. It struck me pretty hard.

Because whether you believe what I believe – that it is possible for those we love to find us in our dreams – the overall message was true. I had been struggling to talk to Jenna lately. And apparently I wasn't the only one noticing.

I used to talk to her the way the old guy in Up used to talk to his wife – Just random remarks, a clear picture of her in my mind. Lately that picture is getting a little hazy. The facial expressions she made in pictures weren’t the ones she made with me when we talked. Most of the Jenna from my memory is contained in my own expressions, but I’m never sure just how diluted I’m making her as more and more time comes between my memories and my point of reference.

Conversations with her lately just feel more and more like conversations with myself.

That’s where One Tree Hill came in.

From the few remarks she made about it to me (and her attitude whenever we watched anything she liked and I thought was stupid), I’ve been able to build a dialogue. I know what she’d say every time I rant about something I think is ridiculous. I can make pretty solid guesses about the parts she loved, who she likely crushed on. I’m finally starting to hear her voice in my head again.  I think I actually DID hear her yell "SHUT UP!" when I started laughing at the intro the first time.

But I think the most interesting part about watching or reading things I know she loved is seeing how they must have shaped the way she thought about things in life.

One of the philosophies that Jenna and I truly agreed on is that while experiences and success are important in life, they’re completely worthless without the people you love. What’s the point of building a life if it means sacrificing the people you want to spend it with?

That’s definitely a message reflected in this show. Through all the bad dialogue and ridiculous plots, I will say that I’ve enjoyed the underlying theme advocating the significance of following your dreams, but remembering what’s truly important.

I could also see a lot of the choices made regarding making romance work in the first place reflected in many of the character relationships. It's the idea that shit happens, mistakes are made, but love conquers all. As practical as Jenna could be, I knew her to be a closet romantic. It was always fascinating to watch her romantic experiences because it was like watching echoes from my own life. 

She always said that I was the more patient and forgiving person between the two of us (which is why she was so fiercely protective of me) but the more I really examine her journey, the more I realize that we both had the same capacity for it. Hers was just more selective than mine.

Love was always the bottom line for us. And we would be DAMNED if pride or stupidity or the poor choices of others got in our way. Watching One Tree Hill, I could see so much of that attitude underneath the drama. Maybe the reason the show bugged me so much is because it's hard to look back on your past and who you were before you knew better. I know that she would have grown from her experiences. She was always less actively self-reflective than I was (she was never as comfortable with her feelings as I was), but she was more intuitive about things like that. And we had each other. I was always there to force her to look at the things that motivated her and why, while she helped me let things just... be. A thing that's very difficult to do for me.

I really miss that.

I have to say, it was also pretty interesting to look at the way a television show like this handled death (particularly unexpected death) and especially grieving.

There were a couple of them on this show and I have to commend them. It seemed like they really wanted to make sure they got it right when it came to that experience. It's pretty clear that One Tree Hill strived to be a show that spoke to teenagers. Sometimes the speaking TO them was a little too obvious, but they didn't half ass important stuff like some other shows who fill that role do.

Television is one of my favorite story-telling mediums WHEN IT'S DONE WELL. It has all the visual techniques of a movie when it comes to evoking emotions, but the structure of the way a story is presented is completely different. On one hand, episodes are so much shorter than movies and must have a beginning, middle, and end. On the other hand, there's the season. And the series. And each of those measurements contains its own story that needs to be told. So if you want to dedicate an episode to a death, that's what the episode is about. But in the scheme of the season, that death can be a plot point. And in the scheme of the series, that death could be part of an overall character arc. Multiple layers, you see. And it's also unique in the scheme of a television show because often, you've gotten the chance to either get to know the character that's lost and/or the characters who are left behind. It so much closer to experiencing a life event WITH them rather than watching it unfold from the outside.

That I think is what makes watching the way the grieving process is presented especially fascinating. Not all television shows do this. A lot of them acknowledge, but mostly skim over the grieving process. It's understandable for a variety of reasons, especially if the show is more action driven than character driven or if the context the show is taking place in makes death commonplace (GAME OF THRONES O_O) and the characters are reacting accordingly. But when they actually take the time to dedicate an episode to what it means to experience a loss...

You know what? I think I’m going to put a more extended post together on all that. Put that on my endless “to-do” list when it comes to this blog.

Back to One Tree Hill...

All in all I was glad I watched the show. I can still have conversations with her. I just really miss asking questions I don’t already know the answers to. But maybe that’s only because it’s not an option anymore.

If any of you guys remember watching this or any other show with her, please feel free to send me your random thoughts and stories. They don’t have to have a beginning/middle/end. They can just be random things you remember her saying about the show.

The one thing I remember she said about it when I caught her watching it once or twice was that Nathan and Haley were “like the cutest couple ever.” Watching it now, it makes perfect sense. I can see a lot of Jenna’s ideals when it comes to relationships reflected in theirs. Though I always thought she was more of a Chad Michael Murray fan… I don’t remember.

This is basically the first five seasons in a nutshell...

And me? Chris Keller. Hands down. Also Dan Scott. I didn't have a thing for either of them (they were pretty much terrible people), but they were pretty much the reason I watched the show.

That last season had some serious drama.I was actually really worried that she hadn't gotten around to watching it that spring before... and she missed it... 
But I heard from Heidi that she, Jenna, and Gretchen had "study dates" once a week to watch the final season together (and not do homework). That made me happy.

Because it was actually pretty good.

YEAH I SAID IT. Whatever.

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