Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Welcome to Wonderfalls

A couple of months ago, I was spending the day with Alex, who was recovering from some minor surgery. He had recently got a short-lived TV series on DVD, called Wonderfalls. It never made it past the first 4 or 5 episodes and I had never even known it existed. I'm figuring that most of America hasn't either.

It took me a few episodes to finally get into it -- I missed the first couple of episodes, so there was a lot of "WTF?" Once I got past that, I found that I really resonated with the underlying story.

Wonderfalls centers on a young twentysomething living in Niagra Falls, named Jaye. She's got an Ivy League education, works in a dead end job at a local gift shop and lives in a trailer. The series includes a lot of her incredibly odd and dysfunctional family, and while at first she's painted as this pathetic slacker with no ambition, the show goes to great pains to make you understand that she's always been the outcast and that she's trying to choose a different path from her family: her right wing, George W. Bush loving (and still surprisingly lovable) doctor that is her father; her mother, who is a neurotic, well-known author; closeted lesbian-immigration attorney sister; and brother who happens to be a Ph.D. student in Theology and an atheist.

The crux of the show is that one day at work, Jaye is outside at lunch and chokes -- while she manages to dislodge the food, when she returns to work, suddenly things are different -- a wax lion from the vending machine in her store speaks to her. We're not talking Joan of Arcadia, "Yes, Joan, this is God, and listen to me while I pontificate..." Instead, the wax lion tells her not to give a customer her money back.

There's a lot more that I love about this show and I plan on talking about it more, just because there are so many different aspects that I love. But at it's core, it's a story about a very intelligent, talented girl who's grown up choosing to withdraw from the world, keeping most everyone at a distance. The stories Wonderfalls presents are about how the Universe finally starts to push Jaye in a different direction, one where she's forced to interact with the world in new ways and open up to those around her, despite the fact that all the while she's afraid that she's going crazy... and despite the fact that she's usually trying to fight the whole process.

Not only is she's worried she's going crazy, she's also dealing with the chemistry with the charming, emotionally available, though on the rebound Eric, played by the adorable Tyron Leitso.

While I don't live in a trailer, I can't help but see a lot of myself in Jaye and the struggle she's going through. In the first episode she explains her basic worldview: "Well, just look at them. They all work really hard everyday and they're dissatisfied. I mean, I can be dissatisfied without hardly working at all." I guess I've hit that point as well... and I haven't quite found a better solution... except for the insistent nudges the Universe keeps giving me, sending me in directions that don't necessarily feel like the direction I think I want to go and yet somehow always seem to work out in ways I don't really expect.

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