Once upon a time in HBO quality TV was not all about mythological detectives and killers, greedy kings, leftovers or gangsters. A positive -but always critic- time when smiling and experiencing joy was allowed. Enlightened is not just a story about capitalism and corporations, it is also about happiness: because yes, even in this “beautiful, upsetting world” we need to enjoy life.
“I am an agent of change or a creator of chaos? am I the fool, the goat, the witch? or am I enlightened?”
What is above the elevator’s ceiling? Just another geometric, claustrophobic and grey wall as we see in season 2?, or an ocean, a source of life as season 1 showed us? Enlightened, as the quote and the images prove, is full of questions and contradictions, as capitalism itself. The world is a confusing place to live in and sometimes the tools we have at our disposal to fix it are just part of the problem.
Enlightened‘s main character Amy Jellicoe is an executive who, unable to withstand her day to day life -with a drug addict husband, a corporate job and, an uncertain future- suffers a panic attack. It is precisely in that moment that she decides to leave all that behind and go to a new-age, therapeutic treatment facility in Hawaii. She herself needs to change in order to be “an agent of change”.
With a renewed, energetic and positive gaze she returns to her mother’s house and tries to destroy every single institution that wrecked her (work, family and society), but, as I previously mentioned, sometimes our attempts are part of the problem. From time to time, the system needs enemies, controlled revolutionaries, in order to look like a democratic space but, although their purposes are often good, they are nothing more than pawns in the capitalistic board.
In the shadow of her positive gaze we find fake places and lonely people: Hawaii is an artificial paradise, a simulacrum of itself (as we also saw in Mad Men) with no wild turtles and tons of rubbish on the sand. Her mother Helen (played by Dern’s actual mother Diane Ladd) lives trapped between the ghosts from her past and a daughter that will not share her life with her since “it’s not the right time” or because “she wouldn’t understand”. She is turned away into solitude as we sense in “Consider Helen”, the glorious episode that revolves around her daily life. Her colleague Tyler is, as he states, “a ghost that nobody sees” until Amy appears in his life. Buy Amy’s determination will undermine their relationship, her ambition is much bigger than human connections.
Amy, as the system she tries to destroy, is selfish. Her mission is above everything, regardless whatever damages she may cause on her way up. However, as she finds out (but sometimes forgets), capitalism can not be changed, it can only be…
This is why Enlightened was (and hopefully will be in a third season) brilliant: it showed us the struggles that many of us have to face nowadays, the injustices of the system in all its complex reality and contradictions. We need to fight but we need to construct our own weapons to do so, we deserve to be happy but that can not be our only goal, we need to be together but in a circle, not in a row. We need to be Amy, but we can not make Amy’s mistakes.
The Homecoming Queen