- A Mother Is a Form of Time: Gilmore Girls and the Elasticity of In-Finitude
That is what the time when my mother was alive before me is—History (moreover, it is the period which interests me most, historically).—Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
Repetition and recollection are the same movement, except in opposite directions, for what is recollected has been, is repeated backward, whereas genuine repetition is recollected forward.—Søren Kierkegaard, Repetition
HAHAHHA as much as i love gilmore girls..its truee.they talk wayy to fasttt and are too close lol—Anonymous [End Page 3]
A Surface Preface
It is true. They talk way too fast and are too close. Or, they talk their way to fast, as though speed itself were a destination.
On the September 18, 2005, episode of the animated Fox series Family Guy—less series than textual machine spitting out parodic encounters with other pieces of television—a somber male voice-over announces, “We now return to Gilmore Girls” (which aired on the WB/CW network during 2000–2007) as we cut from recurring characters Lois and Brian sitting on the sofa watching television to the embedded diegetic set. There, two animated brunettes who look strikingly like one another sit on a sofa themselves, presumably in front of another television, mise en abyme. The dialogue whizzes by, attribution barely possible to one body or the other; the whole thing takes less than thirty seconds: “Mom, I need to talk to you about Dean.” “Which Dean? Howard Dean, James Dean, or Jimmy Dean?” “Too old, too dead, and too fattening.” “You don’t have to tell that to my thighs.” “Can you ask your thighs if they borrowed my Gap capris?” “They did not and they’re insulted that you’d ask such a thing.” “As insulted as Kitty Kelley when people accuse her of taking liberties with her best-selling tell-alls?” “Almost. Wanna make out?” “Absolutely not.” “You’re so lying.” “I so am.” The animated (in both senses) mother and daughter begin carnal osculations on the couch.
Family Guy’s mode of address largely consists of these sorts of intertextual parodies, and they are assuredly the dominant pleasure of the show. But the structure of this Gilmore Girls bit is a mix of parody and fan fiction that takes the conceits of Gilmore Girls to a hyperbolic and excessive extreme: the narrative overclose friendship between mother and daughter on which that show is based becomes the saturated overcloseness of lesbian incest.1 Hence the response to an online video of this Family Guy clip, given above as an epigraph: “HAHAHHA as much as i love gilmore girls..its truee. they talk wayy to fasttt and are too close lol.” What to make of that “as much as i love . . .”? Is the way to/too fast talking and too closeness a burden to the desiring viewer (as much as I love them, I do not love how they speak and what they are to each other?), or is it the case that the shouting laughter marked in the viewer’s response regards incestuous union as the fitting punishment for the fast-talking close-being dames? What is so “truee” about the Family Guy spoof? It is some truth that either contradicts or answers for that “as much as i love , . . ,” a truth that secures the exception of the viewer-writer’s desire for the show, a truth about talking, a truth about what “too close” means where mothers and daughters are [End Page 4] concerned. The Family Guy satire, like all parody, operates by failing to remain independent of and outside its target. The necessary distance between satirical approach and satirized object is transgressed in the hyperbolic representation. They really are that close. Mothers and daughters should not be that close. The parody goes by too fast and becomes formally too close to Gilmore Girls. Family Guy thus begins to enact the workings that it initially held at bay for critical mockery; the teasing dance between distance and closeness ends with the shows becoming overproximate—incestuous collapse becomes textual collapse. Perhaps that nervous written laughter is deserved: talking that fast...