Discussion for Episode 2: Dancing in the Dark

General discussion about the nineteen episodes of "My So-Called Life". Note: Our episode guide can be found here.
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Post by TomSpeed » Jan 22nd 2003, 10:12 am

I have another take on Brian's inability to convincingly explain the point of the experiment: there is no point. The apparatus is simply a impressive phantom machine with a mouse involved. He doesn't expect to be questioned about it. Does this view make him seem too confident or arrogant? It's ironic that Rayanne, who is clearly not on his level at school, calls him on it. Just how smart is Rayanne? I think she is very smart. Brian, who possibly sees Rayanne as a rival for Angela's attention and affection, is on notice that Rayanne should not be taken lightly.
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Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
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Post by starbug » Jan 22nd 2003, 12:10 pm

TomSpeed wrote:I have another take on Brian's inability to convincingly explain the point of the experiment: there is no point. The apparatus is simply a impressive phantom machine with a mouse involved. He doesn't expect to be questioned about it. Does this view make him seem too confident or arrogant? It's ironic that Rayanne, who is clearly not on his level at school, calls him on it. Just how smart is Rayanne? I think she is very smart. Brian, who possibly sees Rayanne as a rival for Angela's attention and affection, is on notice that Rayanne should not be taken lightly.
I agree - there is no real, meaningful point to the volumeter itself, and that fact was got at very quickly by Rayanne... that's why he stumbled. I don't think it makes Brian confident or arrogant: I think he's merely doing what he has to do - he's going through the motions of High School in order to get the highest marks possible to get to college etc... which is actually what he's trying to say when he says 'it's for extra credit'. he doesn't expect to be questioned on it but I don't think that makes him arrogant or confident.

And I think that Rayanne is maybe the most intelligent person on the show - she's screwed up emotionally, but through the next episodes we'll see more and more of her quick-witted, cut to the core of the issue, dialogue. She doesn't try hard at school but she does have intelligence.

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Post by TomSpeed » Jan 22nd 2003, 1:38 pm

The last scene of in "Dancing in the Dark" is probably the most troubling for me. Angela overhears Graham talking with the other woman (AKA the Tie-Grabber). Given the brief glimpses we have of Angela during and after the conversation, it is obvious that she knows and understands a great deal about what the conversation was about. Graham is seeing someone else, probably the woman Angela saw him talking to near the house not long ago. Graham is betraying Angela, Patty, and Danielle. This is the same man who listens to her, loves her, and warms up food in the microwave better than anyone else. When the episode goes to black and the credits come up, I feel Angela's pain (to borrow a phrase from Brother Bill). I wonder how she and Graham will deal with the situation. Even though I've seen this the episode many times, I'm always struck by how alone the characters are, esp. Angela, and how fragile a family can be.

The situation reminds me a bit of my only trek though extra-marital affair territory. I became involved with a relative's wife when my father died. We stopped short of actually "umming," (I was young and innocent; she was older and wiser), but we did make out late at night. I will always feel guilt, shame, and stupidity when I think of this time in my life. Her husband, of course, suspected what was going on. He did not confront me or directly confront his wife (from what I know), but he did question his very young son about what he saw go on between us. Thankfully, we were discrete. However, the very idea that I didn't consider the possible consequences of my actions and that I caused a father to interrogate his son makes me see this scene in the show in a truly personal way.
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Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Jan 22nd 2003, 2:38 pm

Another thread that might be of interest since we are discussing how smart Rayanne is:

the contradiction that we call Rayanne
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Post by likelife » Jan 22nd 2003, 5:19 pm

the thing that is the most upsetting about graham's almost affair with the tie-grabber is that he and angela have an unspoken misunderstanding about it. i do not think that graham has any idea how much angela has assumed and/or overheard. think about it: if graham knew what angela was SO mad at him about, why would he be voicing his concern to patty in later episodes?
meanwhile, angela does not realize that the events that SHe has just witnessed are actually graham UNDOING anything that was about to happen. it's upsetting to think that graham might be faced with the opportunity to have an affair, but realistic, i think. what's tragic is that his decision to bow out of the affair is what angela mistakes as the affair itself.

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Post by TomSpeed » Jan 22nd 2003, 10:07 pm

likelife wrote:the thing that is the most upsetting about graham's almost affair with the tie-grabber is that he and angela have an unspoken misunderstanding about it. i do not think that graham has any idea how much angela has assumed and/or overheard. think about it: if graham knew what angela was SO mad at him about, why would he be voicing his concern to patty in later episodes?
meanwhile, angela does not realize that the events that SHe has just witnessed are actually graham UNDOING anything that was about to happen. it's upsetting to think that graham might be faced with the opportunity to have an affair, but realistic, i think. what's tragic is that his decision to bow out of the affair is what angela mistakes as the affair itself.
Exactly. The question begs to be asked is: "How should Graham deal with the situation?" Should he sit Angela down and explain what's happening? Or, should he act as if nothing has happened? Angela is old enough for Graham to talk honestly about life. However, what parent wants to tell his child that he has thought about straying? Would that help or hurt the child? I've always believed that it's best to be honest to children, and that parents should work to help them understand what's going on. It's much worse to keep them in the dark. Angela basically has learned that she has a reason not to trust Graham. That's such a shame.
TomSpeed

Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Jan 23rd 2003, 3:48 am

I think that Graham is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, he really doesn't believe he has really "done anything," as he tells Neil. I don't know that we want to debate what qualifies as cheating, but Graham feels that since all they have done is talk, he hasn't crossed the line. Angela, on the other hand, without knowing to what extent he has taken his relationship with the Tie Grabber, assumes that he has crossed the line from right to wrong. I don't know that she has given much thought about the physicality of Graham's relationship with TG - in her humble opinion, he has betrayed the family with his intent. Whatever he has done, and she doesn't know exactly what he has done, he has cheated with his heart. For all intents and purposes, it doesn't matter whether he had sex with TG or just talked to her. Of course, Graham can't tell Angela this. If he did, I imagine she would not care about the technicality of his cheating. This brings us to the "hard place" element. Although Graham doesn't feel he has done anything but talk with TG, he feels guilty enough that he can't confront Angela about her anger and negative attitude towards him because he knows that she knows. If he were to discuss the change in their relationship, he would have to admit what was going on. Even if he told her that he and TG only talked, he would have to admit that he was talking to her and that would implicate him since he was supposed to be shooting pool with Neil. I think Graham hopes that all Angela heard was the "innocent" part of his phone conversation which COULD be construed as not altogether guilty. As a product of a home where a similar situation occurred, I can assure you that he is in a lose-lose situation. Although it is insulting to a teenager's intelligence to pretend that nothing is wrong, it is also inappropriate to treat your offspring as an equal by discussing your relationship with their other parent. Either way, your kid is going to be pretty mad.
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Post by likelife » Jan 23rd 2003, 5:05 pm

i agree, candygirl. graham would be compromised his marriage further if he took angela into his confidence. patty is already concerned that angela LIKES graham better, and that graham always takes angela's side. i'm the product of a household that dealt with a similar situation. one of my parents took my into their confidence and the other did not. as a result, i only saw one side. it was a mess....
however, if angela had approached him with a concrete accusation, i think it would have been only fair to be honest with her. i do not mean that he should spill at the details, but had she accused him directly, graham should not have insulted angela's intelligence by pretending it was nothing.
definitely a rock and a hard place.

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Post by NIGHTJESSI » Jan 24th 2003, 4:37 am

Likelife, going back to your question on Rickie's behavior at Brian's house and why it's a bit different than the Rickie we're used to, I think it's due to a number of factors, including what you mentioned about Rickie not knowing how to act in another boy's house. Something else that was subtle but there was how Rickie also liked Jordan. True, he assumed Jordan was definitely unattainable for him since Jordan was straight, but it was an awkward situation for him to be in. On one hand, he was excited that Angela had a chance with the guy she was fantasizing about, but on the other hand, he was reminded of how he is unable to have a "normal" relationship with someone due to his preferences, which he hasn't quite become comfortable discussing yet.

TomSpeed, while honesty is the best policy, parents and kids can't always be on the same level when discussing heady issues like Graham's possible affair. Since he hadn't even figured out what he really wanted to do until that phone call and he hadn't even discussed it with Patty, any conversation about it with Angela would not have been a good idea. As far as he knows, Angela overheard part of a conversation. He doesn't know she saw him around the corner with the other woman, and he knows she doesn't know about his conversation with Neil. As far as he's concerned, it's over between him and the other woman so there's nothing to tell. Yes, he still feels guilty, but maybe he also feels relieved that he was able to squash things before something irreversible happened.
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Post by TomSpeed » Jan 24th 2003, 10:10 am

My hope is that if Angela asks Graham about the conversation she overheard, Graham answers her questions as honestly and with as much consideration as possible. He would also have to talk to Patty if he talks with Angela. I'm not sure of a better solution. I agree with what others have written, this is a lose-lose situation and there are no easy answers.
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Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Jan 24th 2003, 4:38 pm

I think Graham's exasperation at "all of a sudden there's all this pressure...to lead" sums up his myriad problems neatly. He is used to being the laid-back, easygoing, let it flow (dare I say, "whatever happens, happens"? :wink:) kind of guy but suddenly there are new expectations:

Patty complains that she doesn't rate a goodbye kiss in the morning, but since she is the one who is leaving, why doesn't SHE kiss HIM? She is waiting for him to take the initiative and kiss her.

When Patty asks the family if she should cut her hair (which seems to be Patty's passive aggressive way of fishing for a compliment either way), Graham expresses no opinion until he asks, "Short? Like Hillary Clinton?"

Graham literally doesn't know how to lead Patty when they are at their ballroom dance lesson. Coordination aside, this is a metaphor for their relationship - he is accustomed to letting Patty make a lot of decisions, set the tone, lay down ground rules, etc.

Graham also allows the Tie Grabber to lead him in their tete a tete - she is the one who grabs his tie and says, "I can't sleep because of you." I assume that she is the one who suggested they meet at a motel.

It seems that Graham has floated through life, content to see where the breeze takes him, and now, seemingly out of nowhere, he is being asked to navigate which scare the beejezus out of him.

When he does finally step up to the plate to lead, he does the right thing: he comforts Patty and shows her that they DO know how to be together, and he cancels his motel rendezvous with TG.
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Post by likelife » Jan 24th 2003, 9:08 pm

candygirl, i think you are onto something with the 'graham doesn't know how to lead' idea. he's a product of a generation that BEGAN to explore the idea that women could be breadwinners and men could have emotions, so in some ways he is the ideal man-in-touch-with-his-female-side. but then again he has not figured out how to be a sensitive, artist-type and still manage to 'be a man' in the ways that he wants to be / is expected to be. when graham says it's hard to figure out how to be a man, he is talking about himself just as much as he is talking about jordan or brian.
by the end of episode two he has made the right decision, to be true to himself (for he really does love patty and wants to preserve their reationship) and his family. it's going to take some time to convince angela, though.

similarly, just as graham feels threatened by the expectation that he ought to lead and be in charge, patty hates it when she feels like she needs to TRY to be a woman that people will love, desire, and like. here i'm thinking both of her frustrations with women's mags "sure, let me just empty this kitty litter!" and later in "OPM" when graham mentions HIS mom (apparently the ideal of feminine discretion and pleasantry) and patty groans. she does not want to have to conform to some ancient myth or modern ideal.

i like how mscl deals with constructions of gender in this way. we are able to laugh at the 'typical' male and female behavior that some of the characters exhibit, and yet the show challenges the notion that gender roles are static.

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Post by Bubba » Mar 12th 2003, 2:48 am

Surprised this hasn't been mentioned (unless I zipped by it entirely)...

As Patty and Camille walk out of the Chase master bedroom, the Cinderella statue is framed in the shot so that it looks life-sized compared to the two women -- a comparison, perhaps, between the ideal fairy-tale life and cold, hard reality.


Thanks for the entirely plausible explanation about the astronomy film.

On another question of continuity, the essay for this episode asserts:

At the point where plot and subplot await execution, as Angela prepares for her rendezvous and Patty and Graham wait for their dancing lesson to begin, we are again taken to the high school science lab long enough for Ms. Chavatal to remind us that an experiment is successful if it yields meaningful results. The scene is out of sequence, but it points to the thematic context of plot and subplot: Angela's rendezvous for a fake I.D. and Patty's dance lessons are experiments.

I don't believe the action is out of sequence: it's the next day, but the bulk of the day focuses on the dance lesson and the experiment.

But I do wonder: is it plausible that Graham and Patty are still at home when Angela's had time for at least one full class at school?
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Post by blondieconnie » Mar 12th 2003, 8:31 pm

Can anyone tell me the name of the piece that is playing in the background when Graham and Patty are dancing and Angela is walking out to Jordan's car to get her fake ID? It sounds like Gershwin. I love it! Please let me know if ya know the answer. Thanks!

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Post by nkatsa » Mar 24th 2003, 4:45 am

there were so many incredible parallels and metaphors and lines in this episode, it would take me so long to get through it... although "But that's the part that's so unfair. I have nothing else on my mind. How come I have to be the one sitting around analyzing him in, like, microscopic detail, and he gets to be the one with other things on his mind??" "That... was deep." ranks as one of my favorite lines from the whole series! :lol:

but i just wanted to mention one scene that i don't think people have talked about as much yet...

i always get the chills when patty's arguing "how could we have been together for so long and not know how to dance together?" and graham yells "because! because we have been together for so long!" it's just such a powerful moment, and the silence that follows it feels so heavy (whenever i watch it with a bunch of people, we always all gasp at the same time)... that always really gets to me.
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