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Series / Enlightened

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Enlightened is an HBO series created by Mike White which follows the life of Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern). An executive at a big company, Amy has a very public breakdown, and decides to go to a New Age rehab center to get back on track. On her return, Amy is keen to live life by her new principles and share her lifestyle with those around her, but finds that this is not as easy as she envisaged.

Provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Amy's mom clearly has her own issues and is often quite cold towards her daughter. Amy's ex Levi calls her out on how she treated Amy as she was growing up. Amy can be seen to be working through these issues throughout the first series.
  • Amicably Divorced: More like, very blurred boundaries. There's still a lot of unresolved hostility and sadness between Levi and Amy, but they still go to each other for support on occasion and there still seems to be something between them.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Krista, although her bitchiness is sometimes fairly overt. Her hostility towards Amy is so strong, though, that it is hard to believe she wasn't in this role back when she was Amy's assistant.
    • Amy has shades of this at times, except usually just as sucked in by her own bullshit as she thinks everyone else is.
  • Break the Cutie: There is a tension in seeing just how much Amy can take while still staying true to her new self and not slipping back to her old ways.
  • British Brevity: The show had 10 episodes for it's first season and eight for it's second.
  • Brutal Honesty: Tyler, for all that he's so quiet, will occasionally just deliver the unvarnished truth: Amy barely works, Dougie is sexually frustrated, etc.
    • Dougie too. "Sorry, I forgot you were old."
  • Casanova Wannabe: Tyler calls Dougie out as this.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Damon, and probably more of the higher-ups at Abaddon.
  • Clothing Reflects Personality: Amy's brighly coloured clothes stand out amongst the grey suited executives at Abaddon. Dougie's clothing is often a bit sleazy and inappropriate.
  • Cringe Comedy: Amy's earnestness and inability to truly see how others are responding to her can somethimes be painful to watch. Similarly, Dougie can be excruciatingly embarrassing.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Amy imagines Tyler doing this, and it serves to illustrate how she sees him as lacking love in his life. It is played with a little. At the beginning of one episode, Amy knocks back Tyler's offer of lunch. By the end of the episode, she asks him to go to lunch - which illustrates her own growth more than anything else.
  • False Friend: Krista.
  • Friendless Background: Tyler admits that he is 'tired of being alone', and Amy suspects he lacks love in his life, while imagining him eating lunch alone. It is hard to say whether this has been an ongoing situation for him, or if his actions in the I.T department led to his current isolation.
  • Granola Girl: Amy, although we can see her old personality peep out every now and then, which makes us question whether her new self is feasible when faced with everyday life. Her friend Sandy, too - although her sincerity is called into question when we see that she is not recording anything meaningful in her journal, but doodling flowers.
  • Hidden Depths: Pretty much everyone, but especially the workers at Cogentiva. The sincerity of Amy's claim to 'enlightenment' is questioned early on by having her refer to her co-workers at Cogentiva as 'circus freaks', demonstrating how she sees herself as somehow better and pointing out how she judges on appearance.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Probably Tyler, although it's difficult to say how things will develop
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Amy is blind to Krista's hostility to her and persists in trying to maintain their "friendship". Equally, she seems to have been totally oblivious to Tyler's feelings for her.
  • Hypocrite: Everyone at some point. Special contrast goes between Amy and Krista. Amy seeks to build herself into the person she tries to appear to be. Krista goes out of her way to pretend to be friendly. Even after she hits breaking point with Amy, she later tries to rebuild her lying smile for her because... answers on a postcard.
  • It's All About Me: Amy is prone to this type of behaviour. Her early fantasies about getting Abaddon to accept her ideas culminated in everyone applauding her. She reported Dougie to HR in order to keep her job (which dragged all the Cogentiva employees into the mess) despite her one friend, Tyler, telling her he didn't want anything to do with HR.
  • Jerkass: Dougie. His annoyance at Amy's consistent latecoming and laziness is valid, but that still doesn't negate what a massive jerk he is.
  • Lovable Nerd: A bit of a shame to pigeonhole any of the characters on this show - but Tyler pretty much falls into this trope.
  • Narrator: Amy will sometimes provide narration. Her narration is usually quite calm and thoughtful, quite unlike her often rather manic behaviour. This serves to highlight the difference between thought and action - Amy often has good intentions, but her actions can often be a bit inept.
  • New Age: Amy's rehabilation centre seems to have espoused many New Age ideas. Amy is keen to share these with her family and friends on her return, but not everyone is keen. The show's treatment of these ideas is subtle and fairminded. While friends and colleagues do often respond cynically and offer valid criticisms, Amy has clearly found these ideas helpful in changing her life. Then again, it is often not the New Age ideas themselves which are under scrutiny, but why and how people use them
  • No Social Skills: Amy can be clueless in her interactions, forcing her ideas on others despite their obvious lack of interest. It could be argued that this is a common factor in Cogentiva: Dougie is utterly socially inept, while Tyler is a little awkward.
  • Only Sane Man: Played with in a very nuanced way as Amy can't understand why no one else sees the evils her employer is doing. Amy is an insufferable, embarrassingly oblivious Granola Girl, but as the creator put it, she is "not actually wrong." This may be a way to make the point that there is no socially acceptable way to do the right thing when everyone is involved in something terrible.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Dougie. He is actually competent at what he is supposed to do, however his people skills are so terrible that it is inconceivable that he should actually be in charge of anyone.
  • Short Runner: Only 18 episodes.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Amy. She often has the best of intentions, but her desire to fight causes can sometimes cause her to go to extremes and annoy those around her.
  • Spiritual Sequel / Recycled: The Series: Mike White previously wrote and directed "Year Of The Dog" a film with similar themes of self-actualisation and trying to guide the ethics of the people around you. Its lead actress, Molly Shannon, even joins the cast midway through season two.
  • Woman Scorned: The final straw which brings about Amy's big breakdown as the series starts is her lover transferring her to a different department because they had an affair - both ending the relationship and messing with her career. Amy's therapy would make it seem that she has moved on from this and only wants to be an agent of change at the company, but it is questionable whether some of her behaviour is motivated by anger. As of episode 10, Amy is definitely out to get both Damon and Abaddon
  • Write What You Know: Amy's nervous breakdown that starts the series is inspired by co-creator Mike White's similar breakdown running another show earlier in the 2000's.