Mike White is a gifted writer; he crafts dynamic, weird, and wonderfully fascinating female characters. He excels at capturing people who want something different from what society dictates we should want — it can start off as unbearably difficult to watch, and ends in a deep empathy for that person. These characters are for anyone who’s ever cared deeply about something that’s not necessarily what we’re supposed to care about. Year of the Dog is a good example of this; Molly Shannon’s character is considered crazy because of her passion to help animals, but everyone else’s single-minded pursuits go unquestioned because they’re socially acceptable. For example, her coworkers are obsessed with making money, getting married, etc. We tolerate single mindedness when it comes to those things, because that’s what we’re all supposed to want. But when Molly Shannon’s character goes vegan and literally rescues an entire shelter worth of death row dogs, she’s a nut ball. And she IS a nut ball, but there’s something relatable about it*, and endearing about a person striving, sometimes uncontrollably, for something substantive from life.
Enlightened is dealing with the fallout of spiritual enlightenment in a world that’s not setup to support that path — especially if you need a job. White says, “… I felt like it would be more interesting to look at what happens when you come back to your reality with all of these evangelistic notions of what goodness is or how to live, and then try to apply it to a world that isn’t really interested.” It’s like finding out what happens after Dorothy leaves Oz… the wreckage can be more compelling than the initial journey.