We’ve reached the final episode of season 1!
All the lady hormones in school are raging because it’s Ethan’s 14th birthday and his parents got him a dirtbike. “He’s more something than usual,” swoons Miranda at the sight of Ethan in a dirtbike uniform. “He is! He so is,” agrees Lizzie. I liked that bit. Tudgeman shows up and brags that he started shaving. Gordo complains about all the guys in school thinking they’re hot shit and Lizzie and Miranda, not particularly kindly, say that everyone else is growing up faster than him. This had to be a weird episode for the perfectly cast Adam Lamberg, who was at least seventeen when they filmed it – three years older than Hilary Duff and Lalaine but younger-looking than both of them.
At lunch Gordo is still stuck on the subject, complaining that he’s gonna be a kid forever (words spoken by a high school junior playing a seventh grader). Gordo says he never should have opted out of a bar mitzvah when his parents gave him the choice of having one or not, which wouldn’t affect his short stature or inability to go through puberty so I guess he only cares about symbolic adulthood here.
Gordo’s parents are both psychiatrists, and from this scene I’m extrapolating that they are raising him either agnostic or atheist, the kind of parents who want their kids to decide for himself what he believes. I bet he becomes a really douchey atheist in high school and argues with everyone about it really smugly. As a reminder, we don’t know the occupation of either of our protagonist’s parents or if her mom even works, while Gordo is such a recognizably realistic character I’m starting to believe this entire series was ghostwritten by a grown-up Gordo.
Gordo explains what a bar mitzvah is and Miranda admonishes him for not having one when she learns that it means he passed up an opportunity to get cash from relatives. I always respect Miranda’s money-over-everything ethos. She talks about her culture’s rite of passage, the quinceañera, which makes me long for a Miranda quince episode. Can you imagine her outfit?
At the McGuire house, the doorbell rings and both parents run to get it. “Hey, handsome!” Jo says when she sees her husband, then gets pissed when Sam doesn’t call her beautiful in return. Wives sure are crazy, right? They answer the door and some neighbor lady is furious that Matt was stomping around in her garden, wrecking all of her plants and stealing her oranges.
Sam says, “Boys will be boys!” in the most succinct example of how the show lets its male characters ruin everyone’s lives. Sam is such a dud at disciplining Matt that Jo announces she’s on strike and Sam has to try parenting for a change. Right on! I am here for this plotline!
Gordo interviews a bunch of adults about the moment they became men and sadly no one yells, “GENDER IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT!” Some biker dude talks about his first tattoo, Sam talks about learning how to drive, and an extremely stereotypical Native American talks about catching a fish. Note that Gordo’s movie gives him a subtitle with his character’s name (Will Rainwater), but in the credits he’s just named “Native American.”
Gordo also interviews “two big guys.” We see the same two extras all the time. They’re the same guys Lizzie saves in “Rated Aargh!”. Their names are David Rosen and Jeremy Bargiel and they’re writers on the show, so I guess these are the people I should picture punching when I think about this show’s writing process.
Gordo tries all kinds of manly thing in a montage. He considers getting a tattoo but chickens out. He tries to catch a fish. He drives somehow? I don’t know how he got a car?
Nothing works and he’s furious and he says he’ll never know when he’s reached adulthood. “You guys will know!” he says to Lizzie and Miranda. “It’s biological!” That line horrified me as a kid! I couldn’t believe they were allowed to reference periods on TV! Gordo says he guesses it’s a guy thing and they wouldn’t understand and sadly no one says, “The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”
Sam catches Matt playing video games and yells at him because he’d taken away his video game privileges for terrorizing another neighbor and Matt retorts that Sam had said he was only inflicting a punishment to prove a point to Jo. Jo hears this but is exaggeratedly filing her nails like all ladies do to signal that they’re relaxin’ and not gettin’ involved. She saunters off and Sam cruelly gives Matt three weeks of kitchen cleanup for embarrassing him. Holy shit, Sam went from negligent to abusive with one realization of his inadequacy.
We get a montage of Matt sowing havoc throughout the entire neighborhood and Sam getting more and more frustrated. He yells at Matt but says he doesn’t know what Mom would do to punish him. To be fair to Sam, Jo doesn’t really punish Matt. That’s why he’s so awful. These writers have made Matt so ludicrously misbehaved that an episode like this can’t actually work.
Lizzie asks her mom for advice about Gordo but Jo directs her to Sam. Cartoon Lizzie files her nails because that’s what girls do in any situation, okay? We’re never not filing our nails. Sam talks about how he misses being a kid when he didn’t have to work all the time to support his shitty family and he could just eat ice cream all the time and invites Lizzie to get an ice cream with him. Is this supposed to make us feel for Sam? He’s still a terrible dad. He doesn’t even give Lizzie any advice here! He just made it all about himself, the fucking narcissist.
Meanwhile at Gordo’s house, check out the cold weird minimalist set design at Gordo’s house! I love it.
Gordo puts an entire full plate of food in the sink because this scene was badly directed while his parents try to psychoanalyze his situation and bicker with each other and are neurotic. Man, the writers sure do actually try when they’re dealing with Gordo. All of this makes sense and explains his terrible personality. His dad says that Gordo kept his training wheels on longer than the other kids because he’s always been an immature fuckup so if he wants to have a bar mitzvah a year late that’s just par for the course for his weird life.
Jo finds out that Matt has been given a punishment of cleaning the entire house, mowing the lawn, and washing the car just for accidentally oversleeping. Jo is appalled and says she’s going to do the parenting of two people again. Net loss for feminism, net win against child abuse, I guess.
Lizzie and Miranda show up to Gordo’s bar mitzvah in outfits that seemed inappropriate for a religious ceremony to me so I googled it and I was right – this is not appropriate bar mitzvah attire. At least their moms were respectful and remembered to wear their formal hair clips.
Gordo makes a speech about becoming a man and read from the Torah and that’s it! That’s the first season!
Why end the season on this episode? Why not “Gordo’s Video?” That one better encapsulated so many themes of the series: hating your school, being a bad friend, valuing image, and withholding information needlessly to raise the stakes in interpersonal conflicts.
Come back next week to read my thoughts on the whole first season!
Notable fashion moments: Every fashion moment is notable! This episode’s costumes are bonkers.
Miranda wears a lot of weird stuff in her hair this episode. Here she has plastic cherries, which I think she stole from her costume from the school play. This whole look is so strange and I love it.
She also wears plastic chopsticks and flowers in her hair. When I was in middle school, Miranda made me want to start wearing chopsticks in my hair, especially when she started wearing Chinese fabrics in the second season. Now that I know about cultural appropriation I’m glad I never acted on those urges.
This look is great, though. Thick crocheted sweater over a different crocheted top and a peace sign necklace and funky hair. Into it! I believe this is the last episode with this costume designer, as it looks like they switched between seasons. She finally did something right by me and now she’s leaving.
Can’t sign off on these looks, though. Lizzie’s camo fixation hurts my soul, especially with the bandanas.
And Miranda is wearing combat boots with capris! It’s insane. I love this picture of her, though. She’s excited to go to a tattoo parlor. Miranda, you rock. Change a little bit to be more like this always.
This look is HIDEOUS. Maybe the worse thing Lizzie’s worn all season. She’s wearing big clunky brown clogs with this, by the way.
And a cheetah print bandana. Do you remember that weird gross dirty-looking part of fashion at this time? Like earth tones and things that looked dirty and sometimes kind of Western and just bad? Like you could buy jeans with fake mud splatters on them. I have no idea how to describe this but I know I lived through it and it happened. Anyway, I feel like this is drawing on that for inspiration.
Miranda is wearing a hair clip in the shape of an S at Gordo’s bar mitzvah. S for…Sanchez? I don’t think that was a brand logo. Such a weird choice. Also, while I support her adding lots of eclectic pins in the first scene, she could have left them home for a damn bar mitzvah.
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5 thoughts on “Season 1, episode 31: “Gordo’s Bar Mitzvah””
Hahahaha! I love how you now have faces to direct you wanting-to-punch-the-writers-in-the-face anger toward.
However, I disagree that that one outfit is Lizzie’s worst. I don’t have any particular outfit in mind, because all of them are awful–and I hate to admit, that when this show debuted, and I was a sixth grader, I envied her style–but there has to be a worse one.
Matt cannot get away with terror in the neighborhood.