Friday, October 5, 2007

TV & Hand-Holding: So Not Past the Jam Hands Phase

My future best friend forever, Jennifer Garner, has a quote I’d like to share with you. In an InStyle magazine from about three years ago, Jen said, “The first thing I notice about a guy is his hands. I imagine them picking up a baby; it’s a sensual thing.”

Like I said, this is from many years ago, so I’m sure it has nothing to do with Ben Affleck. If she used this theory on Ben, then she failed, because he has no baby-holding skills. (He is also completely inept at fixing Violet’s hair. Anytime Jen goes out of town, you can tell that an amateur is snapping in that child’s barrettes. And she’s almost two. I’m just saying.)

Anyway, this blog is not about Jennifer Garner.

It’s about hands.

I am just blown away with love for hand-holding. It’s a widely-accepted form of public intimacy, one that is shocking innocent in today’s world—and especially in today’s TV world. Hand-holding in private is just as sweet, as it demonstrates a relationship based on connection, not just sex. On TV, where the rules permit broadcasting pretty graphic sex, showing something as innocuous as hand-holding is really special and sweet.

Let’s start with Jim and Pam, who’ve been on hand-holding overload for the past eight days. In the first episode, I melted a little inside when Jim reached over to grab Pam’s hand as they took a slow start to Michael’s 5K. It was so sweet, just a cute little tender gesture of affection. Since they got together, we’ve seen one far-away peck on the lips and a little cheek kiss. But we’ve also seen quiet contented smiles, whispers over the reception desk, soda-sharing, lamp-buying, and the aforementioned hand-holding.

Jim and Pam are also found on the cover of Entertainment Weekly this week—holding hands, no less. I’ve already talked about the sweetness of Pam’s smile, Jim’s cardigan and OHmyGOD the HANDS my GOD, but I think it deserves another mention, particularly if we’re talking about the hands. This little grasp is more covert, as if they’re in a crowded space but can just get away with this simple display of affection.

Part of the fun of a new season is the lead-up to the premieres, which usually involves episode synopses, promotional stills, and perhaps the occasional video clip. Along with many TV addicts, I will overanalyze those episode stills till kingdom come. When it’s The Office, you look at desk arrangement; if it’s Grey’s, you focus on Patrick Dempsey’s facial expressions.

In any case, I’ll look at hands. Especially when there’s engagement/wedding rumors circulating, checking out fingers is an important part of analyzing these photos. Last year, pre-season Office set photos were a hot commodity, because we all wanted to know whether or not Pam and Roy had gotten married. (You might even remember that Jenna Fischer stirred up a little controversy when she posted a snapshot on her MySpace of herself on set wearing a wedding ring. She really played into Pam Ring Hysteria by removing, cropping, and reposting the picture with her left hand out of the shot.)

Hand!Watch 2007 is way more fun than that was. Rewatching last night’s episode this afternoon, I zoned in on Jim and Pam’s hands throughout the conference room scenes to make sure I wasn’t missing any Jam contact. Apparently even Office folk are focusing on Jam Hands—Phyllis sure showed her true colors when she concerned herself with Pam’s reception skills and asserted that she couldn’t see Jam’s (clearly tabled) hands.

Jim and Pam are the current king and queen of hand-holding, but they surely aren’t the first to hold the title. Let’s take a look at some more of my favorites.

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Well, of course there’s Carter and Abby, whose new relationship in season nine of ER was cute enough before “One Can Only Hope” (906), where they spent almost this entire scene with clasped hands. Carter has a cute line that “love makes you do crazy things,” and then he grabs her hands and gives her a little twirl—get it(!?!), a crazy thing. After they settle on the doctor’s lounge couch to talk about her brother’s weirdness (he has a milkshake obsession), they hold hands again and play finger-footsie throughout the entire scene.

It was one of the first times we got to see them talk as a couple about something serious, and it was so nice to see them be casual, together, and innocently intimate. Yeah I’m still hung up on Carter and Abby, and I often return to this poignant little scene to remind me of all that’s been lost.

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There are a lot of reasons why being single sucks, but one of the main reasons is the lack of a good nap partner. Sharing naps is maybe the greatest thing on the planet. I love co-napping, which is best—seriously wonderful—if your nap partner is skilled at the art of spoony hands. Spoony hands are found when the cuddly couple is not only spooning, but also holding hands, normally up by the inside spoon’s chest. It’s the most cozy, intimate way to sleep, and Derek and Meredith are particularly good at it. The episode “Six Days” (311 & 312) is framed by their unfortunate sleeping situation—she snores, so he escapes their bed to sleep on the couch—ultimately resulting in Derek wearing earplugs and some serious spoony hands.

You can see it here, and please comment if you do not explode with the sweetness of the spoony hands.

For a couple whose relationship started as a one night stand, Derek and Meredith can be very intimate and loving when they want to be. This scene shows the extent of their closeness and that they really extend past the sex part of sharing a bed.

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No one does desperate hands, however, like Lost’s Jack and Kate. For the first half of the third season, my all-time OTP was completely separated, and their two most poignant scenes were all about hands. The first, from the sixth episode (otherwise an awful, awful episode), shows Jack and Kate finally in the same room, but separated by a glass wall. As they have an emotional conversation (the Others are gonna kill Sawyer!), Jack and Kate place their coordinated hands up on the glass and cry. It’s as close as they can get to each other, and it kills them. I’ve long held that if that wall didn’t exist, the ridiculous cage sex would never have happened. However, without the glass wall scene, we wouldn’t have gotten the first lovely Jate!Hands scene.

The second of these is even more desperate, even more poignant, even more I-Do-Not-Understand-You-People-Who-Don’t-See-The-Inevitablity-That-Is-Jate. It occurs when Jack thinks he’s going to escape the island by submarine; Kate’s rescue mission is thwarted not only by the fact that Jack’s not looking to be rescued, but also by the Others. Again they cry, they exchange emotional words, they stare at each other, and they hold onto each other so, so tightly. They know they might never see each other again (despite Jack’s unbelievably moving line: “I will come back here for you”), so they cling to each other. Angsty, sexy, full of romance and sexiness, this scene just absolutely kills me.

As the only couple in this post who aren’t together, their tactile scenes are extra-sweet because their hand-touching is the only touching they’ve got, I guess unless you’ve got a handy dandy net trap. Jate!Hands is as close to sex as those two are going to get for a while, and damn it comes pretty close.

If they’re this precious as just friends, what could they be if they really expressed their feelings?

These couples teach an important lesson: that television romance doesn’t have to be all about sex. Audiences follow celibate couples through the torture of will-they-or-won’t-they, yet producers expect us to find sex and nudity a necessary part of their viewing experience? Not true. Sure, we occasionally like to see our OTPs touch more than just hands, but we’re okay with innocent tactile sweetness, too. Particularly spoony hands.

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