Everyone has seen something Mike White has written whether they realize it or not. He is one of those writers that has been successful at being apart of projects that end up being cultural favorites. 'Freaks and Geeks', School of Rock, Nacho Libre, Orange County? All White's writing. He also served as a producer and writer on 'Dawson's Creek' for a number of years as well. He also wrote and acted in Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, & Year of the Dog. A chameleon in an industry that wishes for people to do one thing profitably and do it until they die. White has made a career of giving us character who are a little more lost than the rest of us.
What is striking about the main characters in White's stories is how they are never marginalized. Chuck & Buck features White as Buck, who has a hard time letting go to childhood things. He still lives with his mother, keeps all of his toys, and longs for the day when he can hang out with his best friend again. Buck is equal parts creepy and sympathetic. Although he pines for these feelings and stalks those that made his childhood feel so full, Buck is never played for laughs or made to appear psychopathic.
Peggy in The Year of the Dog (White's first directorial effort ) longs for the unconditional love after her beloved dog dies. In her disparity, she goes to extreme measures to try to fill the void in her life with complete disregard for how it effects those around her. Major figures in her life, her sister & her boss, understand until her loneliness becomes destructive. Peggy takes in 30 dogs from a pound who are going to be put down wreaking havoc on her home and donates a large sum of her boss' money to a dog related charity. Loneliness in White's writing is not an introverted kind or the acting-out kind to get others to notice. White's version of loneliness leads to selfishness as an outlet.
The Good Girl is both a deviation and refocusing on White's theme of desire and wanting. When we are introduced to Justine, she is working a dead-end job, married to a man with no ambition, and fading desire for something more. Justine does not realize what she wants until another person comes into her life and she wants something greater than what she has. It would be easy to demonize Justine for how she acts in the film (cheating on her husband, sleeping with an under-aged male) or to villainize people around her (Phil her bible-thumping husband, her soul crushing job). White has said he has always been interested in characters, primarily women, after the age where they are expected to be role-models. White does not coddle these characters but lets them make their own mistakes and gain their own victories, whatever that may be.
In White's most recent (and now canceled) project HBO's Enlightened, he focuses on Amy who is looking to get her life back together. Amy is placed in a world where no one understands her struggle as they are all trying or avoiding to deal with theirs. Her mother does nothing but garden and watch day time television, her boss struggles at being a boss and her ex-husband has been on a decade long bender. White does not seem interested in bringing people in on Amy's crusade, but exploring how one persons conviction can change the lives of those around them, on purpose or by accident.
White's path for his characters is never an easy or simple one. Peggy never finds that unconditional love, Buck never reconnects in the way he wants to, and Justine's situation only gets marginally better. A happy ending is nothing something White wants for his characters otherwise is justifies bad behavior. He wants them to learn, accept responsibility, and enjoy the rewards that come with it. In White's universe, peace can only be achieved once people realize loneliness and unrealistic expectations only bring about chaos.