My wife and I just finished watching Gilmore Girls in its entirety. We watched it a little out of order — seasons 4-7 first, and then we came back through seasons 1-3. I kind of tuned out at some point in season 7, so I watched the last episode of the series right after the last episode of season 3.
Anyway, the show’s great. Love it.
The show is basically a single mother (Lorelai Gilmore) raising her teen daughter (Rory) through high school and later through college. Lorelai had Rory when she was sixteen, so the conceit of the show (I guess) is that the slim age gap means that they’re effectively best friends, and since Rory is such a high-achiever, the parent/child role is often passed back and forth between them.
The dramas are all interpersonal, and frankly fairly low-stakes, considering that setup. The appeal of the show is really the characters and their interrelationships. Every main character has some shading to them, so you never really think they’re bad people. Timing is a huge element of the story overall, and I think the show is very fair to even its most thinly-drawn characters, even when time and circumstances put them at odds with each other. Even Kirk, the town weirdo, ends up getting the girl. Rory’s dad, who left Lorelai to raise Rory on her own at the age of sixteen, and who pops in periodically to fuck things up, even ends up being at least understandable. He’s weak, but you still love him, because you get it. That’s just Chris being Chris! He’s Rory’s dad!
It all takes place in the American fantasy of small town life that is the town of Stars Hollow. It’s always either East Coast turning-leaves autumn, or a winter wonderland, or even bright, sunny spring. You never see litter in the town square, or graffiti on the expertly-maintained buildings. Everyone attends town meetings to discuss their officious (but ultimately benevolent) town Selectman’s (Taylor) ridiculous schemes for drumming up tourism, or trumpeting some anniversary of a little-remembered revolutionary war event. With the exception of humorous disagreements, people are happy and have the money they need. Everyone in Stars Hollow has time to meet for lunch, or breakfast, or at whatever town festival, or … All of that.
Weirdest of all, maybe, is that the entire town treats Lorelai and Rory like their own daughters, effectively. They all want to make sure Rory gets into Harvard! When Lorelai and Luke (the whole-series-long love interest/intrigue for Lorelai) breakup, the whole town takes sides. At times it feels like some kind of Truman Show-esque experiment.
This is a weird element of the show’s tone. Lorelai fled her overbearing blue-blood parents and landed in Stars Hollow, working as a maid at the hotel that she would be running by the time of the show’s first episode. The town of Stars Hollow and its residents really did serve as Lorelai’s parents, in a sense — but you don’t really feel that. You can’t really believe that the Lorelai you meet could have ever been a maid.
Since you never really feel the pain of what that must have been like for Lorelai, it seems odd that they feel that way. That must have been crazy hard for her! But Lorelai is 1000% confident. Everyone in town looks up to her and she’s always three steps ahead of them all, usually to very funny effect. So, you know, it seems weird sometimes. I guess a version of the show with a more realistic feel around all of that would be completely different. Probably less fun, maybe more like a Friday Night Lights, or something.
Likely the biggest appeal for most viewers — and me among them — is the motor-mouth dialog between the smarty-pants Gilmore’s and everyone they come in contact with. The show has this heightened dialog that wedges the perfect comeback, quip, and topical reference into every sentence, and it’s all delivered at rapid-fire pace. The rhythms of the dialog are great — really fun.
I don’t know if Lauren Graham (Lorelai) is a great actor, or if she’s just incredibly charming and playing some heightened version of herself. She’s certainly great in this show. Melissa McCarthy, who plays Lorelai’s best friend Sookie on the show, is the bigger star of the two nowadays, after her role in Bridesmaids (among others). But Graham fully overshadows her in this show, and it’s not like Sookie just isn’t given anything to do — everyone on the show is talking in the same comedic language — but Graham is the only one for whom it seems like her native tongue.
Rory (Alexis Bledel) does fine with her role, but I never feel like she’s that great. But… The character of Rory is a very strange character… Rory is basically Superwoman: she’s the valedictorian of her high school class; she gets accepted to Yale, Harvard, and Princeton; everyone loves her, but on the rare occasion that someone doesn’t, she totally takes care of business anyway, and never assigns those feelings to herself; and she always — always! — makes time for whoever needs it. Even though Rory has the pressure of redeeming her mother’s life choices, comes from a broken home, lives in a town where every citizen projects their hopes and dreams onto her… Even with all of that, she never crumbles. Ever. She doesn’t start self-sabotaging, she doesn’t get short with people, and she doesn’t get depressed… That shouldn’t be an interesting character, but it is. I don’t know how much of that is the writers, Alexis Bledel’s performance, or a testament to how much you want Lorelai to have a daughter that amazing, since that validates everything about Lorelai’s choices. There’s a nice message there: that love, laughter, and believing in yourself will get you all the success you want. I think that probably works a little better as a parent’s fantasy than as achievable life advice — there’s no mistaking that this is Lorelai’s show, not Rory’s.
The show’s also interesting as a time capsule from a not-at-all distant time (the show ran from 2000-2007). Watching the changing cell phone technology (they have pagers in the first couple seasons!) is funny, the clothes, etc. It’s hard to believe 2000 is fifteen years ago, I guess.
But the more interesting time capsule element, to me, is the differently-represented America you can see in a relatively recently ended show. For instance, I think this show was probably considered extremely liberal for its time, but it’s a very white show. Well, Lane and her family are Asian, but… There are always people of color moving around in the background of the show, or extras in crowd scenes. But you don’t really hear from them. This seems like 2005’s version of working hard at representation, not 2015’s. Or am I giving 2015 too much credit?
That, and there’s tons of gay jokes in it. Lorelai in particular seems to hit that note really hard. Was the Michel character gay, or…? Seems like there might be an openly gay character on the show if it was starting up today. I can’t imagine 2015’s version of Lorelai would make those jokes, at least.
(OH MY GOD this blog is insanely long and I still feel like I have tons to say about this show. Warning: watch with plenty of Kleenex on hand. Bye.)