Cult Column: Gilmore Girls
With the leaves turning golden brown, the air becoming crisper, and all things pumpkin spiced being sold everywhere, we are well into autumn, and there is no better way to indulge in the season than by watching Gilmore Girls.
Set in the endearing, mythical Connecticut town of Stars Hollow, we follow single mum Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and daughter Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) as they conquer life and all its problems. The show begins with Rory’s acceptance into Chilton, a private school, which Lorelai unexpectedly can’t afford, forcing her to reconnect with her wealthy and estranged parents, Richard (Edward Herrmann) and Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop), causing a complicated dynamic and numerous conflicts throughout the show. Donned with emotion, subtle humour, charm, and copious amounts of coffee, the show is arguably the perfect lighthearted drama. Having watched it countless times though, my relationship with it is almost as complicated as Lorelai and Emily’s.
It is difficult not to fall in love with the show at first, given how perfect the protagonists seem to be: Lorelai is a sharp, quick-witted, and fiercely independent businesswoman, and Rory a smart, ambitious, and hardworking student, adored by everyone she knows. They seem to lead the dream life too: all the junk food, the movie nights, their quirky friends, the charming small town. But even though their life seemed like a fantasy, we were still able to relate to them at times, whether it be struggling to obtain your mother’s approval like Lorelai, or dealing with academic pressures and failures like Rory. We looked up to them and connected with them, so it is no surprise that watching the last episode felt like losing a close friend.
However, as I re-watched the show a few years later, Lorelai and Rory’s flaws became more and more apparent with every episode: Lorelai was selfish, stubborn, and unreasonably rude to her parents, unwilling to ever make contact with them unless it was for money, and Rory was unable to take criticism, cheated on numerous guys, and when she didn’t get what she wanted, she threw a fit. Also, seeing Rory work so hard as a teenager, to then losing motivation completely towards the end and not becoming the hugely successful journalist we all thought she’d be felt quite disappointing and disheartening. All of this made the show significantly frustrating for me.
Recently though, I decided to give the show another chance, and found that Lorelai and Rory are perhaps not as bad as I thought - Lorelai is simply blinded by her commitment to proving she can be independent, causing her to feel she needs to distance herself from her parents, while for Rory, as someone who has constantly been praised for everything she has ever done, it is understandable that she goes a bit off the rails when someone criticises her for the first time. But by the end, both seem to have overcome these flaws, at least for the most part, with Lorelai agreeing to keep contact with her parents, and Rory eventually picking herself back up, encouraging us to do the same. As for Rory’s lack of a great success story at the end, while perhaps disappointing given how hard she worked, it is comforting, and teaches us to aim for the stars, but that it’s okay if we don’t quite reach them.
So while Lorelai and Rory aren’t the most likeable of protagonists, they are perhaps some of the most realistic and complex characters on TV, and show us that even the “perfect girls” can’t be perfect.
Image: Ed Schipul via Wikimedia Commons