Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

I wrote a few months ago about my excitement and general love for Gilmore Girls. The original series was a part of my childhood, as I’d always watch reruns on ABC Family with my mom and sister. It taught me the importance of mother daughter relationships, whether it was with your own mother or a chosen one. I learned how friendships between girls shouldn’t be torn apart because of ambition or boys and the necessary addition of coffee to any diet. This show has its flaws, that I will freely admit. There were jealous boyfriends with fragile masculinities, a few too many subtle gay jokes, characters will flaws and insecurities.

I had a lot of expectations for the revival, something I desperately wanted to avoid. But I finally finished A Year In the Life last night and I have so many mixed feelings. There were so many moments that I loved and many moments that seemed so true to the characters and story. But I ultimately felt disappointed by the revival, in large part because I had gone into the show with expectations that weren’t met.

The episodes felt incredibly different from the original series but that mostly seemed to be the timing of the show. The revival was four 90 minute episodes, each spanning a few months. Even with the fast talking known of the show, this aspect made it different from the original. There were also down moments in the revival, with characters standing still while talking when they would have been doing something and moving around in the original. Also, I could have easily done without the ‘Berta’ storyline, as it felt weird and borderline racist?

To be honest, my favorite episodes were the ones written and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino herself. These episodes, especially Fall, felt the most true to the characters and stories. (The Life and Death Bridge scenes in Fall were by far my favorite parts of the entire revival.) Even Emily’s dramatic departure from her life after Richard’s death seemed appropriate. Throughout her episodes, Sherman-Palladino managed to find that balance between the nostalgia of the original series and being firmly rooted in the present.

It was amazing to see so many of the characters come back in their own ways, all of which seemed incredibly true to their characters. Of all the minor characters, the return of Jess and Paris were by far my favorite. Paris continues to be ambitious and intense, her best moments coming from her anger and breakdowns. It could have been very easy for her to become a villain in the show, as pinning two ambitious girls against each other is a very easy narrative, but instead, she became a friend and encouragement for Rory. And Jess, while a troubled youth with his own problems in the original series, grew into a thoughtful and responsible guy.

There’s been a lot of contention about Rory in this revival, as she seems like an unlikable character with no regard to how she treats the people around her. She’s the side chick again, cheating with an engaged man. She keeps forgetting about her boyfriend, to the point where she keeps she has to repeatedly remind herself to break up with him but ultimately forgets until he does so first in a text. And while she says she’ll respect her mom’s decision on the book, it’s clear that she’ll probably write the book regardless because it’s what she believes she needs to do.

But I’d argue that Rory hasn’t really changed since the original series. She’s ambitious and does whatever she wants, regardless of the outcomes and potential consequences. In the original series, she sleeps with Dean while he’s still married under the guise that he’s still her guy and then runs off to Europe with her grandmother when Lorelai challenges her on it. Margaret Lyons wrote about the terrible attributes of both Lorelai and Rory a few years ago, writing in particular that:

Rory’s worst attribute, other than her slouchy posture, is her lack of impulse control. She misses Lorelai’s college graduation because she had to go into the city to see Jess. She steals a yacht. She sleeps with Dean. She kisses Jess. Rory’s strongest motivator is want — if she wants to do it, she does. Her wants always win. … She wants to drop out of college? Boom. If she wants to avoid a problem or a conversation, she does — why confront the consequences of your actions when you can just go to Europe and pretend you’re not a mistress?

That attribute is still strong in Rory in the revival. And because of it, she’s never really able to let go of the men in her life. Like with Dean, she continues to sleep with and be around Logan, long after she knows he’s engaged and living with his fiancée. She was jealous and possessive of Jess during the original series, when she was still with Dean but the two of them had kissed. Rory, more than anything else, seems to have this intense desire to have something that’s not hers. And on the rare occasion that people would call her out on that (or any of her other flaws), her world crumbles.

Throughout the entire revival, I kept thinking about the unlikable female characters that exist across mediums. In all their wit, coffee, and obscure pop culture references, Lorelai and Rory are far from the most unlikable characters in existence but they do have unlikable characteristics. They’re both flawed, a bit selfish, and stubborn but all of that is what makes them full characters.

Once finished with the revival and hearing those last four words, my first reaction was disappointment but the more I thought about it, the more it all made sense. And honestly, I don’t think there should be any more. As Emily Yahr writes, “the best way to kill the magic of the show is to overexpose it.” Like many I’m sure, there are so many questions that I have about where the lives of the Gilmore Girls will go. But I desperately want for the show to not get overexposed and I know that the ending is where Sherman-Palladino wanted the characters to end up.

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2 thoughts on “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

  1. Here’s the thing. I grew up in Stars Hollow, Connecticut.

    No, not exactly, but close. When the show was new and airing each week, we watched it incredulously as damned near every effing Connecticut stereotype was trotted out onscreen. We laughed and felt sad and all the things because so much of the series was true in a way that growing up privileged in Connecticut really is. Lorelai, for all her cries of single-handedly raising a child in a BIG gorgeous house, always ALWAYS had the fallback of her ridiculously wealthy parents’ support. In the back of her over-caffeinated brain, that truth sat and waited and, eventually, was tapped into. She always had a safety net.

    I grew up in a tiny town so much like Stars Hollow it gives me the chills. Right down to the coffee shop and the town common and the dance studio run by a woman a bit on the wacky side. We had town characters and odd people, but we also had abject poverty, bigotry, and racism. My father skipped out on us when I was fifteen and never looked back. We had no child support, no alimony, just a mortgage. My mom turned our old, old house into a bed & breakfast so she wouldn’t lose the roof over her and her children’s heads, and she worked full time as a secretary, running the B&B in the mornings and evenings and lunch hour. It wasn’t a lark to us, or a trendy thing, our poverty. We had no safety net. I was bullied in school because of it all, because I bought clothes from the Goodwill, often had no lunch, and had to walk two miles to get to school instead of driving like the rich kids did. It was a huge hardship on my family when I went to college because the income I had been contributing to the mortgage since I was 14 was suddenly gone. I had SAT scores high enough to easily get me into Yale, but who the fuck can afford Yale? I was lucky and got nearly a full scholarship to a college in Philadelphia, and worked so hard. I didn’t breeze through college like Rory; I worked until I sweated blood. There was no cushy job or family safety net waiting for me at the end of it, either.

    I remember recognizing footage shot around Yale (I lived in New Haven for many years before moving to Massachusetts to get the hell away from the sheer Connecticutness of it all), a roadway in East Haddam, and chuckling at the mythical town of Woodbridge cited in the show (I lived in Woodbridge for two years; it’s a middle-class section of New Haven, and I lived in a two room attic with a sink and toilet), and I recognized old-money, upperclass bluebloods from West Hartford in Lorelai’s parents.

    So while the storybook lives of Lorelai, Rory, et al, are amusing to watch onscreen, they are just that: a fairy tale that is somewhat grounded in the truth of what growing up in Connecticut was like, but so tinted by an undercurrent of privilege as to be, ultimately, unpalatable. We watched A Year in the Life recently, too, and that privilege is no longer an undercurrent. It is wide out there in the open. We shook our heads at the end of it. But, it is just fluffy entertainment, when it comes right down to it. There are no great soul-enriching truths in the lives of the Gilmore Girls.

    • Thank you so much for this comment and for sharing part of your story. So many of the things you bring up are things that I’ve been thinking about too, especially the extreme privilege and safety nets that both Lorelai and Rory have throughout their lives. That’s something that I’ve been thinking so much about but haven’t really addressed (obviously).

      I came to this show with a different life experience – both in terms of class and the fact that I live out on the west coast. And it meant more to me when I was growing up than it does now because as I’ve gotten out of my ignorance and bubble, I’ve come to realize that you’re right. This show really is this fairy tale.

      Again, thank you for this comment ❤ ❤

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