Last watched December 2016
Set in a storybook Connecticut town populated by an eclectic mix of dreamers, artists and everyday folk, this multigenerational drama about family and friendship centers around Lorelai Gilmore, her teenage daughter, Rory. When Rory gets into a prestigious high school, Chilton, furthering her trajectory on to her dream college, Harvard, Lorelai must make a sacrifice. As a pregnant teenager, Lorelai ran away from home and has been virtually estranged from her very rich parents Emily and Richard Gilmore. Now she must promise that Rory and her will attend Friday night dinners with them every week in exchange for the loan of money for Chilton.
I recently watched the entire seven seasons of Gilmore Girls in preparation for the revival that came out this year, posting updates across the months that it took to do so. A friend of mine harrumphed when the new season came out, claiming frustration with everyone’s enthusiasm about the show. They had never watched the show and so had incorrectly assumed it was, basically, Gossip Girl; a show glamourising way-too-rich white people. The truth is that Gilmore Girls is actually just as much about rejecting the upper classes as it is about being upperclass. Lorelai’s fallen-woman storyline is an exquisite examination of how grotesque the rituals of the upper classes are with all their pomp and grandeur working as covers for manipulation, two-facedness, viciousness and vacuity.
The show is, at it’s core, about the reluctant reconciliation of family and the difficult tensions struck when relationships skip a generation. Rory is, essentially, much more the daughter that Richard and Emily wanted than Lorelai. She is accommodating and congenial, polite, smart, conflict adverse and hard working. So when her and her grandparents get close, it hurts Lorelai, who has to tread the line between where and how to step in, in order to protect her daughter. It’s a really, really beautiful examination of family dynamics and it isn’t at all forgiving, nor does it glamourise the upper classes. Arguably every single upper class character is battling an intense unhappiness, usually through alcohol, sometimes through death-defying stunts, but also through work or status. Those of the working class such as Jackson and Sookie or Gil or Luke have arguably much more fulfilling, rich, desirable lives.
That being said, the show is just a total minefield of political incorrectness. Seriously, though. The first seven seasons, made in the early 2000s, were a litany of “no homo” punchlines. Having made it through to the late 2010’s, the recent revival demonstrated the show creators hadn’t been entirely stuck in the past as the “no homo”s became “pro homo”s but were replaced with a throwaway transphobic “joke”. Lane’s mother is a severely racist depiction of a Korean woman and the town of Stars Hollow is basically really, really white. Michel, as far as I’m aware, isn’t a racist depiction, but the ration of racist to non-racist to white characters is pretty appalling. In the recent revival, there are much more people of colour depicted but, awkwardly, they are all extras. “It’s like she put a person of colour in every shot instead of owning her racism and doing something about it”, noted a friend of mine. It’s tokenistic and awkward and terrible.
Not to mention Emily firing a maid, including a plotline about how one was suing for mistreatment, is just such an appalling punchline once, let alone every episode. Thankfully Emily’s character does shift dramatically in A Year In the Life and I’d suggest watching it (despite it being a complete hot mess) purely for seeing Emily play out.
Having just watched the full 115 hours in the lead up to the revival and the 6 hours of A Year in the Life, I have a lot more to say about Gilmore Girls. However, seeing as this is a guide, not a space for my own personal dissection, I’ll leave you with a ranked list of all the Gilmore Girls men (on it’s way) that comes with a blanket spoiler warning and keep on with the guide.
Genre: drama, dramedy, family drama
Pros: woman lead, woman written, class themes
Cons: racist, homophobic, transphobic
Would approach with caution if: you struggle with depictions of extreme wealth, familial coercion (to marry, to enter into the family business), racism, classism, employer abuse, employer abuse depicted structurally as a punchline, homophobia, transphobia, parental abuse, evangelical christianity, single motherhood, emotional abuse from parents, infidelity, depictions of mental health breakdowns, bullying (high school, in particular, though workplace bullying, too), death of a parent (in A Year in the Life), severe accident due to extreme sports, god so many more probably but 115 hours is just so many hours.
Can be found: Netflix
Accessibility: closed captions 🙂 🙂