Gilmore Girls: Undressing the World

“That a person much younger than her is running a website and rejecting her for a  job symbolises the last generation raised on substance being skipped over for one raised on style.”

Watching the new Gilmore Girls is like drinking coffee with a trustworthy friend who, after being away for ten years, presents to you some objective insight about how much your world has changed. 

This show may well be one of the last vestiges of true-values television. It celebrates simple things like laughing, saying hello to people, enjoying belonging, developing relationships: normal, simple things which corporations struggle to sell to you because they’re just so freely available. Not that it stops them from trying. Because of that, it’s easy to trust its take on this world we now find ourselves in. Kind of like if The Bible were updated to tell us how to handle social media. Kind of.

It’s most obviously clear when you compare the old atmosphere in Luke’s Diner back when Kirk was selling ‘Patty ate oatmeal’ t-shirts and the place was abuzz with hearty village gossip, and now: the ominous silence as everyone retreats robotically into their free Wifi, beneath a sign demanding no photographs of food. It’s clear Amy Sherman Palladino is anti-anti-socialism (in the non-political sense of the word) and, as a clear partaker in the coffee shop ‘scene’, I realise how much substance this has lost: the coffee shop is now nothing more than a place for workers, texters, stylists, Instagram opportunities and snapchat stories. 

A sense of isolation has been lost from Stars Hallow and it’s no surprise that it battles to maintain tourist numbers throughout the summer. Globalisation has hit the streets, and the show’s locations have widened into London and New York, both of which, via Rory’s jet-setting lifestyle, feel extremely unwelcome. I realise that I have enjoyed watching Gilmore Girls re-runs over the past few years because I could escape those pressures. In lovely Stars Hallow, success, materialism and the need to take on the world did not exist. But this time, Rory brought it flying home, not least during her admission that she has to tap dance to calm her over-anxious mind. 

As an audience we are used to admiring Rory’s brain and opportunities. Now, she’s just as messed up as the rest of us, battling to be noticed and safely successful. Point noted, ASP. We’re all chasing rainbows. She’s tried meditation and everything. The girl has three cell phones. At first I thought some of Rory’s storyline felt a little out of place for a 32 year old: surely someone who has sustained herself in a Brooklyn pad has managed to secure enough of a reputation and networking skills to get herself a full-time writing job on something? But again ASP presents to us a harsh reality of our world, hit home best when Paris highlights the many middle-achiever college graduates working in McDonald’s. The last generation set up young people to aspire for the world, which then promptly kept moving itself out of their reach. Austerity and the changing global markets, the freebies of the internet, all contributed to a world which couldn’t sustain what it had promised. That a person much younger than her is running a website and rejecting her for a  job symbolises Rory’s generation, the last generation raised on substance, being skipped over for one raised on style. But even Millennials are not winners: April’s breakdown was brief but fantastic in conveying the intense pressure placed upon young people to live and breathe a certain way. Times are a-changing.

Lorelai’s detachment from the world around her in the Winter episode also attested to this. She bemoans the pop-up chefs for making her feel uncool, and comments wistfully on Rory’s 32-year-old skin. There’s an undertone of the pains of being an aging woman in a society which is increasingly valuing youth, vitality and the capacity to learn 30 new tech words a minute. I wish the show had made more of this, but of course the prevailing force inside her had to be her grief over losing her father. On a first watch, again, I was disappointed in her storyline’s arc. The therapy sessions seemed pointless: what ground was made there? The mysterious letter had no resolution; there was no light-bulb moment. Even when she followed the guidance of a woman from her own generation (kudos) and went on Cheryl Strayd’s ‘Wild’ journey (something Strayd has paid tribute to on Instagram), there was still no real conversation between her and Luke about what she’d been through. They get married: but where was the actual process of letting him in? I found it frustrating, perhaps because we’ve been mollycoddled in the past decade with perfect resolutions and neatly-tied bows. Life simply doesn’t work that way; therefore neither does this show. I feel, on the whole, if I can accept this, I can really strive forward in my approach to life as a whole… Joan Didion said we live, ‘ by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images’. Gilmore Girls is not afraid to leave those images disparate. 

“Gilmore Girls reminds us that, like the seasons, life isn’t linear.”

But perhaps the musical was a step too far. At first I thought: wow, are they actually going to have Lorelai leave Stars Hallow? There was Michele’s dissatisfaction as a seed, and then a musical which only served to highlight how different Lorelai is from her fellow citizens. In the end, the pay-off is that Lorelai has a realisation that she needs to know herself: now or never. Cue Wild. So what was that ten-minute musical for, other than to give the actress from Bunheads some singing time? There were plenty of Easter eggs and indulgent moments without it. Maybe they just wanted to David Lynch it up even further: this was the same episode which paid explicit homage to his style in the wonderfully-orchestrated Life and Death Brigade jaunt. Stars Hallow became a ghostly-illuminated fun fair, and given that this was the life-changing night, it seems somewhat fitting that the new Gilmore generation be conceived amongst dancing colours and unconventional choreographed freedom. (For more discussion on links with Twin Peaks see here).

The only other option, because ASP does not spend 10 minutes on something for nothing, is that it was the journey taking place on the stage which played a bigger role in symbolising our characters’ bigger stories: i.e. their entire lives. The stage characters started with such high expectations to build the town from scratch, and then time brings them new, unforeseen challenges: they change and rap and become more morose. Such is life. Such is grief. 

The passage of friendship was also presented in the brief return of Sookie. Putting aside the fact that whenever McCarthy spoke, I could hear her character from Heat (has she forgotten her Sookie voice?!), the scene was a nice homage to the prevailing theme that life moves on regardless of how old you are, and that you have to work to keep the important friendships. There was  lovely nod to Sookie’s obsession with the perfect cake from season one. One of many nods: my favourite being Emily taking up Richard’s role in repeating to Lorelai ‘you need money’ in their last scene together.

The circle of life theme was very overt but hit home something I think it’s easy to forget in our current lifestyles. We are taught in the west that life moves upwards: you start at the bottom, and then you work hard and you move up the ladder. Literally it’s presented to us as a ladder. There is no foreseeable end to this ladder – perhaps heaven- and there are no rest stops. When we see life this way it becomes a tiring climb. Gilmore Girls reminds us that, like the seasons, life isn’t linear: it’s cyclical. Everyone takes part in the same path (not race), going in the same direction. And what makes our lives special are the times our circular paths overlap with other people’s circular paths and produce glorious Lynch-inspired-patterns.  

So while I would love more Gilmore Girls to see Rory the Mum and Rory and Jess, I feel in ten years’ time I will need more Gilmore Girls to take me off the ladder again.    

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