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Entries in gilmore girls (3)


In Which Rory Gilmore Contemplates A Voyage Into The Known

Yale Was Not A Good Choice


Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
creators Daniel Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino

That last season of Gilmore Girls, when Amy Sherman-Palladino was no longer working on the show, was quite depressing. Nothing, however, could be as sad as the condition these women find themselves in when Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life begins. Lorelai was the brightest light in a cute but sometimes grim New England town. Now she looks completely bored by the place she selected to raise her daughter so long ago. Even the most mediocre people seek appropriately-sized challenges for themselves, but Lorelai doesn't want kids, or a new job, or anything more from her boyfriend than to lie next to her as she watches the Hallmark Channel. An inspirational mother and hotelier has given up.

Things are even worse for Rory Gilmore. She has not found one man of any persistent intelligence. It is far more believable that Rory would be stuck in an endless loop, given that the only male figure she had to look up to during her childhood was barely ever there at all. Her relationships with men conform to the only way of interacting she knows: babbling endlessly to her mother. Some men like a woman who talks a lot, but most do not like to be talked to like the girl's mother.

Rory's Yale boyfriend Logan was always a problematic and underwritten character. His wealthy father made a point of putting Rory down, and she weirdly accepted this determination. Somehow, it seemed to enhance her view of the man's son. Logan lives in London, and when Rory is there she stays in his apartment. He promises not to discuss the other women he is schtupping, and she is cautious about prying too much in his drawers and closets. When we learn he is not really serious about Rory, it is expected and reflects even more poorly on her judgment.

Emily, the girls' mother and grandmother, is the only one who time has altered at all. The role played by Edward Herrmann of Lorelai's awful, distant father was one of the best characters on the show. It seems strange to eulogize his passing given that he was pretty much a monster to Lorelai and nothing like the loving father he should have been. We witness a long funeral scene with sweeping music, and various other lawyers talking about what an irreverent piece of shit Richard was. In the wake of the death, Emily lives in a massive house with an entire Portuguese family who has presumed on her grief.

Minority characters are always completely subservient to the white ones in Palladino-Sherman's writing, and Rory's friend Lane never got half the scenes she deserved during the run of the original show. She has had two children with her husband, but we never even get to learn the names of the boys or speculate on the kind of relationship Rory might have with them. Kids have changed everyone I know, but they don't seem to alter Lane or Rory's other friend Paris, who ironically runs a fertility clinic.

Everyone on Gilmore Girls look none the worse for wear, unless you probe deeper. Lauren Graham in particular is still a vibrant and beautiful woman; even though Luke still has a certain mercurial charm, it feels like she has not completely found the right man. Alexis Bledel enters middle age even more self-possessed; it seems a mystery that she cannot find a man who complements her. They really should have cast her real life husband on this joint, and maybe they still will.

One running joke has Rory ignoring a boy with no self-respect, who believes he is dating her and getting to know her family, named Paul. It is cruel in the way that jokes on Gilmore Girls always were. One character would make fun of another, and this seemingly offhand jibe would represent some deeper unhappiness, and the immensity of the problem would balloon when you least expected it. Sherman-Palladino excelled at writing scenes like this, which ostensibly started as one thing but because something completely different through the flow of his signature patter.

We are supposed to believe that Rory has seen some of the world: the parts that her mother was never able to. At one point, Rory romanticizes a vagabond life, and we realize how much she needs this valuable perspective, a journey that would allow her to see what kind of man she could love who would love her back. Instead by the end of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, she is tied down exactly like her mother. God this show made me want to cry.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.


In Which We Find Ourselves Calling Out For Lorelai In The Night

The Same Mistakes


In October seven long seasons of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Gilmore Girls were made available on Netflix. This means that instead of having to wait an entire week to see another episode in which nothing essentially happens, Netflix subscribers and their friends can now watch two, even three episodes back-to-back.

For those who saw Gilmore Girls unfold on the WB thirteen years ago, the re-watch promises to be a nostalgia trip, if nothing else. The show is the same, but we’re all older, our judgments are different. I’ve found, for one, that Jess and his beat poetry are far less alluring than they once were. It’s hard to believe that he has it in him to care about anything but his car and his hair gel. Shouldn’t Rory want to smooch a nice guy like Dean?

A little background: Gilmore Girls depicts the social universe of Stars Hollow—a fictional town an hour’s drive from Hartford. We know everyone there is to know here, down to the guitar player who busks on the street corner. At the bottom of the character- hierarchy are the unnamed laborers who work in the kitchen at the local Inn.

At the top are Lorelei and Rory, a mother-daughter pair who tell each other everything because they are also BFFs. There’s an inescapable dynamic between the two: they consume a ton of coffee and food together, they drop all kinds of allusions to indie culture. They can be a bit annoying—cliquish and self-satisfied—but it’s the kind of thing you can forgive. The other characters on the show certainly do.

Alexis Bledel, the actress who played Pete’s troubled love object on Mad Men, is Rory, a high school student with big ambitions to go to Harvard, become a journalist and travel to all of the nation-states featured on posters around her room. We don’t know why Rory is so uncompromising about her goals, Harvard in particular. What we do know is that if Rory doesn’t make the same mistakes as her mother — i.e. get pregnant — then she’ll go to an Ivy League University and that, somehow, will make everything okay for everyone.

Lauren Graham, recently of NBC’s Parenthood, plays Lorelei. Gilmore Girls repackages the story of Lorelei’s fall from grace more times than it should be possible. The story is simple: Lorelei becomes pregnant as a teen and when she doesn’t want to marry Rory’s father, she leaves her conservative parents’ home and moves in at the fittingly named Independence Inn. The change turns out to be a boon: Lorelei becomes Inn manager and no longer has to suffer the oppressions of life with Richard and Emily Gilmore — parents who never really understood her or her rapid-fire jokes.

Everything is going swimmingly for the Gilmore girls until we learn, in the pilot, that Rory has gotten into Chilton, a fancy prep school. Lorelei can’t afford to replace the girls’ lumpy couch and she definitely can’t afford to pay the Chilton tuition. Richard and Emily agree to cover it on one condition: Lorelei and Rory eat dinner with them every Friday night. It shouldn’t be such a bad deal but Lorelei’s pregnancy stands like a traumatic memory that no one can incorporate — over and over again, it recurs, disrupting the tenuous relationships that everyone in the Gilmore family is trying to cultivate.

The Gilmore girls are, like Cher in Clueless, long deluded about their attraction to the important men in their lives. Lorelei represses her feelings for the town’s diner owner; Rory does the same for the local bad boy. Sherman-Palladino draws these self-deceptions out to such lengths that sometimes it feels like she just wants to keep us watching, wondering if the next episode will be the one where one of the girls finally admits to the obvious and couples with the person she is supposed to be with.

Oftentimes, the supporting characters are more fun to watch than Rory and Lorelei. Melissa McCarthy is wonderful as Sookie, the brilliant but clumsy cook at the Independence Inn. Keiko Agena reaches manic heights as Rory’s friend Lane. Living under the authority of a cartoonishly tyrannical mother, Lane’s uneasy mix of resentment and obligation drives her to make many an impulsive decision.

Liza Weil plays Rory’s friend Paris — an intensely driven student who vies with Rory for academic plaudits. Paris exudes all the A-type energy that we don’t get from Rory because we’re supposed to see her as a singular character with sympathies and inner depths. I enjoy Sookie, Lane and Paris so much that I like to think of their frenetic energy as a dissenting outcry against their relatively minor status on the show.

Sherman-Palladino conjures all kinds of drama around the issues of sex and pregnancy, an aspect of Gilmore Girls that grew very tiresome very quickly the second time around. ‘Gilmore Girls’ wants to recover the great old virtue of feminine modesty but, for the modern woman, virginity is for Harvard, not marriage. The Rory-Dean and Rory-Jess narratives function like seduction plots: the premarital sex act looms, ever present, as a potential threat to Rory’s expectations. If Rory has sex with either one of her boyfriends, it will ruin her chances of getting into Harvard. Lorelei frets about Rory’s sexuality, she rewards her for putting off the deed but never once does she bring up birth control. And she’s supposed to be a cool mom!

There’s much about Gilmore Girls that still works. The show's asymmetrical character structure speaks of a world in which few go to Yale and many are the nameless laborers who work at the local inn. The trope of the woman who doesn’t know her own feelings dramatizes what happens when the head and the heart aren’t working in synch. But the seduction plot, which tells of the social regulation of women’s bodies, is anathema in a show that’s supposed to be about two progressively minded gals living in the 21st century.

Catherine Engh is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. She last wrote in these pages about her grandmother.

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In Which The Underdog Is Weakly Barking

Less Is Gilmore


People remember two types of TV shows long after they're gone for two reasons and two reasons only - a) those that are hilarious and b) those starring David Hasselhoff as a lifeguard. But one gem possibly eludes this rigid set of rules. Even though it's been a few years now since the Gilmore Girls series finale aired, recalling its place in the chronology of the CW-née-WB uncovers a sharp distinction between this show and its precedents that remains relevant.

gilmoregirls480.jpg (480×294)

The very first episode of Gilmore Girls did not win me over immediately. Granted, during that lackluster season of television, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino's script possessed enough charm to start bandaging the still-raw wound that Felicity left behind when she cut off her curls. But despite the rapid-fire banter between the two Lorelais in a schmucky breakfast hangout that somehow made a conversation about lip gloss flavors semi-fascinating, I was unconvinced that this show would remain anything worth watching after repetitive episodes of two women blaming each other for borrowing cut-off shorts without asking.

"Girl, I know you have my Bangles concert t-shirt too, so HAND IT OVER."

And yet I would flip past Judge Judy and forgo doses of completely sound legal advice to return to podunk Stars Hallow on a weekly basis. One would be logical to assume that watching a woman subconsciously pine for a diner owner who refuses to buy a razor - not even when his customers start confusing him for a bear - isn't entertaining. And it isn't. Until diner man speaks.

LukeLorelai003.jpg (320×240)

Lorelai: [Luke enters] Oh, thank god. Hey, I desperately need a maaassive cup of coffee to go, and--what happened to your face?  

Luke Danes: What do you mean? 

Lorelai: It's... visible. 

Luke Danes: Oh, I shaved. 

Nothing about the plot itself drew significant attention initially. At first, it appeared as formulaic filler that networks usually whip up last minute to take up space in that awkward time slot between 8 and 10, between the hit drama of the season and the local nightly news, when the tots have been tucked in but it's still too early for Letterman to be making jokes about Lady Gaga's ta-tas.

Fortunately, Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, even with their completely harmonious and laughably unrealistic relationship in which the biggest issue consisted of fighting over the new Macy Gray CD, never became too irritating. At least not so much so that I could veg on the loveseat in a heap, watching the WB for one straight hour. THE WB, PEOPLE.

Not saying that Gilmore Girls didn't include, at times, some of those moments of predictable vapidity that defined a channel catering specifically to teenagers living in cookie-cutter developments who probably thought Macy Gray was, "like, super alternative!" In the pilot episode, Lorelai swoops in to save her daughter after a man begins hitting on her at the local diner. (Let's not even talk about the 1950's, Nick-at-Nite-esque reference.) She starts sassing the guy, but only, you know, in that self-gratifying, self-righteous, "I'm a hip mom!" way. Eventually, she manages to pull off the telling off, but not before the script writers decide to imply incestuous group sex when the creepy cradle robber suggests that Lorelai and Rory pair up with him and his buddy sitting at the counter. NSFW, y'all!

"You think we look like sisters? Oh, just SHUT. UP."

And yet I was willing to overlook certain sappy aspects of the show. Set in the midst of a rural backdrop in middle-of-nowhere Connecticut, the mother-daughter dramedy exhibited a carefree tone unlike anything else on television at the time. It spat in the face of twisted plot lines that involved tangles of lies, tangles of bed head after a night out gone awry--not to mention people time traveling

The show's effervescence bubbled up to puncture its superficial veneer to simultaneously entertain and nonchalantly flip its hair at life's problems. "Who cares that I got knocked up at 16? Who cares that my daughter and I are closer in age than Woody Allen is to his most recent wife? Who cares that we might be cancelled soon?" Well, at least problems as seen on TV. Naturally, I wanted to root for it. The show's nondescript attitude was its strength. Its underdog status perpetuated its appeal. Without the tawdry references to "modern" sexuality and the nauseating angst that complemented those references in now-defunct WB shows, Gilmore Girls provided a simple respite from the complicated web of unreasonably volatile relationships. An hour per week of good ol' mother-daughter bonding, with the occasional flirty exchange with hairy diner man thrown in for variety. The show seemed made for television for people to escape television.


For countless weeks, I would opt for a night in Stars Hollow and would dwell on another episode without, surprisingly, wanting to pull a Dawson-post-Joey-breakup and slit my wrists. To be honest, the show became phenomenal. After a few seasons, Sherman-Palladino probably built up enough credibility with the network to begin creatively experimenting with writing, especially by melding an abundance of pop culture references with the characters' daily banter.

The moment of perfection for me came at the height of the velour tracksuit trend. Lorelai, hip mom that she is, prances into her living room wearing the trendiest sweatpants in 2003, only to meet her sour-faced WASP of a mother who thinks anything that's not sold at Saks Fifth Avenue should be outlawed. Television reached its peak when the following exchange aired:

Emily: You have the word "Juicy" on your rear end.   

Lorelai: Well, if I knew you were coming over, I would've changed. 

Emily: Into what? A brassiere with the word "Tasty" on it?

Just luv me 4 who I am~

Like all shows worth watching, they must come to a premature end. Gilmore Girls couldn't evade its fate. But no regrets, because I stuck with it long enough to let the charm of it get to me, even if it took me a couple of seasons to warm up to it. Not to mention that expecting the masses to appreciate a show without a complex love triangle that results in this screenshot:


... is probably unreasonable. Never forget.

Qichen Zhang is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Boston. She tumbls here. You can find her previous work on This Recording here.

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