I have always wanted to watch Gilmore Girls, but also I have never wanted to watch Gilmore Girls. Does that at all make sense? I’ve seen perhaps 45 minutes of Gilmore Girls total, in snippets, and while those snippets seemed breezy, and while all the talk of Gilmore Girls seemed intriguing, it also just seemed… boring? drab? Gilmore Girls always seemed like a show that was about nothing; what if that were actually the case? Why watch that?
But then Netflix revived the show (if you haven’t heard, which seems impossible). And one Saturday afternoon (this past Saturday afternoon), as I was trolling through Netflix, it was just staring at me. I pressed play on the pilot.
Three days later, I was watching the credits roll on the season one finale. I still can’t very well tell you why the show is compelling.
But it is, isn’t it? Nothing really does happen on Gilmore Girls. And in fact, most times the drama comes from nowhere in particular or a diversion of a cliché—like a deer running into you, not the other way around. Or, more aptly, when Rory brings a baby chick home when she’s pet sitting a cat: you think, Oh, no, the cat is going to kill the bird. But instead the bird just disappears; it’s the catalyst for romantic tension between Lorelai and Luke.
Drama on Gilmore Girls works a lot like this. In a show where everyone usually openly discusses all of their feelings—Luke and Lorelai notwithstanding—drama is mined from the mundane, from what happens after nothing goes unsaid, the delayed integration of two worlds.
And then when that drama comes, someone yelling at someone else, terse words exchanged, blotchy cheeks and piercing eyes… well, the following scene is them making up, or a joke to break the ice, until it’s the time that Rory runs to her grandparents’ house in a cab.
Which I found to be the most fascinating through line of season one: Lorelai’s discomfort in having to share her entire world.
In a show of such bubbly characters and effervescent dramatics, Lorelai’s hold on Rory was always touched upon slightly. But it was so very present. At first, in the pilot, it begins as a supposed mark against Lorelai’s pride (she doesn’t want to ask her parents for money to prove she can Make It). But it balloons a bit more after that, especially after Rory’s birthday party when Lorelai sees her meeting up with Dean through the window.
Lorelai ran away with Rory to prove to herself and to her parents that she could, as aforementioned, Make It without their rules, their money, or their help. But she also wanted to prove that mothers and daughters could exist in a relationship together where there was an intrinsic knowing of one another, or even of another’s likes and dislikes, a common sharing of traits, of what makes each other tick. Lorelai loves Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; Rory loves Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Lorelai likes coffee a bit too much; Rory likes coffee a bit too much. Lorelai thinks Donna Reed is ridiculous; well, we probably all do, but Rory think Donna Reed is ridiculous too.
Until she doesn’t, not so much. During her housewife role play with Dean, Rory finds that the housewife thing ain’t so bad. It’s not something she wants to do all the time, or even frequently, but once again “maybe someday.” It’s not being a housewife that’s ridiculous; it’s that Donna Reed’s character didn’t have any other choice but being a housewife. (Which, can we talk about this episode later? Progressive stuff. Was there a Tumblr in 2000?) But so much of Rory’s worldview is through the lens of her mother’s. Notice: Rory’s likes don’t often have a way of floating up to her mother; Lorelai bases a book recommendation off what Rory said, for example.
And how could that not be the case? Lorelai has built an entire little world for just them. The entire show and the entire town of Stars Hollow seems like a reflection of that. The ancillary characters who mainly pop up in their own environments, the daily routines, how they all personify the “It takes a village” idiom—all those are the charms of small-town living, but a knowing wink of how one might draw up their little corner of the world, so to speak.
So when Rory’s world begins to expand, Lorelai slowly cracks. She’s not just stalking Dean because he kissed Lorelai, but because he’s an extension into Rory’s broadening universe. When Emily makes a room for Rory, Lorelai’s first instinct is to go on the defensive—why would she even consider making a room for Rory? She has her own room! But she catches herself. When Rory is about to inherit a trust fund, Lorelai hesitates because it could mean a new level of freedom she’s not comfortable with yet. That’s probably when Lorelai realizes this is exactly why she ran from her parents so long ago.
On Gilmore Girls, money isn’t about the stuff you can buy; money is about who you can control. Or the lack of money in the trust fund case. Money is a substitute for affection (like when Emily can’t possibly think a $12 bracelet is appropriate gift), it’s an impetus for a relationship (weekly dinners), and it can even be the surrogate for lost time.
Lorelai notices she might be too influential to her daughter, like when she asks if Rory truly doesn’t want to go to the school formal. But it comes to a head toward the end of the season, when something much larger is at stake: commitment. She tells Rory that she hopes her baggage with finding love hasn’t transferred over. And with that blessing, both Lorelai and Rory feel they can bolster the relationships (Dean and Max) that have chipped their way into their world (beyond Rory’s grandparents, who she has already accepted as has Lorelai begrudgingly)—but their hold on each other is still strong.
Well, at least, that’s what I found to be so gripping about season one. In my limited searches of the Internet, none of this really popped up. So maybe that’s not what was meant in the writing, but I’m a firm believer that intent is not required for perception.
Anyway, now time for some quick observations and thoughts:
Food at Luke’s. They never ever ever ever ever ever ever finish their food at Luke’s. Like ever. Ever. I lost count of how many unfinished, uneaten, or even untouched burgers were served at Luke’s before one of the Gilmore girls had to leave. Once Lorelai left a to-go coffee. It was to go. It did not go.
The side characters. I wanted so much more of them. I was happy when it seemed Sookie actually got out of that kitchen! But she always had to leave! Like she would stop by to drop off a cake and be like, “Gotta go!” Where? Stay. What are you doing? I wanted more Lane, too! Did Michel ever leave the hotel? Maybe he lives there. You get it.
These gals and their guys. Did you notice everyone always had a backup lover? Rory was with Dean, but Tristan was there, you know? Lorelai had Max and Luke. And then Christopher and Luke. And then Max and Luke. Lane liked Todd, but also guy-with-hair-in-band.
Paris. I’m done with mean-girl Paris. Mainly because I like Paris and Rory much more as friends, and I’m ready for that to just be the case. But also because Rory doesn’t even care that these girls are mean? We’ve discussed that the typical drama on this show doesn’t even matter, right? Rory goes to school, the girls are mean, and then she’s home like, “Whatever.” It doesn’t mean anything. So let’s drop this. There’s more to mine when they’re friends; it’s better that way.
Lorelai and Max. No. Does anyone like this? They were fine in the beginning, but by the season finale, I was like, “Why are you guys always unsure of what you want to do? Pick something.” And then Max proposed???? What? No. I was like, “Y’all met three days ago!” Of course, it was more like nine months back in 2000 through 2001, but: no. No. The amount of time they actually dated amounted to, like, 17 days total.
And that’s all I can think of as I write this post. I’m going to go watch season two now.