Sarah Morgan

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APADIA 8: The Gilmore Girls Rant

(What’s APADIA? See here.)

Totally random draft I’ve had in queue for ages: why I believe that “Gilmore Girls” is really a subversive repudiation of 21st-century parenting.

Back story to the show “Gilmore Girls” if you didn’t see it:

Lorelai has a daughter when she’s 16. A year later, she leaves her parents’ upper-class home in a mid-sized city and goes half an hour away to a small hotel in a small town, where she gets a job as a maid and the owner lets them live in the gardener’s shed. After 15 years, she’s running the inn and the show begins, with the daughter, Rory, the same age as Lorelai had been when she fell pregnant. The show follows them over seven years, and a mini-season of four episodes is then set nine years later. Throughout, Lorelai’s “best friends” relationship with Rory is set up as the ideal, and the inverse of her own relationship with her mother Emily, who’s shown to be insensitive, snobbish and cold.

I actually don’t see the show that way at all. To be clear, I didn’t hate it. The fast, reference-packed dialogue is something people snark on, but I’m okay with it. Probably because I have a tendency to be annoying in exactly that way (among others). Also because I was the right age for it: it was a very turn-of-the-millennium trope. And in any case I don’t mind unrealistically florid dialogue – I tend to like people who have fun with words. But mostly, I didn’t hate it because I think the whole show is actually about how there are a lot of ways to do something wrong, and sometimes, in avoiding one way, you swing right into another one.

Emily and Richard weren’t perfect parents, but it doesn’t follow that Lorelai, by being diametrically opposite, was the best parent. Raising Rory, Lorelai recreated all the same problems.

They both had great educational opportunities. Both trade on their “quirky” personalities, but these mainly appear in their ability to be preturnaturally long-winded, and to inconvenience their loved ones with their impractical whims. Both might have undiagnosed eating disorders, as they constantly binge on crap and never do exercise, but never carry a spare ounce. Both find implausible, weird ways to hurt their parents. One cuts them out of her life at 17 (without an emancipation). The other writes a tell-all about her dysfunctional family (without an agent, a contract or connections and slim apparent talent). Both fall for a rich and charming, but equally self-involved and fundamentally morally bankrupt sandy-haired guy and accidentally get pregnant.

But Lorelai at least worked her ass off to build a career and buy a home. Her daughter, taught to believe that she was exceptional, squandered opportunities for success. (You worked on the Obama campaign and… got ZERO connections? You lucked into one byline… and got mad because that didn’t turn into a career? You had a $250K trust fund and apparently spent it on… dirty weekends in Paris?)

And so, at the end of the series, Rory is unexpectedly pregnant with zero career prospects. Exactly where Lorelai had been, despite her lifetime effort to avoid exactly that. That is some “Gift of the Magi”-level irony.

If I had to believe that Lorelai and Rory were endlessly charming role models? No way. So this is the back story I created for myself. If the point of Gilmore Girls was to show that, with the best of intentions, a parent can screw up their kid – and that indulgence is often the worst way to do it? Then yeah, I find that really interesting. I’m in.

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