Apparently, writing about the ten-year anniversaries of things I like is becoming a pattern because here I am, documenting another such milestone. Today is the tenth anniversary of the premiere of Gilmore Girls.
If you’ve never seen this show, rent the DVDs ASAP. For those of you not lucky enough to be a fan of the show in its heyday, let me give you a little crash course. The show follows Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham), a bubbly, fast-talking hotel manager who is thirty-two in the first season, and her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel), sixteen when the show starts. I think you can do the math. Lorelai and Rory are super-close and interact more as friends than as mother and daughter. They live in a picturesque town in Connecticut called Stars Hollow, full of quirky townies who find any excuse to celebrate something and, at town meetings, argue over things like whether they can have two “town troubadours.” In the pilot episode, Rory, a bookworm who dreams of attending Harvard, is accepted to a prestigious private school. Lorelai is thrilled, until she realizes that she can’t afford the tuition. So she swallows her pride and asks her snobby, upper-class parents, Emily and Richard, from whom she’s been semi-estranged, to help her out. They agree, but only on the condition that Lorelai and Rory join them for dinner every Friday night.
The show ran on the WB (and later the CW) for seven seasons, following Rory through three years of high school and four years of college. It had a very distinct style of dialogue—super-fast conversations sprinkled with pop culture references. When a character says one thing, then changes his mind quickly afterward, Lorelai’s quick with the Chinatown reference: “My daughter, my sister, my daughter.” In the pilot, Rory’s awkward reply upon learning that a cute boy has just moved to town from Chicago, is, “Windy. Oprah.” Michel, the snooty but lovable concierge at Lorelai’s inn, retorts, “To me, you are the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoon.” When Lorelai and Rory argue, this dialogue comes out in about fifteen seconds:
LORELAI: Are you mad?
LORELAI: Right. Because I’m dating him?
RORY: Because you lied to me.
LORELAI: I kept information from you.
RORY: Information that I should’ve had.
LORELAI: Information that would’ve come out eventually, like the Iran-contra scandal.
RORY: So you’re Oliver North?
LORELAI: No, I’m Fawn Hall.
LORELAI: Well, she was much prettier.
There were tons of romantic subplots, too—I’ve heard the show described as a “romantic comedy soap opera.” My favorite one involved Luke, the gruff diner owner with a heart of gold, whose friendship with Lorelai eventually develops into something more.
It was a really amazing show: moving without being too sappy, funny while still being relatable, romantic without making romance the singular focus of the show. While I didn’t like the way some plotlines developed in the later seasons, my memories of this show remain nothing but positive. I made a group of friends based on our mutual love of the show. In college, I bonded with the girls on my floor over this show. I converted at least three roommates into fans.
Like Sex and the City, it was a show that had elements of both fantasy and reality. Rory was in high school when I was, and I could relate to her anxiety about preparing for college. There are elements of small-town life that I found relatable, but I doubt that there’s anywhere on Earth quite like Stars Hollow, where people hold wakes for cats and time the town’s only stoplight to be red for as long as it takes for the town’s oldest resident to cross the street.
But more significantly, it shows us both the fantasy and the reality of mother-daughter relationships. Lorelai is the mother every teenager wishes she had. She wears Urban Outfitter T-shirts, gorges on junk food, refuses to learn to cook, and has never met a witty comeback she didn’t like. But she’s a friend to Rory as well as a mother. When Rory goes through a breakup, Lorelai is there helping her “wallow” in the sadness, and when she finds out from Rory’s teacher that Rory got a D on a paper, her reaction is to leave the school, saying, “It’s just that if Rory got a ‘D’, she’s not feeling too good right now and I’d really like to be there.” She knows her daughter well enough to know that Rory must have studied hard and is mad at herself for not doing better. In real life, how many parents would do that instead of yelling and screaming?
That’s why we see, through other characters, the reality of mother-daughter relationships. Rory’s best friend Lane plays the drums in a rock band and hides her CDs under her floorboards while playing the part of dutiful, religious daughter to her strict Korean mother. And one of the best parts of the show is watching Lorelai interact with her mother Emily. Played by the wonderful Kelly Bishop, Emily wants desperately to be closer to her daughter but doesn’t understand her and is unable to let go of her own views of the world in order to do so. No matter what strides they make, old hurts are still there, and Lorelai and Emily’s relationship will never be anything less than difficult.
It’s hard enough to be friends with your mother as an adult; as a teenager, it’s damn near impossible. I think that’s one big reason why this show stuck with so many of us: we saw in it the hard realities of family life as well as a fantastic glimpse of what we wish family life was.