Call me late to the game, but I have joined the world of Stars Hollow and fallen in love with the girls we know as the Gilmore Girls, twenty years after it first debuted, and I’m not even mad about it.
Mind you, I had no intention of binging or even finishing the entire show, but as I casually watched one episode on Netflix and found how easily-digestible it was, one episode turned into three, and then it turned into every other day, and then it became a nightly ritual and, well, you know how it goes.
So grew my uncanny obsession with mother-daughter Lorelai and Rory Gilmore’s witty banter, exceptionally close relationship and charming small town, that I became so invested in their world and was able to finish the show in the two months I have returned and been quarantined in my own little small town. (A surprise for me, as someone who hardly ever watches or keeps up with a show, let alone ever binged a show. Seven seasons? Where do I even start, I thought?!)
Twenty years ago, I was just a seven-year-old girl listening to Hilary Duff and the Backstreet Boys while watching teeny-bopper shows and everything on the Disney Channel. I never really got into soapy teen dramas until (obviously) later in my life when I became a proper teenager.
My first reaction to watching Gilmore Girls? Wow. This Rory girl seems a lot like me.
Rory, the shy and introverted goody two-shoes and bookworm who loves school and always hangs out with her single mother and lives and grows up in a small town where everyone knows each other and loves her; and me, a girl who grew up in a town called Pleasant Hill. And if those Chilton uniforms didn’t remind me more of my own private school uniform? Ha, well I don’t really know what to say.
But really, the resemblances are uncanny and watching the show made me think: What would have happened if I had watched this as a girl growing up? Would I have handled situations with boys differently or treasured my girl time and female friendships a whole lot more, if I had seen Rory and Lorelai grow up, interact, and handle regular growing pains alongside me, as well?
As a first-time viewer, the writing and pacing of the show immediately stuck out. It’s incredibly quick and entertaining, witty through and through. I appreciate all of Lorelai’s references to eighties pop culture and Rory finding refuge in classic literature and the strong female characters and feminists I had so long been inspired by, too.
Moreover, it was incredibly comforting to find another person I could see myself reflected in, onscreen, growing up and making mistakes and always trying to do the right thing, but still staying true to who she was all along.
Her experience was so similar to how my adolescence had felt and been: my mom, who had given me all I ever needed to grow up, and me, just wanting to do right by her, was always responsible and loved at school, receiving attention from boys but never really ever cared for it because I was just happy reading a book or playing my guitar, ha.
And if that scene between Dean and Jess getting into a fight over Rory at a party couldn’t feel even more familiar to my high school days — when I was caught in a love triangle with boys who confessed their feelings to me on the same night, pressured me to make a decision, only for me to see their friendships fall apart right in front of me at school. Wow, that was high school in a nutshell, ha! And it was funny to see moments like that played back onscreen, happening to Rory as she had wished for none of it to happen, yet couldn’t really do anything about these boys’ feelings for her at the same time. (I feel you girl.)
The fact Rory wants to travel and pursue journalism as well couldn’t hit it home for me any more. Her university days reminded me of my own writing articles and chasing stories for my school newspaper. And when her and Paris wanted to experience “all the college experiences,” embarking on a cliche spring break trip trying to do “spring break right,” I couldn’t help but giggle as I found myself in college as well, very well knowing I am not the party type, but decided to get “all the college experience” as well, embarking on a Vegas trip with friends which, I do have to say, was a hell of a time.
There are so many moments from the show that have stuck with me, but here are a few memorable thoughts and moments I’ve had:
- When Rory said, “I cannot do this alone. I need my mommy and damn it, I don’t care who knows it!” (s3 e13) I think she was speaking for all of us.
- “I don’t want to be that kind of girl. That kind of girl who just falls apart because she doesn’t have a boyfriend.” (s1 e17) Yup. Yup, yup Rory. That was me.
- Lane and the Kims and their lifelong friendship was just charming, and I couldn’t help but feel for the Asian best friend and strict mom who means well.
- Rory and Paris and their ongoing escapades. Man, you can’t help but love them. Their spring break trip was all too relatable: Rory drinking and drunk-calling Dean for the first time and them doing spring break even if they never want to do it again because they realize they just aren’t the partying type. “It’s a college memory. I intend on having as many college memories as possible.” (s4 e17) Yeah, all too relatable. Ha.
- Also Paris being that one friend we all know who is a little too much, too bossy, too aggressive, can turn people off but is also one of our very best friends? It was also incredible to see how their “hatred” (and Paris seeming to pop up everywhere Rory was, lol) turned into a real friendship over the years. I loved seeing that.
- Rory’s graduation speech: “My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be. She filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to Eudora Welty to Patti Smith. As she guided me through these incredible eighteen years, I don’t know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her.” (s3 e22) That was a moment that made me just cry and tear up, for being a grateful kid myself, but also feeling just how mushy Lorelai must have been feeling as a mother, raising a good kid, all on her own. Ugh. 😭
- Oh, Dean and Jess. They represent the boys we all meet and fall in love with when we’re young: Dean, the dependable boyfriend who is ready to give you everything, support you, be there for you, and may always love you even when you might take him for granted; and Jess, the said “bad boy” and mysterious romantic who leaves you hanging onto every single word that makes you fall head over heels for him, even if you know it might be bad for you.
- When Rory has sex for the first time (s4 e22): It was such a big, telling, and coming-of-age moment. And you could feel that. I could feel and know exactly how she was feeling: how excited she was, how dumb it was, how one’s feelings get the best of you even when you normally think every action through and make reasons to justify it. God. I was also afraid to see how the show would handle the situation, especially Lorelai. I’m glad she was never quite overbearing to Rory and trusts her and lets her grow as her own individual, but I’m glad she put her foot down and told her how it was not okay for her to sleep with Dean, who was still a married man. #greatmothermoment
When Rory drops out of Yale and takes some time for herself:
- I couldn’t have felt more seen. Going back home, bored at home all over again, finding things to preoccupy myself with until I got bored of it and wanted to move on to the next thing, because I genuinely wanted to… that feels very familiar. And it was heartwarming to see her have this moment and want it for herself. I know it may have been a controversial choice for many, but Rory’s quitting school let her evaluate her own choices, have the space and time to figure herself out — who she was beyond what everyone expects her to be — only to realize that she really does want to be a journalist. Her whole life had been predetermined by her surroundings, and we see just how hard of a worker she is, that to have this “slip-up” is actually the best thing she can do for herself — she realizes she can be and is responsible for her own actions. To experience that in college, rather than many years later down the road, is admirable.
- And moreover, I appreciate how Lorelai handled the situation. She never forced Rory to do anything or made her feel bad about her decision. Rather, she let Rory have the space and time to want to go back to Yale and school to be a journalist. She realizes that no one can make that decision for her, but her. And I loved that. Another #greatmothermoment.
- Even more so, when Jess surprisingly came back and tells her he’s written a book and reminds her that “this isn’t you,” (s6 e8) that moment almost broke my heart. It reminded me of a time I felt so lost myself and a boy who once knew me would be tough on me, because he cared for me and knew who I was and always have been, and wanted me to do “better” because I was better… I think we’ve all had those people who know us very well who tell us hard truths about ourselves. And we don’t really want to listen, but a part of us knows that maybe they’re actually right. 💔
- I actually really liked Logan and Rory’s relationship and the sense of trust and maturity they had built since that infamous “You Jump, I Jack” life-and-death brigade episode (s5 e7). Beyond that, Rory and Logan were completely smitten with each other the whole time. They came from worlds that were incredibly similar, yet wanted to be different. I appreciate how Logan knew and acknowledged his privilege and mistakes. I appreciate how Rory made herself clear that she is a “relationship kind of girl” instead of an “every girl” and gets a boy like Logan to stop his ways. (If I had to be honest, I was never that kind of girl, either.) When they said they’d “factor each other in,” they showed ultimate support for each other. And it’s clear that they were each other’s biggest fans. (When Logan took Rory, Lorelai and Luke out for a Valentine’s Day weekend getaway? Wow.) It’s clear they have a lot of chemistry and fun together. And Logan’s smile to Rory. Ugh.
- I thought Lolelai and Jason were actually kind of cute. A part of me wanted it to work out, but I knew it never would.
- Oh man, I had a fat crush on Max Medina too.
- I loved seeing Chris and Lorelai stick by each other throughout all those years, and actually try to make it work. He’s a good guy who means well, and it’s clear how comfortable they are with each other, but timing was never on their side.
- The letter Lorelai wrote to Luke’s defense to have custody over his daughter legit brought me to tears. Luke really was there for Lorelai and saw Rory grow up. You can’t ever take that back. Ever. Ugh.
- What happened between Lorelai and Chris was bound to happen, and I was actually so happy for Lorelai to be with him. I’m incredibly impressed at how the show was able to show such a raw, real and complicated feeling of never really being “in love,” so well.
- Emily and Richard: what a hoot of grandparents. I loved all their comic banter. All those Friday night dinners and the show they always put on. Richard’s relationship with Rory was so warm and comforting, and Emily’s incessant complaining and nitpicking was great. But when Emily actually had a moment towards the end explaining to Lorelai how Lorelai was able to be a single mother, independent and all on her own, while she herself has always been a wife, not knowing how to be independent, couldn’t be a more self-aware moment.
After all of this, it’s incredibly refreshing to see a show like Gilmore Girls let its characters be who they are: wholeheartedly immature and charming, unabashedly flawed yet real. And while these characters could be problematic — Lorelai is at times immature and inappropriate, yet means well; her relationship with Rory may be too codependent that Rory ends up dropping everything to tend to her mom; Rory is part of an elite society that comes from wealth and privilege; Emily constantly hates on the help; etc.
As much as the above is true, it’s still inspiring to see how Lorelai and Rory take on — and maybe even take down — their given worlds. They bicker and laugh, whine and moan, lust, laze around and criticize, but they are also incredibly real. Just as we humans can often be short-sighted in our lives, Rory and Lorelai are too. Too often we are given female characters who are either a saint or a sinner, a wife or a girlfriend, a prude or a prostitute, that with Rory and Lorelai, we get both. I think we all are at times a little annoying, yet incredibly fascinating the next. And that’s probably what has made the Gilmore Girls so beloved and such a cult-classic since its debut in 2000: Its heroines are flawed, yet deeply human, just like us all.