I’ve finally stopped squealing over the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I binge watched it in a day, even sat through Bean asking why we had to watch yet another episode. It was worth it. I didn’t have to wait as long as most fans did (since I only just saw the last episode in August). But I didn’t quite expect the direction show runner Amy Sherman-Palladino took the characters, especially Rory.
[Spoiler alert] The Stars Hollow family reunion!
First off, can I just say that it was wonderful seeing the cast of the Gilmore Girls back together again? Every time a beloved character showed up on screen, I exclaimed as if they were an old friend.
- Of course Kirk is an Uber driver. Of course!
- I didn’t expect Luke to be wearing anything other than his reliable flannel shirts.
- I cackled at the “No Cell Phones” sign still hanging in 2016’s social mediAmerica.
- My jazz hands flew up during the town hall meeting scene.
- Taylor hasn’t aged a bit…which is to say, he’s still an old curmudgeon.
- Michel, yet a clucking French hen, always proves to be more than Lorelai deserves.
- WHAT THE FRACK TOOK LUKE AND LORELAI SO LONG TO GET MARRIED?
- I’m so glad Sookie made it in on the last episode.
And Richard Gilmore. I wanted to cry at the character’s funeral, knowing Edward Hermann passed away in real life. That floor-to-ceiling portrait in the Gilmore estate made me so, so sad. I wondered how the actors themselves handled working with such a forceful memento of their friend.
All those seasons of Gilmore dysfunction and Emily and Lorelai only just get to therapy in 2016? That feels a lot like right. How often do we live with relationship trauma and say, “That’s just how it’s always been?” I hated that Emily quit therapy, that the writers left that thread unraveled. So much more good could have come from the two women working out their issues with each other. They should’ve dragged Rory in there with them. (Although, that’s not at all how therapy works!)
Speaking of which…
Gilmore Girls still misses the mark on class and access.
Rory. Unicorn, snowflake Rory. Where do I even start? Rory Gilmore sits on the margin of a lot of issues. She didn’t grow up within a nuclear family, comes from a small town, was raised by a single mother, and she doesn’t really identify with popular culture much. Rory is a smart, good girl who works hard for what she wants. She hates taking handouts, especially from men. I relate to her in a lot of ways.
On the other hand, Rory Gilmore shows a complicated picture of “meritocracy” and privilege we seldom discuss. The show broaches the subject of class in interesting ways. Both her mother and father come from money. It’s not that everything is handed to her; life seldom works out that way for anyone. But the simple fact remains that Rory has access to huge amounts of privilege.
The Gilmore name puts her much closer to wealth than most people. So yes, she got into Yale through her own merit and her grandfather’s good word. She nabs an internship and quite possibly her first reporting job because her boyfriend’s father was well-connected. Little Miss Gilmore steals property, but her criminal record doesn’t affect her longer than a three-episode arc.
In the Gilmore Girls recent past, when she needs “a room of her own” to write, her grandmother and rich boyfriend both hand her the keys to empty estates. One hardly needs guess how she is eating. She interviews at Condé Nast after initially refusing the opportunity from Mitch Huntzberger. Does she like having to accept his help? No. But she isn’t completely dumb.
For Rory and Lorelai both, demotion from the wealthy class by virtue of single motherhood only means having to lower their pride and ask for help from the elder Gilmores. It does not, however, mean the younger Gilmores are going to go hungry. No one is in danger of losing a home. The most that’s ever at stake: a mediocre future. Lorelai chose rather to suffer the discomfort of her mother’s proximity than give Rory a subpar education. Rory chose more Sunday dinners over Yale debt. Lorelai thought it not robbery to ask her mother for money to franchise the Dragonfly Inn. It happens over and over.
The audience is compelled to feel sympathy for the Gilmore girls, but the show really doesn’t provide high enough stakes for us to worry about them. Those kids will always be all right.
Also, “Rory is spoiled” alert.
At 32, Rory is an unemployed freelancer with past bylines at The New Yorker. She’s turned from a job she doesn’t want because she didn’t even prep for the meeting. She’s broke. Rory is quasi-homeless, young, and restless. The show pokes fun at her misfortune with the town club of 30-something millennials returning to Stars Hollow. Rory doesn’t think she belongs with them. She absolutely does.
After the glowing promise of teenaged Rory Gilmore at Chilton, then at Yale, then scrabbling for her first big gig…I’m mildly disappointed by how mediocre she is. Like…the writers nailed real life here. Rory’s mother still adores the ever-loving stink out of her. Lorelai always will. But Rory is good at school (for the most part) and bad at life decisions. All the privilege in the world couldn’t save her from a spectacularly normal existence.
But maybe the most mediocre thing about Rory is being Logan Huntzberger’s side chick. Does it surprise me? Nah. Logan is so fine and Rory always had trouble saying no to
him herself. She has an actual boyfriend she treats like dirt. That sounds familiar.
What ultimately breaks the heart about A Year in the Life is Rory’s slow arrival at self-loathing. By the end of “Fall,” she knows she’s mediocre. And maybe the truth is she always has been. She practically weeps in the scene with Dean in the market, comparing how their lives diverged. Rory isn’t where she thought she would be or where she thought all that achievement would take her. I don’t doubt many millennials have arrived at this same conundrum. That elicits a good deal of compassion from me for her character…
…but a bit pettiness, too. Just a tiny part of me remembers how so many Black millennials still have to be twice as good to make it half as far as Rory.
The Gilmore Girls come full circle with A Year in the Life.
Ending with Rory’s pregnancy announcement presents both women with new challenges. How does impending single motherhood change Rory? She’s twice the age Lorelai was when the older Gilmore girl discovered she was pregnant as a teen. But I don’t know if Rory has the same steel that sharpened Lorelai-the-elder into a tenacious businesswoman and entrepreneur. Maybe single motherhood will bring qualities out in Rory that privilege and smarts never could.
Will Lorelai turn completely into Emily and allow her disappointment in Rory to build a wall between them? The thought of that possibility made me realize this: Lorelai’s mediocrity despite growing up privileged always stung Emily Gilmore. Emily gave her daughter so much, only for the younger woman to fail in ways she did not expect. It will be interesting to see if Lorelai feels the same way about Rory.
I really did enjoy A Year in the Life. The Gilmore girls demonstrate the poignant beauty of motherhood, weaving in the highs and the lows. You can pour so much into a child but all they will ever be is human. Can any mother foresee the way her offspring will be their own person? Learning to love, and mourn, then accept that possibility is a journey for which no one can prepare you. All you can do is follow where it leads.
Did ya’ll watch the new Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix yet? Hate it or love it?