Girl Power

Fangirl Friday: Gilmore Girls & The Return to Stars Hollow

Welcome to the most exciting day of the year. And not only because you might snag a Black Friday deal or eat some leftover pumpkin pie. Today something truly momentous is happening, something that warrants all caps and an exclamation point: GILMORE GIRLS IS BACK ON OUR SCREENS!

In case you missed it first time round, the original series ran on TV from 2000-07 and told the story of Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel), a bookish teen who dreams of going to Harvard (but in a huge twist, ends up at Yale), and her single mom Lorelai (Lauren Graham), manager of the local inn, who gave birth to Rory when she was just sixteen and ran away from home with her soon after. They’re surrounded by a cast of characters who redefine the term “lovable weirdo”, including Kirk, who’s bossed about by his mother well into adulthood and has at least forty jobs, Broadway star turned dance teacher Miss Patty, and Lorelai’s best friend Sookie (Melissa McCarthy), a disastrously accident-prone chef.

Set in the tiny (fictional) Connecticut town of Stars Hollow and filled with heart-warming mother-daughter exchanges, it was so picturesque it occasionally verged on twee. But it was also clever, funny, and fast, full of literary and pop-culture references. Nothing too awful ever happened to our leads (unless you count most of their love interests) but Lorelai’s ongoing arguments with her wealthy parents about her life choices added enough conflict to keep things interesting.

The late Edward Herrmann portrayed the hurt pride of her father Richard to poignant effect, while Emily Gilmore, played by Kelly Bishop, may be an upper-crust professional wife but she’s also the sharp-witted source of Lorelai and Rory’s coffee glugging, speed-talking skills. Plus, we always had Paris: Rory’s friend/nemesis is one of the best female characters of all time: tough, intelligent, and unwilling to tamp down her prickly side in order to be liked.

The show wasn’t perfect: it didn’t feature a single LGBTQ person, but there sure were some unfunny gay jokes. There weren’t any disabled people, either, and there could have definitely been more people of color. Plus did Rory have to be quite so offended when the students at her snobby private school assumed she was there on a scholarship?

In other ways, though, it was progressive: it passed the Bechdel test all the time, gave Melissa McCarthy a role where (for once) her weight wasn’t mentioned, let alone an issue, and its racial diversity, while underwhelming, was above average for the time. Plus, especially in the early seasons, there was an emphasis on careers, friendships and community, so Rory and Lorelai always had interests outside of their relationships.

It’s hard to know which Gilmore Girl to admire more. Rory dealt with her father never being around with preternatural poise, went from being behind in her studies to graduating at the top of her class and had a first boyfriend who built her a car. Lorelai raised a daughter who’s also her closest friend, made a success of her career with little outside help, and owns a Spice Girls necklace.

The truth is, there’s a lot to love about both Gilmore Girls: their determination, their dedication to charitable causes, their shared sense of humor, and of course, their ability to stay healthy despite ingesting massive quantities of pizza, Pop Tarts, and Tater Tots. Long-term viewers also learned a lot from them. Lorelai not only taught us that “morning butt and evening butt are two completely different butts,” but showed how to move forward when your life doesn’t turn out how you or your parents hoped, and that there are some bridges that can never be fully rebuilt. (Metaphorically, at least: in Stars Hollow, there’s always room for another fundraiser.)

We left both characters in a good place: Rory starting her career as a reporter, Lorelai reuniting with her long-term love. It didn’t seem like there was any reason to revisit them. But creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, who left at the end of season six, was offered the chance to wrap up their story the way she wanted, with the much-hyped last four words she’d always planned.

So now Gilmore Girls is back, nine years later, in four 90-minute episodes, subtitled A Year in the Life, and we’re dying to know what everyone’s doing. How is Emily holding up after Richard’s death? Did Rory travel the world like her idol Christiane Amanpour? Are Luke and Lorelai finally married? And were those last four words worth waiting for?? There’s only one way to find out.

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