By: Harika Naishadham
Flashback to 2016, when Drake released ‘One Dance,” and pretty much every teenager was going through a “Gossip Girl” phase. The next thing you know, living like a New Yorker had become a fad. Talking and behaving like they’re champagne-drinking, bratty trust fund teenagers (although there’s nothing wrong with that) seemed to take over most teenagers’ lifestyles. I won’t deny that I myself jumped on the bandwagon to be relatable and tried to obsess over similar TV shows.
Fast forward to the summer of 2019 when I had a conversation with my online best friend (God bless online friends) about not having a comfort TV show that everyone talks about. I did try watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and the other cliche popular TV shows, but they never really resonated with me. That was when she suggested I watch “Gilmore Girls”. Although I was a little skeptical about American TV shows, I trusted my best friend and decided to give this show a chance. As the era of low-waist jeans, Britney Spears, and Ocean’s Eleven definitely had me in a chokehold, watching a 2000s hit TV show was no brainer. And thus began my mental transformation; although this sounds dramatic, the show absolutely shaped me into the person that I am right now.
For those of you who don’t know the storyline of Gilmore Girls, here is the gist of it: It follows a mother-daughter duo and explores their very comfortable and close relationship. They talk about everything under the sun. From the mother’s failed relationships to her daughter’s problems at her new expensive school, this show portrays it all. I agree that it sounds very clichéd, and the plot of the show sounds relatively mundane, but there is so much more to this show than just the plot. It’s more about the characters, their flaws, and the way they navigate through different relationships. It’s about an abnormal family being the most functional, with the smartest women sitting at the top. It is about a relationship between a mother and daughter that, despite its ebbs and struggles, remains steadfast in defining who they are as individuals.
As a 17-year-old, it was quite frustrating to watch characters on shows that were aimed at adolescents be heavily focused on highly unattainable social and physical appearances. With Amy Sherman-Palladino’s “Gilmore Girls,” these female stereotypes were subtly dismantled and gave us two female leads who, powered by junk food, coffee, and rapid-fire dialogue, were also intelligent, witty, vulnerable, and hardworking. What inspired me, especially as a girl in her late teens whose worldly opinions were constantly changing, was the representation of strong female characters who had an interesting back story and were three-dimensional. I knew my hunt for a strong female-centric comfort TV show was coming to an end as my love for the show grew.
Lorelai Gilmore, the mother, is the glue that held the whole show together and made it what it is still known for: being witty and exciting. She is the major contributing reason for my undying love for this fictional family. Lorelai established herself as the young, carefree woman who couldn’t care less about what the world thought of her. This sounds like the personality trait of every other female character, but there’s something unique about Lorelai that we can’t help but obsess over. It was something that was quite rare back in the early 2000s. Her choice of clothing and music was outrageously unconventional for a woman in her 30s. I think she would’ve been a good poster child for ‘Rebel with a Cause’. Watching her made the 17-year-old me feel free and empowered. It allowed me to see a world that wouldn’t hurt me for being myself.
I felt like I could express myself in any way possible, through the clothes I wore and the music I listened to-the sky was the limit.
As kids, we were programmed to believe that if we swerved from the path laid out for us, we would end up being disappointed or unsuccessful. However, Lorelai Gilmore showed me otherwise. She was all set to be an heiress. The lifestyle she wanted for herself was separate from being a trust fund baby. Just like most of us, she craved freedom and wanted to break free from the robotic cycle of the 21st century.
Lorelai’s character in the show doesn’t limit herself to just being an independent woman; the show also shows Lorelai’s emotional moments and her precious relationship with her daughter. Lorelai had her daughter Lorelai (better known as Rory) when she was sixteen, so the age gap between them is a huge one to bridge. Their fun, charismatic, and caring attitudes towards each other gave me the much-needed representation of a healthy mother-daughter relationship and the motivation to be a better daughter, to say the least. It is safe to say that my relationship with my mother was shaped by Lorelai and Rory’s relationship. It definitely allowed me to realise that it is perfectly normal to have any kind of conversation with my mother and allowed me to be more open and forgiving. Parents make mistakes too, and I was alien to the idea until Gilmore Girls targeted this aspect.
While Lorelai’s character allowed me to embrace my quirks, Rory Gilmore, the beloved daughter, showed me that it is perfectly alright to always have your nose in a book. Rory’s most defining characteristics are her quick wit and a never-ending desire to be a world-renowned journalist. Throughout the series, whether she is navigating the hallowed halls of an elite prep school, taking on the role of the Yale Daily News editor-in-chief, or joining the Barack Obama presidential campaign, she defines herself entirely by her intellect. What’s even more refreshing is that she is never once criticized for her tenacity to be the best. Even the other female characters on the show, who could be easily passed off as “ditzy,” are shown as being intelligent. Not a single female character is put down just for the plot to continue; we are just shown hard-working women getting things done.
Rory’s athleticism and social prowess weren’t all that great, just like mine, which made it all the easier for me to relate to her, but her constant desire to be and do better resonated with me. Perhaps what I loved the most about Rory was that, unlike Joey Potter of Dawson’s Creek, Rory always had the best girlfriend, and 17-year-old me yearned to share such a bond with someone. They shared a true sisterhood–not trying anything nasty behind each other’s back or trying to one-up her prom dress, something that was often seen in shows from the 2000s. Instead, what they had was just a true and dependable friendship that would see and guide them through the tough times and happy moments.
Female relationships and friendships are complex, and “Gilmore Girls” doesn’t simply show one type of these relationships. It shows different kinds of mother-daughter relationships and best friend pairs. Lorelai and Rory’s relationship is completely different from Lorelai and Emily’s (Lorelai’s mother) or Lane’s (Rory’s best friend) and Mrs. Kim’s (Lane’s mother). Similarly, Rory’s friendship with Lane is starkly different from her friendship with Paris (Rory’s academic rival first and then best friend), but both of them are considered to be her best friends. But both of these relationships differ from Lorelai’s everlasting friendship with Sookie (Lorelai’s best friend).
All of these women had lives of their own with problems of their own, but they always showed up for one another in times of need. Their relationships with each other are completely imperfect, but in the end, the love each one had for the other always brought them back together. This filled me with so much hope as a teenager who found it difficult to navigate the friendship spectrum.
Sookie, who is the light-hearted and goofy chef with her undying love and affection for Lorelai and Rory, showed me that it is normal to be intensely dedicated to a relationship/friendship. Although her role was more of a steady confidante for Lorelai, it had more dimension than traditional supporting female characters. She had skills of her own as a top-notch chef and co-owner of an inn that Lorelai ran. The show portrayed some of Sookie’s struggles as a working mother and how important a compassionate and involved husband can be when it comes to parenting. Oh, and did I mention she was plus-sized and that there isn’t a single instance where she was the butt of a joke or the subject of a plot revolving around her appearance?
I started watching this show when I was 17, and it can be said with confidence that I was going through a pretty rebellious teenage phase. While people around me always tried to silence me and my interests, Lane, an Asian rebel with a drum, showed me that I did not need to listen to everyone every time and that I was allowed to do what I wanted as long as it didn’t hurt anyone. Lane was Rory’s long-time best friend. The daughter of a strict Christian Korean woman, Lane secretly rebelled against the strict rules by learning the drums and joining a rock band. She frequently rattled off musical influences like the Smiths, the White Stripes, the Ramones, and bands I’d never heard of. Lane’s dedication towards her interests, which strayed away from the usual female stereotypical interests, made me realize that it is okay to be different.
Gilmore Girls, with all of its strong female characters, totally convinced me that it is okay to be different and yet to be just like other girls. It allowed me to be confident, embrace all of my quirks, stand up for myself, pursue my interests bravely, and live life unapologetically.
I am in my early 20s now, and I have always wondered why it is only this show that continues to be with me no matter what. I then realized that it is so because “Gilmore Girls” introduced me to my earliest conceptions of feminism, female empowerment, and family ties.
While I agree that each of these characters is flawed, it is these flaws that make them more relatable and, thus, more empowering. This is why women love Gilmore Girls. Each one of us can find a little bit of ourselves in each character, and we reach out to them as we encounter failure, success, happiness, or even despair.
Watching “Gilmore Girls” makes me feel like the decisions I make in life will always lead me in the right direction, even if at the time they make no sense. I am incredibly grateful to live in a world where “Gilmore Girls” exists, female relationships are coveted, and the women in them are realistically empowered.