In the early 2000s, my mom and I fell in love with the Gilmore Girls. It was fast-paced, funny, gut-wrenching, and starred a mother-daughter team that we adored. I was about Rory’s age when the show originally aired, and I naturally identified with her. Plenty of the details were different, but the broad strokes felt similar. When it was announced that Netflix would be doing a mini-season of the show, I was incredibly excited. The characters had been so compelling, and it’s something that I think a variety of shows could do well with – we want to know what happened to those characters we knew and loved, but I’m not exactly prepared to jump into a whole series revival.
In anticipation of the show’s return, Netflix has all seven seasons of the Gilmore Girls available for binging. I avoided it for a while when it was added, but I’ve started watching it again, and I’m making pretty good progress. I’ve justified it as being good preparation for the new season; I want to make sure all the details are fresh in my head when the mini-season airs. But I think it’s been having a strange effect on me this time around.
You see, now I’m Lorelai’s age. It’s a totally different thing this time, and while I’m still enjoying the show, I’m finding it way more depressing. If you don’t know, the show centers on Lorelai and Rory, mother and daughter, who are incredibly close owing to the fact that Lorelai was 16 when she had Rory and they have an unconventional, honest and open relationship filled with tons of coffee and takeaways. I can’t remember how I felt when I watched it originally, but I think I understood Rory’s decisions regarding relationships, schooling, and how she interacted with her mother. It was obviously well written if my 16-year-old brain didn’t question it too much.
But now, now I’m identifying with Lorelai. She’s a mom, I’m a mom. She works, I work. She’s a coffee addict, I’m a coffee addict. And while there are other similarities, it sort of feels different this time. I see how much more damaged they all are this time around; I see the sad and hurtful impact Lorelai’s family had on her; I see her inability to forge solid and meaningful romantic relationships; I see her chaos in a totally new light, and it just makes me sad for her. And I see how it’s rubbed off on Rory, too. I see how she struggles to love, to balance relationships with schooling, how for all her smarts and cool references she really doesn’t understand how to interact with normal people outside of her quirky little town.
I’m still enjoying the binge watching, but I realize much more how upsetting it is. Each episode has funny moments, has awesome references, has silly things that happen. But each episode also has such sadness, such pain. I know it’s the nature of TV, to highlight the aspects of humanity that are intriguing and worth watching. To show the pain we all experience at some points in our lives condensed into episode-sized bites. But the Gilmore Girls is special because it doesn’t do what so many other shows do – it doesn’t wrap it all up, leaving everything resolved at the end. Instead, it leaves things open ended, with some fights left hanging, or frustrations left un-voiced, or breakups left unresolved. Like real life, everything isn’t resolved at the end of the day, and sometimes the issues hang over relationships.
It resonates with me a lot, especially lately. While I’m not having drama with particular people or anything, I can’t help but feel like there are unresolved matters just waiting for the next episode, like there are things that need to be said eventually, but maybe in a different season. I know the fact patterns are so different now – I’m not the mother to a teenage daughter, I’m not a single working mom, I’m not living a small town – and yet it’s so strange to suddenly identify with a different character in a series I loved so much back then. I wonder if the same episodes will make me cry, I wonder if the same relationships will feel true to me.
The Gilmore Girls seems to encapsulate the beginning of this century, and while some things have become dated, most of it still feels pretty true. Given enough time, would I one day identify with Emily? Hmm, no, let’s just hope that never happens. For now, I’m going to continue binging as we race to the new season. It’s not making me as sad this season as it was last, but I’m sure that will come again. At least now I’m old enough to have a husband and child to cuddle after an upsetting episode when I need a hug.