Comfort Classic: Gilmore Girls

Comfort Classic: Gilmore Girls

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A gentle guide to getting older and wiser, which Moya Lothian-McLean returns to again and again

On the face of it, a coming-of-age story about a mother and daughter who live in a quirky Connecticut town and speak at the pace of an Aaron Sorkin script doesn’t sound that comforting. But that would be to judge Gilmore Girls, the cult comedy-drama created by Amy Sherman-Palladino too quickly.

Hitting screens in 2000, the show ran for seven seasons, its cross-generational popularity such that it was revived for a four-part Netflix mini-series in 2016, nearly 10 years after the last episode aired.

There’s no secret about why the show is so beloved; sinking into the world of Gilmore Girls is like sipping on your first hot chocolate of autumn or swaddling yourself in a thick duffle coat.

At the centre of its appeal are Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, a mother and daughter navigating the world. When we meet them, both have a lot of growing up to do; Lorelei is a formerly teen mother who has a fraught relationship with her wealthy, old-money parents. Rory is literally a teenager. Often, their relationship is more like siblings than parent and child.

Which is part of what makes Gilmore Girls so magic; both Lorelei and Rory are fully fleshed out women characters. This shouldn’t be rare but, all too often, it is. These two are more than the sum of their parts, not just “a mother” or “a daughter”. They have individual hopes, dreams, loves and losses.

At times, each makes mistakes or does horribly unlikeable things. Sherman-Pallindo wasn’t afraid to allow the women she wrote to be real and learn the lessons of life the hard way. It makes Gilmore Girls both a refreshing show but also a comforting one. Life is messy, the show says. And that’s OK.

However, some of the joy also lies in the fact it stops short of full reality. The Gilmore Girls exist in a golden bubble: despite family tensions, there’s always a large pot of money on hand if needed to bail them out.

Lorelei and Rory live in Stars Hollow, an unbelievable little town, stuffed with zany characters, who make up a tight-knit community that’s simply too good to be true. Viewers will also notice the dark side of this; a huge lack of non-white faces. It’s not the show for you if you’re watching for proper representation in 2020.

Frankly though, as a woman of colour, I’m not. Time and time again, I return to Gilmore Girls because of its pseudo­reality, its slow-burn soap opera, its gentle guide to getting older and wiser.

It’s a programme from another era, before everything was on-demand and you could binge an entire season in a day. The plots reflect that: arcs that last several seasons, calm pacing (despite the fast talking) that allows the viewer to sit with the storylines and fall in love with the world that is being carefully created in front of their eyes.

Gilmore Girls is smart and savvy but also a cocoon of safety, one that, at its warm heart, shares a spirit with the likes of Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Prairie. It’s a story of community and mutual support. That’s the quality that renders it timeless and why, when I’m in need of a bit of light and optimism, I’ll always head to Stars Hollow.

Gilmore Girls is on Netflix and Amazon.