A Meathead Watches Gilmore Girls (“Pilot” and “The Lorelais First Day At Chilton”)
At the very outset, I must acknowledge the following: many of the women in my life consider Gilmore Girls to be among the greatest television shows ever created. These women – including my wife and numerous lifelong friends – share a passionate dedication to the show and its characters. I have heard for years about the show’s singular achievement without ever understanding precisely what it was that everybody loved. So when the show popped up on Netflix recently, my wife encouraged me to watch and I agreed. All of the women that I care about couldn’t be wrong.
My initial reaction has been that of a meathead. “That’s all that happens?” I asked after the first few episodes. “HOW CAN THAT BE ALL THAT HAPPENS?!?!?” I am not proud of this. I ought to be better at this. So this then is my goal: to watch it all and respond with something more substantive.
Gilmore girls centers around 32-year-old Lorelai Gilmore and her 16-year-old daughter, Rory. They live in Stars Hollow, Connecticut, which is a place relatively close to Hartford. Emily and Richard Gilmore are Lorelai’s parents. They’re both incredibly wealthy and Lorelai has only occasional contact them. Lorelair works at an inn with her best friend, Sookie St. James. Rory commands the attention of a young man named Dean and she has a best friend named Lane. Both mother and daughter drink coffee by the gallon at Luke’s Diner, owned by Luke, a potential love interest for Lorelai. There are obviously other characters within the universe, but we’ll get to them in due time.
Our most immediate concern is the academically gifted Rory, who has been accepted into Chilton, a private school that is, like Hartford, a half-hour’s bus ride away, although presumably in a different direction. Chilton is an expensive proposition for Lorelai, one that she cannot afford, and so she is forced to visit her parents in pursuit of the money necessary to pay tuition. Lorelai’s mother agrees on the condition that the entire family gets together for dinner every Friday.
Rory meets Dean on her last day in her former school and hedges about her opportunity at Chilton. Lorelai insists that she go, boy or no boy, and later, Rory overhears Lorelai and Emily screaming at one another about the money being spent on Chilton, an argument that’s obviously much more the tenuous relationship between Lorelai and her mother than it is about financial matters. The episode ends with Lorelai and Rory drinking coffee at Luke’s.
And…that’s it. That’s the show. I have been repeatedly warned not to invest heavily in the first season. “It gets better later,” I’m told, and I have confidence in that. Part of watching television is understanding that shows require a certain amount of time to develop. Very few of them emerge fully realized and that’s certainly the case here. Those looking for incongruities will have no problem spotting them. As with the broader universe of the show though, we’ll get to them.
Because it isn’t difficult to see why the show went from pilot to season. There is something compelling about it, particularly the way in which its conflict plays out. Emily and Lorelai aren’t fighting about money for instance – they’re fighting about a long and tumultuous history in which neither got what they wanted. A history that matters substantively is the sort of thing that drives greatness.
“The Lorelais First Day At Chilton”
Earlier, I said we’d get to the incongruities, and although I meant that in regard to future posts, now is as good a time as any to start to explore this show’s bizarre relationship with class issues. When the Lorelais (technically, Rory’s first name is also Lorelai, thus explaining this episode’s title) go to Chilton for Rory’s first day, we’re obviously meant to understand that they’re outsiders to this world. Rory certainly is, having been raised by a single mother who fled her own luxurious life. Lorelai, although familiar with it from her own childhood, has forgone it in her adulthood and motherhood.
Or at least, that’s what we’re told to believe. The families at Chilton aren’t playing polo while simultaneously yachting while simultaneously planning adventures to Martha’s Vineyard while simultaneously thinking that these two guys are upstanding individuals, but they might as well be. Lorelai makes things worse when she somehow manages to leave all of her Chilton appropriate clothing at the drycleaners, thus forcing her to show up woefully underdressed for the occasion. Get it? They’re not of this world.
Except that back home in Stars Hollow, the Gilmores live in what appears to be a 4000 square foot house. The entire village looks like the sort of place where a quaint home goes for $750,000. Yes, Lorelai’s parents are even more absurdly wealthy, and yes, Lorelai needs money to pay Rory’s tuition bill, but in absolutely no other way is there any indicator of financial hardship. And in fact, everybody in Stars Hollow is apparently swimming in money.
Needless to say, Rory’s first day goes…poorly. Even if her mother hadn’t shown up dressed like Daisy Duke in a trenchcoat, she discovers that she is starting several weeks behind the other students by virtue of Chilton’s odd decision to admit students three weeks after the school year begins. She runs headlong into an absurdly aggressive student named Paris who is threatened by Rory for no particular reason. She also meets Tristan, who is James Spader from Pretty In Pink. Tristan calls Rory “Mary” immediately, and only later does Lorelai explain that “Mary” is a reference to the Virgin Mary, an example of the ultimate goody-goody.
At the end of the day, everybody has had a miserable day.
Where We’re Going
I’m going to watch the whole show, write these recaps, and, god-willing, survive my wife’s palpable disgust with the way in which I watch television. Things that I make a big deal about – like the odd way in which the show wants to have it both ways on wealth – aren’t enough to take her out of the action, so when I insist upon asking questions about it, she slowly sharpens a kitchen knife while staring at me with unblinking eyes. But it is nice having a show that we can share. And it is nice having a project that I can commit to, especially for what will potentially be 70+ posts on the subject. I’ll title them all in the same way for those that are disinterested.
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