Anyone raising kids knows that sometimes you need a little help when it comes to explaining some of life’s intricacies to them. And while Dr. Spock, Dr. Phil and so many other (better?) qualified people out there have had their say, around this household, we live by the wisdom found within the seven seasons of Gilmore Girls.
Not only are the trials and tribulations of high school and college dealt with, but maneuvering the ups and downs of love as well as the delicate relationship between parent/child. All of this is provided with a quirky backdrop of small town living and its wacky inhabitants. These elements combine to give a plethora of advice to those of us watching carefully, if we know what to look for.
We meet Lorelai and Rory Gilmore when Rory is in her mid-teens and is about to transfer to a posh, private high school. Lorelai is, of course, the single mom who got pregnant at the tender age of sixteen. Lorelai can’t afford the exorbitant fees for the school, which forces her to seek help from the parents she pushed away sixteen years prior. These conflicts set up seven years of fun, frolic, and frustration for the wildly independent Lorelai and her newly defined dealings with her parents. It’s a wonderful example of how things can go very wrong with families and could give many watchers reassurance that they’re not alone in negotiating their kooky relatives.
As viewers, we can sit back and laugh at the overbearing matriarch Emily or the stodgy Richard who is firmly set in his ways. We also get to see that, despite their predictable behavior, they both throw caution to the wind every now and then, allowing their more fun, loving sides (yes, they had them) to shine through. A prime example is when Emily finds a letter that Richard’s mother had written on the night of their wedding, trying to persuade him not to marry Emily. Some of the best screen time in this character’s portrayal are in the moments after the discovery, with Emily dressing in her caftan, smoking, and getting pie-eyed. For a woman always concerned with the height of propriety, she really knew how to let loose when she wanted.
Even though Lorelai’s parents are the source of many episodes of irritation, Lorelai proves with her actions that she still loves her family deeply. Looking after her father’s business on more than one occasion, chauffeuring her mother post-eye surgery, and reinforcing the link between her parents and Rory are just some examples of what she was willing to endure for her family. As much as she didn’t want them interfering in her life, she wasn’t and would never be able to cut them out of it completely. This is something that so many of us experience, but what the show offered was a humorous way to look at familial madness and instill the knowledge that it doesn’t mean you love them any less, regardless of your desire to avoid them at all costs.
While her family life was an example of utter chaos, so too was Lorelai’s love life. From episode one, we see that there’s something between her and diner owner Luke. The people around town, and even Luke, are aware of it but all sit patiently waiting for Lorelai to catch up. It takes the better part of four seasons to finally achieve fruition in this relationship, though finding the happy ending for these two took many a winding turn. This really teaches the viewer a little something about patience in finding true love as well as sticking with a TV show for all those years to get to the good stuff.
Lorelai still had a lot of growing up to do, having lost a chunk of her prime dating years as she raised her child. In order for her to find the happy ever after she wanted, she had to hit a few bumps on the road. Despite the ever present connection with Luke that we fans were aware of, there were times that we also rooted for the other men in her life. Lorelai played her own version of runaway bride to Max, Rory’s English teacher, and had an on again/ off again status with Christopher, Rory’s dad, both of which relationships made us cheer on this crazy woman in finding the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, she was frequently her own worst enemy. We know it was those unspoken feelings she had for Luke, but no amount of yelling at the screen would distract her from her disastrous path or force her to see reason. Like real life, there isn’t always someone telling us which moves are right for us; we just have to wing it.
While Lorelai goes through typical grownup dating rituals (apart from the crazy fleeing from the wedding without so much as a phone call to the groom...how did he know, by the way?), through Rory, we got to relive the journey of that first all-encompassing love. Quickly, though, she discovers that the reality that it’s not really the same as the forever kind; it just feels that way at the time. She typifies the teenage girl that falls hard for the first boy (Dean) who really pays attention to her; it doesn’t hurt that he’s cute, tall, and has great hair. But sweet and innocent as Rory is, even she finds interest in the screwed up guy she thinks she can change (Jess) and quickly dumps her first love. From the boy that bags groceries at the local shop to the intelligent but messed up introvert to the heir to a newspaper fortune (Logan), Rory really runs the gamut in boyfriends.
Even though the show has so much focus on the love lives of the main characters, as well as that of Lane, Rory’s best friend, and Sookie, Lorelai’s best friend (among others), it’s also about following your dreams. Lorelai and Sookie had plans to open their own inn but things always seemed to get in the way, including in large part Lorelai’s reluctance to change. Rory had her heart set on Harvard from the time she could say the word. The progress of these storylines can be followed from early on, but what we begin to see within them is the need for modification to our dreams when things just don’t work out according to a life script, because, in the end there’s is no such thing, right?
We had the advantage of looking at life through a microscope for these people, their loves and losses, but if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, there’s a lot of practical advice for all of us in many of the episodes. In one profound exchange, Rory inquires of the impulsive Lorelai where their road trip destination is, asking, “Are we almost there?”, to which Lorelai replies, “We’re almost there and nowhere near it. All that matters is we’re going.” This speaks volumes to the quality and substance in a life well lived. You always have to have something that you’re working towards yet once that particular brass ring has been grasped, the next life objective will (should) just be starting. A life unmoving wouldn’t really warrant its own TV show, so why shouldn’t you make your own life memorable too?
There were many more small interactions throughout the show that could lead a viewer to really embrace living. The theft of Babette’s garden gnome or the death of her cat, Cinnamon; the church bells being repaired as a result of a dying wish (then being broken again as they rung loudly every fifteen minutes), Taylor’s constant antics in attempting to elevate the town’s status (and the ensuing fights with Luke that added to the fun.) The best example, though, might be Miss Patty’s statement, after expressing concern about her own (in her mind) impending death, “Thank God I had all that sex.” Truer words have probably never been spoken.
One additional idea presented to us consistently was that we are all entitled to a cleansing, position-defending monologue once in a while (unless you’re Lorelai, who had one almost every week.) A person needs to have their say, even if their ideas are misguided or outright wrong (again, Lorelai.) It’s the passion we put into our opinions that demonstrate to others that we still have blood flowing in our veins. Many characters had opportunities to speak their minds in this manner and took full advantage of it, a definite indication that it’s got to be good for the soul.
The end of the series, visually, leaves us in the same place in which we entered the Gilmores’ lives, at Luke’s Diner, but it leaves some things open to speculation about what will happen in the future. Will Luke and Lorelai make it this time? Will Lorelai have another child? Will Rory succeed on the campaign trail with Barack Obama...wait, that’s an easy one; she would! So then, will Rory find her way back to Logan? To Jess? Or maybe to Dean, in a third time’s the charm kind of way? Much like a choose your own ending book, we can conjecture outcomes as we wish them to be and it’s almost better than really knowing. Almost.
The ebb and flow experienced by every character on the Gilmore Girls reinforced many great lessons, but culminated in one we should all strive towards (and pass on to our children): to make sure we live life to the fullest, squeezing every emotion, good or bad, out of it. Perhaps then we too can feel that same sense of fulfillment that made the Gilmore Girls smile so widely on the DVD covers. Or, if nothing else, it might inspire us to start again from season one. With so much jam packed over the seven seasons, there is always something new we can learn from these wise, wacky women. Who’s with me?
Jackie Lester imagines a day when she can make a living as a writer. Until then, she reviews eclectic books at My Ever Expanding Library and lives in small-town Ontario with her daughter.