On Episode 4 of the Hiveminded Podcast, I talk a bit about Gilmore girls: a year in the life , the nature of reboots and whether they can ever stand up to the love of their fanbases. As I tried to put the show notes together I realised I had a bit more to say about it, so jotted this down in an effort to try and get it out of my head so I could get back to work. It’s pretty off-the-top-of-my-head, and is a post for fans of the show (probably won’t make sense if you’ve never watched Gilmore girls) and probably has some spoilerish stuff in it. So consider yourself warned and skip if you want!
If you follow me on social media, you’ll know I was pretty excited about Netflix’s Gilmore girls reboot. Many others were looking forward to it too. Although one of my male friends on Facebook was pretty much trolling anyone who expressed anticipation (you know who you are, you stirrer!) and another boasted on one of my posts that he didn’t give a rats’ about it (I considered replying I didn’t give a rats about his cricket posts but didn’t…though I guess I just did…oops… 😛 ), it was kind of fun to be excited about a pop culture ‘moment’ with a whole bunch of other fans.
Finally it came out and…reactions were mixed. I didn’t get to see it until the week after it dropped, and much had already been written about it online by that time. I had successfully avoided most reviews and spoilers, and although A year in the life does have some issues, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was cheesy, silly, pretty, dramatic, cathartic…all the things you want when you revisit a beloved show after almost 10 years.
After watching all four eps myself I was curious to tap into the popular mood. And it wasn’t pretty.
So much criticism! So much disappointment! So much, dare I say, anger – mainly focused on the character of Rory. I do understand why people found the reboot problematic, and of course people are allowed to love or hate whatever they like. But the more I read, I found it dispiriting and colouring my own enjoyment of the show. One review called the reboot “mostly joyless” (I disagree) but because of that perspective, the review itself was completely joyless, as though the writer was determined to forget what we liked so much about GG in the first place.
Why is there always such a rush to deflate the joy balloons? I don’t have time to put this into a coherent argument, but here are some thoughts on maybe why the reaction has been the way it has.
- Binge culture
When many people originally fell in love with Gilmore girls, it was on TV via weekly one-hour doses. Now we’re used to watching as many episodes of a beloved show as we can cram in, so if you sat and watched all six hours of the reboot at once, perhaps it was just too much in one go. I’ve found when you watch more than about three episodes of the original series back to back, it can become too cloying and a bit annoying, so it hasn’t really strayed that far. Moderation, people.
- A lot can happen in 10 years…but then sometimes not much changes
Maybe it’s got something to do with the change of social mores in the years between GG and the reboot. Attitudes in society about things like sexuality and feminism have shifted in that time and critics seem to demand that the show change too…but maybe if Stars Hollow is a little town in the middle of nowhere, change would happen slowly. They even kind of allude to it when Taylor is trying to put on a gay pride event but there aren’t enough gay people living in Stars Hollow to get a parade together. Even coming to a city like Launceston, where I’m living now – it’s not a tiny town but it feels in parts like it’s about 10 years behind things in Sydney or Melbourne. That’s just life outside of major cities, isn’t it?
- Relationships and location
So Gilmore girls has always primarily been about the relationships within the Gilmore family, and that family has its roots in Connecticut. Although there are the occasional jaunts outside to offices in New York or swanky London apartments and clubs, it doesn’t feel right until we’re back in Connecticut. Place is as important to the show as the people in that place; how can it not be when they have invested so much effort in creating Stars Hollow and all its citizens? So in some ways it doesn’t even matter what happened to Rory in the world beyond Stars Hollow, the whole goal is to get her back to Stars Hollow so the Gilmore women can interact. If she had become a super successful foreign correspondent only sending occasional dispatches back home, and only ever talking to Lorelai and Emily on the phone, well then that’s not really interesting viewing if you want to watch what you loved about the original Gilmore girls, is it? Rory’s lack of career nous is bascially a narrative tool to get her back to Stars Hollow.
- Rory, Rory, Rory
Rory has always been the least interesting part of the show to me. And if you were watching an offshoot show called What Rory Did Next then yes, it would be frustrating to see that she hadn’t become the next Christiane Amanpour. But why does Rory have to be the poster girl for a generation? Why can’t she be messed up? Career trajectories rarely pan out exactly as you planned in college (I was going to start a theatre company!), life happens – what’s wrong with that? Reviewers seem almost bitter about her not representing everything about the successful, feminist, brainy career woman, but then I don’t think she ever was that. As Guan mentioned in the Hiveminded podcast, it is almost more that they have projected themselves on to her and are upset that she hasn’t turned out the way they wanted her to because they haven’t turned out that way either. Maybe they were her age when watching it, or they were even a bit younger, and they don’t want to admit that life takes some weird and sometimes disappointing turns? Rory admits to Lane that she just wants to be 20 again, which might explain some of her choices, like she’s trying to find something she lost way back then.
- The unseen presence of Edward Hermann
- The phone call Lorelai makes to Emily in Fall (I CRIED so much (I know that was the point))
- Paris. Paris!
- Kirk, of course.
- That April’s appearance was only minimal, and Liz and TJ were only alluded to (three of the most annoying characters!)
- The musical – most people hated it but it was so in keeping with the show. Just ridiculous and fun and so completely over the top.
- The secret laneway bar!
- That Lane and Zack are still playing music – they can have had twins nine months after they got married, but they can still pursue their creative selves
- Luke’s wifi passwords
- Emily dissing the DAR – finally
- Sookie’s reappearance with the cakes…you knew it was coming, but it was just so satisfying and perfect
- Kirk’s wedding setup
- The Life and Death Brigade’s outfits and Rory in a top hat (the Brigade themselves are annoying, but they always dress well)
- Lorelai out on her own with a giant hiking pack, trying to be outdoorsy
That’s only from a first viewing and I’ve already forgotten a lot.
My younger self would have disagreed, but these days I don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching something comfort-foody and enjoying it. I now know how annoying I was to my brother when I was in first year film studies, we went to see True Lies, and I came out of it ranting about all the problems with it, and he looked at me and said, dryly, “we’re never going to be able to go to the movies again, are we?” I still have problems with True Lies, but I guess what I’m saying is that it’s possible to have problems with a movie or show or book and not be a total killjoy. Or maybe it’s impossible now that we have access to everyone’s immediate opinions on everything. Hmm.
I should get back to work.