By Sinead Hunt
Though I can’t remember exactly when I first discovered Gilmore Girls, I can recall how immediately entranced I was by the world that Amy Sherman-Palladino had so lovingly and deliberately crafted. At the time, I was a first-semester freshman in college, struggling to make friends, assimilate to college life and keep my head above water academically. Upon arriving on campus, I found it difficult to reconcile my preconceived notions of what college would be like with the realities I encountered.
Before arriving, my perception of college was idealistic, verging on delusional. I viewed college as a utopian haven of learning, a place where I would have the freedom to explore my academic interests, befriend new and exciting people and finally, establish myself as an autonomous, well-adjusted adult.
What I failed to realize, however, is that there are two sides to every coin. As someone who grew up accustomed to moving around and spending long periods separated from my family members, I never anticipated how homesick I would feel upon arriving at school. As someone who thrived academically throughout high school, I never expected to struggle academically or fail to meet my professor’s expectations. I was shocked to discover how much of my incipient college experience would be characterized by social isolation and glaring feelings of inadequacy. Amid these swirling negative emotions, Gilmore Girls provided me with an invaluable sense of comfort and safety.
Watching the first season of Gilmore Girls felt akin to ensconcing oneself in a warm blanket and eating a bowl of Mac and Cheese. Although its critics have claimed that Gilmore Girls fails to captivate audiences because there are no high-stakes conflicts to drive the plot, I would retort that this feature is a strength rather than a shortcoming. While there is certainly a place on television for edge of your seat thrillers, there is also a demand for television made to soothe.
During a turbulent and confusing time in my life, I took comfort in knowing that I could tune in and immediately be transported to the magical world of Stars Hollow. The idyllic town serves as the perfect backdrop to Sherman-Palladino’s earnest and heartwarming story about multigenerational female relationships. Originally shot on the WB backlot to save on production costs, the diminutive size of the set has the added benefit of generating a sense of intimacy between the viewers and the world of Stars Hollow. Familiarly flawed characters and landmarks, such as the gazebo in the town square, Doosey’s Market, Luke’s Diner and Weston’s Bakery, make viewers feel like they are home.
In her role of a fast-talking, capable single mother, Lorelai Gilmore, Lauren Graham is simultaneously endearing and annoying. She demonstrates a fierce sense independence and indomitable will, which allow her to single handedly raise her daughter, Rory. Through the seven seasons of the show, however, Lorelai also presents vexing contradictions. Although she purportedly left her parents’ house to escape their world of privilege and entitlement, as the self-declared “Queen of Stars Hollow,” Lorelai demonstrates an appalling lack of self-awareness. However, these flawed idiosyncrasies only emphasize the sense that Lorelai is not just a character, but a real person.
Moreover, Gilmore Girls has a novelistic quality to it that I have yet to see reproduced in other television series. Amy Sherman-Palladino has a unique capacity for world-building, in that she was able to breathe life and dimension into each and every character. Unlike other shows of its time, whose plots could invariably be neatly resolved by the close of an episode, Gilmore Girls is special because of its poignant, emotional sucker punch endings. Instead of coddling or patronizing her teenage girl demographic, she presents viewers with emotionally challenging scenes that are relevant for women in every stage of life.
This is why Gilmore Girls is stands the test of time. Whenever I speak to someone about Gilmore Girls, they express how they personally identified with one of the characters or its evocative depictions of female relationships. Regardless of its flaws (of which there are many, particularly in season 7), it is Gilmore Girls’ unique capacity to elicit honest emotional reactions that has secured its spot in the hearts of many, many fans.