The horrors & joys of watching ‘Gilmore Girls’ for the first time as an adult
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The horrors & joys of watching ‘Gilmore Girls’ for the first time as an adult

If Lorelai Gilmore ever read about all the posturing and philosophising surrounding Gilmore Girls, she might just exclaim, “Oy with the poodles already!” and be done with it. But Rory, Richard, and Emily are very likely to have a lot of thoughts. Luke would grunt, Lane would drum us a song, and Sookie would bake us all a cake. Sounds positively charming, doesn’t it?

Well, I resisted the charms of Gilmore Girls for years on end. The Amy Sherman-Palladino creation premiered on The WB on October 5th, 2000, and soon became a flagship series for the network. Even then, the witty dramedy had cross-generational appeal.

My best friend became a big fan eventually, like a surprising number of Indians. But I believed it to be too saccharine for my taste. My best friend’s ambitions back then were reflected in Rory’s towering Ivy League dreams. I was not destined for high academia, so I ‘meh-ed’ at the show.

Perhaps she could have pitched Gilmore Girls differently to me. Maybe Rory’s journalistic aspirations could have been the hook. Or a reminder that ‘punk is as punk does’, then I could consume content with the most subversive ‘pink girl feminist’ outtakes—the kind of feminism where stereotypically feminine attributes, like loving pink and all its shades, are not demonised—and not feel like I was selling out on my iconoclast soul. After all, the teen me just wanted to rebel against the world, escape home, and become an ever-observant scribe—all elements Gilmore Girls actually weaves together with its infectious dreaminess and comforting softness.

A cheery escapade

Since Millennials are now finally old enough to trigger the nostalgia industry to tip in our favour, we have shows like Gilmore Girls going strong on streaming platforms everywhere. Ultimately, this show drew me in sometime last year because of pure nostalgia. When I got sucked in eventually, I realised Gilmore Girls felt like autumn in a teacup. And as an overworked, stressed-out adult, I need a cupful of magic in the form of my cinematic and television experiences now and then. Yes, Gilmore Girls is cheesy and dated in a lot of ways (which show from that time isn’t?), but it makes for a good escape from reality. The tons of pop culture references and David Lynch homages definitely help as well.

The series follows the three headstrong Gilmore girls—Lorelai, Rory, and Emily—and the people in their lives. Lorelai was 32 at the beginning of the show, just like me when I first started bingeing it after getting over myself. However, unlike me, Lorelai, at 32, was already a mother to a 16-year-old Rory. That part was not the nostalgia-inducing relatable bit, but it has all the makings of a quintessentially early 2000s romcom!

Your twenties are your most brutal decade contrary to what people tell you. Finding yourself is serious business. Doing that with a kid and the judgement of the whole wide world is downright horrific, nay, Sisyphean! But Lorelai made it look breezy. It has been soothing in a lot of ways to my old millennial heart, which is still dicey about the idea of having children like so many others of this generation.

The quirky town of Stars Hollow, where Lorelai and Rory live, is tailormade for feel-good vibes. In this town, full of loony yet loveable characters, nothing ever really goes so wrong that you cannot fix it with a little bit of snow and a warm cuppa joe.

It is a little bit bonkers how many festivities they have going on all year round, but Community’s Dean Pelton would approve of that, as do I. Life needs its little joy and colours. The world is a dreary place as it is. However, Gilmore Girls is more than a perpetual vehicle full of cheer, glitter, and all things good.

Of Jewish roots and Indian connect

Beyond the Gilmores’ Ivy League persuasions, and Emily and Richard’s classism, once you delve a little deeper, you will inevitably notice several similarities between Indian family values and the Jewish roots of Gilmore Girls. Despite these cultural sprinklings, the Gilmores were not Jewish. Even then, Sherman-Palladino snuck in plenty of cultural markers that only got pronounced and more celebrated in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, which recently concluded on a high.

The show’s emphasis on strong family bonds and close-knit relationships resonates with the cultural values and importance placed on familial ties in Indian society, and digs deeper even. There is the traumatic enmeshment of dysfunctional families encoded in Gilmore Girls humour, the insistence of families gathering together to share meals, and the conversations floating from the erudite to the absolute batshit crazy at the drop of a hat.

If you have known any Indian family, you would know that our family gatherings go exactly like that; especially if the family happens to be a Bengali one. There will be very few moments spent on polite chitchat before discussions pivot to national political matters, followed by brand-old (because what is familiar is habit-forming) discourse on literature or cinema before a verbal fight breaks out. The fights quickly de-escalate over cups of tea, or cha as we call it, the drink of choice for the Gilmores are more apt though: alcohol in any and all form.

A few more unique appeals of Gilmore Girls to desi people everywhere are its emphasis on education as a means to a bright career as well as its unwillingness to vilify wealth in and itself. In the current ‘Eat the rich’ era of film and television, this theme strikes a chord with many middle-class desi viewers, who value the pursuit of knowledge, professional and financial growth, and familial unity above all else.

The socio-economic framework within which the Gilmores exist can elicit an additional layer of analysis and contemplation on the complexities of classism and its representation in popular culture. The elitism of the Gilmores, ever so sharply held under the lens by Sherman-Palladino, is juxtaposed perfectly with their other attributes, never obfuscated by it. They are people made by their circumstances and choices. Sherman-Palladino offers little apology for who the Gilmores are. She sees and presents these people with their many flaws and endearing quirks, weaving a tapestry of imperfect yet relatable characters.

The popularity of Gilmore Girls endures still. In the last 23 years, its reach has become more widespread, especially in desi communities at home and abroad. Perhaps it is because we see a bit of ourselves in the Gilmores—the good, the bad, and even the ugly.

Gilmore Girls is currently streaming on Netflix.