Emoji summary: 🍂 ☕ 👭🏻
I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a tv show properly before. Gab reviewed 13 seasons of Keeping up with the Kardashians, and we wrote an Ode to Love Island at its 2017 peak, but for some reason there’s a block for me when it comes to writing about telly. It’s like there’s my art life, where I think enormous important thoughts, and then there’s my actual interior life, where I turn my brain off and don’t think about things and what they could possibly mean. It’s not that it’s too lowbrow for me to bestow my lofty critical eye on, it’s literally that I don’t think of it that way; I do the critic version of friend-zoning it. As much as I love tv, I don’t think I ever think about the wider impact it has on the shape of my life (unless it’s Love Island, bc then it’s so all-encompassing it’s unavoidable), it’s background white noise and meditation. But this week, the shape of my life has fit snug around a tv show; the art world is disappointing & I am tired, so writing about this rather than some snooty exhibition feels more sincere. It’s been rainy and grey in London, even though it’s August; I want to stay in my pyjamas until midday, make my coffee with chocolate oat milk, and switch my brain off for a bit.
I’ve watched 6 seasons of Gilmore Girls in 10 days. It’s not even the mad fervour of bingeing a new show that you’re anxious to keep going with so you can feel the rush of it all at once; I’ve watched the entire back-catalogue of Gilmore Girls before. But with the rain and the chocolate oat milk, there’s something about it that makes me want to sink into it completely. It’s a cosy show for cosy people; it’s sweater weather, pumpkin spice season, yankee candles. It’s Autumn and clammy hands. Gilmore Girls is a show from the 00s, funny in an every-day cool way and dramatic at times when the plot twists into itself. It’s about a mother & daughter: Lorelai & Rory Gilmore, n they are the main characters, the Actual Gilmore Girls. Lorelai’s this quick and funny cool-girl, she came from a wealthy New England family, rebelled against the rubric set by this Old Money expectation, and got pregnant with Rory when she was still a teenager. The Gilmore Girls mythology tells us that she ran away from her overbearing parents to make a life of her own in the sleepy Connecticut town of Star’s Hollow. There, she carved out a life for herself and her daughter on her own terms. Rory is this kinda quiet, bookish girl when we first meet her; wide-eyed and innocent, she has this interior-working that is mostly explained by subtext and allusion. She’s presented to us as well-adjusted, clever, beloved and cool-in-a-relateable way. Both are this image of a Main Character in equal weight: Lorelai as this sparkling character, Rory as this quiet centre.
The people they come into contact with are these tv-perfect characters already: Emily & Richard (Lorelai’s parents, upper class and traditional in a way that’s representative of something else), Sookie (Lorelai’s best mate, and genius chef at the Inn they both work at), Luke (the gruff diner owner, and Lorelai’s love-interest), Lane (Rory’s best friend, a cool-girl drummer), miss Patty & Babette (raucous townies, gossipy loud women, I love them), Kirk (odd man), Michel (French), Paris (highly strung, loud also), Taylor (the town busy-body). They are all balanced and measured types; perfect but not one-dimensional, full but not so full that they'd pull focus. And Rory’s love interests form this perfectly compelling character-arc; Dean, the perfect All American boy-next-door; Jess, this brooding Heathcliff intense bad-boy that dips in and out; Logan, the bratty playboy that can take control, buy her a specific kinda stability n pull her into his orbit. All of them form an ensemble that moves quickly, heavy in dialogue, but pacey in a way that means you’ve got to pay attention. Interactions take place in the spaces between the lines, all you see is the fallout and the aftermath. There isn’t room to figure out if the acting’s good, or if you’re on board with the story and politic; it just unfolds despite you. It’s like the writing is inverted at times, everything sits under the surface and like a splinter, the focus presses around the bruise.
The show and its 7 n a bit series follows the 2 Gilmore Girls through their lives and the minutiae of that living. It all just kinda slips by between episodes, time is acknowledged but not memorialised. Rory is accepted into a prestigious private school in the City, but it’s expensive, so Lorelai asks her rich, estranged parents for money. They agree to pay for Rory’s school in exchange for contact; they all now have to have dinner together every Friday night. The comedy comes when Lorelai & Rory’s down-to-earth-cool-girl world collides with the stuffy upper crust conservatism of her WASPy parents, or the quirky small-town mentality of some of the background characters. And between these points, it just slides on by and right past you; Rory goes through private school, falls in love with Dean, falls in love with Jess, spends her life obsessing about going to Harvard, gets in and chooses to go to Yale instead, she falls in love with Logan, drops out of Yale, hits crisis but drops back in. Lorelai does more pulling-herself-up-from-the-bootstraps and graduates from business school, she goes from being the manager of the inn she’s worked at since she arrived in Star’s Hollow, to being the proud owner of hers & Sookie’s own inn, she falls in love with Luke, they break up, get back together, break up, get back together, she gets a dog called Paul Anka, and all while she continually rages against her parents. It’s all very charming, and it all lingers.
In my enjoyment of it, there’s a tiny little pang of shame too. I feel like I should be above this uncomplicated tangle, the petty bursts around a privileged life. Like didn’t I call Caroline Calloway on exactly this? For the sake of my own ego, I feel like it isn’t quite hypocrisy; Gilmore Girls builds that white middle/upper-class, New England fantasy so much more convincingly. It doesn’t complicate it all with a heavy subjective interior, but it leaks that interior out beneath its own skin. It is self-aware in the way it mocks the trappings of wealth and privilege, but at the same time it revels in the good fortune that money can ensure. The people that orbit the 2 Gilmore Girls are often incredibly wealthy, and they enable this charmed life where private school and Yale just happen; it moves too fast to question it before it becomes a culturally literate back-and-forth. But Old Money is the butt of the joke, the WASPy conservatism is something both Lorelai and Rory actively choose to opt out of, it’s something they run away from when the expectation and tradition starts to constrain them. It’s not an all-in privilege, it’s a young neoliberal-hipster-cool privilege. It’s stealing the champagne bottle from the ice bucket at the stuffy party, sneaking away to a back room and hanging out with the other bratty cool rich kids in your fancy dresses and tuxedoes, n quietly thinking that you’re different from them too. It’s Ivanka Trump hanging out with Karlie Kloss. It’s not understanding what a Birkin bag is, but getting one anyway. It’s sincerely loving Hilary Clinton, and the Blair years. It’s Coldplay and Gorillaz. It’s rebellion that’s gestural and that eventually assimilates its parents values into a more familiar aesthetic. It’s Gen X & the older millennials.
But the way the dialogue and pace work, all of that’s concealed below a surface that moves too quickly. In the rapid fire, the pauses, discrete silences and subtext that emerges from polite restraint; those heavy subjectives are now vapour. The politic behind it just evaporates and it takes the shape of yearning. Rather than just the specificity of Caroline Calloway’s aspirational desire being communicated to (or at) you, the Gilmore Girls communicates that same desire with a sleight of hand and narrative device. It takes ownership of it, rejects the parts that don’t work, and turns the parts that do into an aesthetic; that aesthetic is coherent with pop culture aesthetic at large, and so that desire never reaches the air at the surface. I think that’s what makes it yearning or longing, its indirect visibility. It’s all so clandestine, and so I actually respect it enough to enjoy it despite myself.
The world is a mad place right now; the news, twitter, the outside, it is all on fire. I have wanted for ~something~ to be immersed in, something long and all-consuming where I can put myself on airplane mode, or do not disturb. Watching Gilmore Girls has been that, this corner made entirely of fiction that’s finely tuned into a runaway pace and shape. It’s white middle class fantasy stuff; there’s an uncanniness in the way the smaller drama’s take shape, but they’re never threatening or deep in any serious kinda way. It’s an unburdened world, where vulnerability and threat are concealed politely by each. It’s meticulous about the places it lingers in, and so I am dead certain that Gilmore Girls is fundamentally about Longing; it’s a gut pull towards an arc that feels like it’s constantly in safe hands, but never fully resolved. It’s low-stakes but never boring or blandly uninterrupted, just the serious turbulence all takes place off-screen, and so any interruptions never feel like they would destabilise the entire thing. The exact right measure of safety for my bubbling and nervous mind atm. It doesn’t land immediately for me, but now I’m thinking about the how & why of the cosiness, and I think it’s that. It feels like it could be real life, but a really nice real life. It’s the kind of real life that feels nostalgic too, pre-iPhone, pre-woke, pre-2016. My god, I yearn for the nostalgic charm of a stable and uncomplicated, interesting life. Indie mixtape, cookie-dough ice cream, golden hour, sincere faith in ~something~.