Whether you’ve watched the show or not, chances are you’ve heard of it. Gilmore Girls. Just another television show that got lucky- along with the cult-like following to accompany it. Like the current shows, The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, they have faithful followers.
But there’s something different about the land of Stars Hollow and the Gilmore tribe. Something that has made the show even more popular since the final episode aired back in 2007. What is that something?
Well, it could just be the great writing and acting. Or it could be the fine producers and director. But I don’t think that’s it. As much as I’d love to be a fly on the wall next to their writers, I think it goes beyond all of those necessary components. After all, there are plenty of shows with all of those grammy-winning combinations.
Timing is a wonderfully impossible thing to predict. And in a strange way, this show had both perfect and horrible timing. At least for me it did.
Gilmore Girls began in the fall of 2000. I was twenty years old and had just transferred colleges, moving from the west coast to the east coast. I was very focused on my education and my future. Thinking back to that time, I can’t think of many shows I watched- just the occasional 90210 re-runs that came on during the day. While I did watch Friends and Dawson’s Creek in high school, they slowly lost its appeal when they competed with my actual life. It was either my real friends or Friends; I chose mine.
Watching TV was different in 2000. DVR’s weren’t common and watching anything on-demand was unheard of (Netflix was a DVD rental service), so if you wanted to watch something, you didn’t have much flexibility with your time. You had to commit or walk away. I chose the latter.
Gilmore Girls ended in 2007. During the seven years it aired, I graduated college, got a job, got married, had two babies, and became a stay-at-home mom. After I was married, I remember flipping through channels and Gilmore Girls being on. I thought it would probably be a fun show to watch, but had the feeling like I was walking into a movie mid-way through. What’s the point in finishing it if you didn’t start from the beginning? So, I just put Gilmore Girls on the list of shows I’d never watch and that was that. And I never really thought much about it. There are plenty popular shows I haven’t watched and I don’t feel like I’m missing out.
Until…two years ago when I was planning/packing for our trip to Brazil for seven weeks to finalize our adoption. At the time, I followed another blogger who was traveling with her family and she gave some great tips and advice on traveling abroad with kids. She also mentioned Gilmore Girls was on Netflix, and shared how you could watch it while abroad (Netflix options change once you cross international borders). I noticed it, but didn’t give it much thought.
It was more like curiosity, “What is this show even about?”, (I had no clue) collided with my current reality, “Oh my goodness, how am I gonna get through these seven weeks?”. One night, about a week after we arrived, all five kids were in bed. Filipe and I went to our room, grabbed a computer, and started to turn on a show we’d been watching together for months. It was your typical good guy/bad guy cop type show. But this time I couldn’t watch it. “Sorry”, I told him. “I just can’t. It’s too intense.” In this new reality, I needed calm, I needed funny, I needed happy. And then I finally pressed play on Gilmore Girls, and I found the escape I longed for. No matter what chaos was happening around me during the day, at night I could retreat to my room and escape to the town of Stars Hollow.
Gilmore Girls got me through a challenging and turbulent time in my life. And maybe that’s all it is. Maybe that’s the “something”. Watching a feel-good show during a hard season makes it sorta magical.
But I’m going to take it one step further. Because I still think there’s something more. I mean, why in the world is this show more popular in 2016 than it ever seemed to be in 2005? It’s only grown in ratings since it’s been off the air.
Here are two things it does really well (and really quirky).
- Relationships- Gilmore Girls is about family and friends. That’s it. No complicated terror plots, no guns blazing, no political drama. Just a mom and a daughter trying to get through the ups and downs of a rather normal, everyday life (okay, okay, maybe takeout every night is NOT normal, but we are allowed to be entertained a little, right?! It is television after all). The relational dynamics are not unlike what you and I may face. But they face it, and they work through it- something our generation (me included) often lacks the courage to do. How do we navigate the relationships we deeply care about amidst the dysfunction of life? How do we face issues we disagree on and still love one another afterward? (A seemingly impossible reality right now.)
- Community– The show is set in the town of Stars Hollow, among the people of Stars Hollow, and it is so inspiring to me. (I’m fully aware that the small town feel is romanticized in the show. Having never lived in a super small town, I absolutely love it.) The quirkiness of the town and the hosts of strange people make it kinda sweet. Because despite all of the weird traditions, antics, and ways of life, the characters show love to one another and extend grace in a way that’s inspiring and challenging. It inspires me to make more of an effort in my own community and embrace the quirkiness others have. (We all are rather quirky.) It inspires me to buy local, and to be intentional and consistent in my own favorite local spots (Peets).
Gilmore Girls reaches into places where we all wrestle and struggle through every day. Most of us aren’t out fighting zombies or trying to sort through the latest political scandal. Most of us are ordinary people trying to get through our everyday life. We’re trying to be a good mom and a decent daughter. We’re trying to do well in our job, contribute to society, and go out on a limb in our career. We’re trying to love those around us as best we can, with what we have. And sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes it’s beautiful. This show depicts this contrast so well.
A few weeks ago, in anticipation for the new episodes set to air at the end of November and the anniversary of the show, Netflix hosted a “Luke’s Diner” day giving away free coffee in paper cups boasting “Luke’s” and quotes from the show. Over 200 locations all over the country participated and joined in on the silly idea of turning their local coffee joint into a “Luke’s” for a few hours. The morning of, I dropped my kids off for school and made my way to one in my city. And just when I wondered if anyone would even show up, I rounded the corner in downtown San Jose to see a enormous line extending down the sidewalk. “Wow”, I thought. “I guess San Jose likes Gilmore Girls too.” I stood in line, and couldn’t help but chuckle listening to the conversations from strangers around me. It wasn’t like anyone in that line couldn’t afford their own coffee- this wasn’t latte’s and cappuccino’s they were handing out. This was just plain coffee. But I have a feeling most of those who waited in that line just wanted to feel a little part of the community of Stars Hollow, a little more connected. And there was a strange sense of community among strangers that morning.
We were created to connect with one another, and even a television show can inspire us to do just that. In a world where social media reigns and people are more connected than ever, many are lonely and empty. We long to be known, to be seen face-to-face, no cell phones allowed.
You don’t have to watch Gilmore Girls to be inspired in these areas, and I’m not trying to convince you to. But sometimes it helps to know why certain things rise in popularity and connect us in the ways they do. Having once been an outsider, and now an insider, I’ve found myself asking, why? And I think this is it.
In the current political climate and social tensions, I’ve found myself pressing play on it more and more and tuning out the rest. Because in the middle of the toxicity in the news and social media right now, I want to be inspired to pursue good relationships and genuine community- and sometimes you need a good dose of quirky in the middle.