Why Are We So Obsessed With ‘Gilmore Girls’?
After the WB series “Gilmore Girls” concluded in 2007, I gradually managed to acquire all seven seasons on DVD, unable to part with the quirky but infinitely relatable characters, the charming small town I wanted to live in and the lightning-speed dialogue peppered with references waiting to be decoded. As soon as I had the entire collection, the 42 discs started disappearing in my friends’ homes. To this day, they claim innocence.
I probably would have held the grudge for much longer, if not for last week’s announcement that Netflix will make all seven seasons available for streaming on Oct. 1.
This was the best news. To my slight surprise, I saw that many, many people shared my excitement about how easy it would become to rewatch and relive the story of Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel), a young mother and her daughter, who is raised with the help of her small, oddball Connecticut town.
The Internet delivered “7 Reasons Adult-Me Can’t Wait to Watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix” from Glamour, “10 Reasons to Watch Gilmore Girls (Again) When It Comes to Netflix” from Refinery 29 and, topping it all, Buzzfeed’s “45 Reasons ‘Gilmore Girls’ Is the Best Thing to Happen to Netflix.”
I knew that the show — popular, but never a huge hit, omitted by the major TV awards — had devoted fans, and whenever I met a fellow aficionado, I would always feel we shared some sort of secret. I would occasionally stumble upon a fan blog, but it never occurred to me that the show had such a large following.
“Gilmore Girls” is one of a number of shows that continued to live on after cancellation thanks to the Internet, much in the vein of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “Friday Night Lights,” Alyssa Rosenberg, the TV critic for The Washington Post, told Op-Talk.
“People had to form communities to keep the shows alive,” Ms. Rosenberg said, and their conversations have continued to flourish after the shows were taken off the air. Easy streaming access “is really gratifying for these communities,” she added.
Ms. Rosenberg has never watched the show but is excited to binge-watch it. “There is such pleasure in joining these communities; they are very welcoming to newcomers,” Ms. Rosenberg said.
So why is it that so many people get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside when they hear Carole King’s theme song, “Where You Lead”? Why the tongue-in-cheek tweets that they will quit their jobs, abandon their boyfriends and generally say goodbye to the world after Oct. 1?
For one, fans and critics found — and still find — the show to be a TV experience unlike any other.
“Something about the whip-smart writing, obscure pop culture references and dynamic characters — with the ability to expertly mix both outlandish and quiet scenes together — made it feel like you were watching something special, something that doesn’t come along too often on TV,” writes Emily Yahr at The Washington Post.
Lorelai, a film buff, would introduce the viewers to all three versions of “A Star is Born,” “Boogie Nights” or “Magnolia.” The show’s endless music references provided an encyclopedia of sorts for young viewers. “It provided both a window into the show’s universe and a gateway drug,” writes Nico Lang at The Daily Dot. “As a budding preteen snob, I wouldn’t have gotten into Blur or The Velvet Underground without Lane’s” — she is Rory’s best friend — “hearty recommendation.”
And there’s a different kind of pleasure in returning to the show later on in life.
“As an adult, the ‘Ulysses’-like nature of each episode only fuels the show’s rewatchability,” says Mr. Lang. “Part of the thrill of rewatching any given episode of the show is picking up the little jokes and asides you might have missed when you were 14, giving new meaning to an episode you thought you knew like the back of your hand.”
Intertwined with the pop culture references were literary and historical ones. The show featured cameos from Norman Mailer and Christiane Amanpour. You can find several “Gilmore Girls” reading lists online, including a reading challenge (a mere 339 titles).
Rory was an avid reader and an A+ student, providing validation for, as my friend put it, “all us nerdy girls out there.”
Her unapologetic nerdiness and Lorelai’s independence gave the show what many have called a feminist reputation. As Eric Mink says in an early review of the show for The New York Daily News, “women rule” on “Gilmore Girls,” whether it’s Rory, who has a “rare combination of academic intelligence and common sense”; Lorelai, who is “unflappably competent as the manager” of an inn, having worked up her way from being a maid; or the grandmother in the show, Emily, who “is every bit as smart and assertive as her daughter and granddaughter, and more clever than either of them.”
“Gilmore Girls” also “led the charge for alternative families on TV,” writes Mr. Lang. Today, with shows such as “Modern Family,” audiences wouldn’t think twice about Lorelai’s single parenting. Back in the early 2000s, the premise of the show, a tight, friendlike bond between a mother and daughter, however, was “an important representation of a changing America.”
Lorelai was not alone in raising Rory. It took a village — Stars Hollow, criticized by some for its idyllic character. “On one hand, ‘Gilmore Girls’ creates a Pottery Barn catalog kind of world, where everything is clean and beautiful,” says Laura Fries in an early review of the show for Variety. “But writer Sherman-Palladino broadens the scope of the too-quaint town of Stars Hollow by peppering it with a plethora of diverse characters.”
And this plethora, writes Mr. Lang, is what made the show so “profoundly relatable.” The “deep ensemble bench compels you to look for your own face in the Connecticut crowd,” he says.
With debates raging over who was Rory’s best boyfriend even seven years later, Ms. Yahr writes, it’s evident that the show “left a rare mark on pop culture the way a show only can when people deeply care about the characters.”
Oy with the poodles already.
This article is part of Op-Talk, from NYT Opinion.