Gilmore Girlsâs Heightened Sense of Privilege — Vulture
Gilmore Girls wasn’t an overtly political show. But during its initial seven seasons, that aired primarily during the George W. Bush era, the split between the wealthy, conservative Emily and Richard “friend of Scooter Libby” Gilmore, and the slightly less advantaged, liberal-leaning Lorelai and Rory Gilmore certainly echoed the political split in the usa. But other divides — especially economic and racial ones — were not always exhibited with as much pointed clarity.
Money has always been central to what Gilmore Girls is all about. However, while Lorelai and Rory always had less cash in their accounts than Lorelai’s parents, and while they struggled in their first years as unmarried mom and daughter, it felt like they had been dealing with actual adversity. For most people in Stars Hollow — with the possible exception of Luke, and maybe Lane and her bandmates, who lived in a home that always looked cluttered — economic battle was always more of a reality in theory than something that felt real. That is also true in regards to ethnic and racial diversity. Yes, some people of color were represented in the Gilmore universe: Lane, Mrs. Kim, Gypsy, Michel, the occasional nonwhite face in Yale. But generally speaking, Stars Hollow and the other areas that Rory and Lorelai frequented were largely white.
I mention all this not to chastise the first Gilmore Girls, that was scarcely the only show from the 2000s that centered mostly on white people who have seemingly bottomless wallets, but to provide some context for , that in keeping with what we anticipate from reboots, presents a Stars Hollow whose sensibility is largely unchanged.
Though there are some cosmetic differences plus a few more black and brownish background actors in that familiar Connecticut town with the kick-ass gazebo, the 2016 model remains a mostly white area where the concept of paying a parking meter represents an excessive amount of advancement to the people to tolerate. An individual could rightly claim, as I essentially just did, that Stars Hollow was always like that: provincial, privileged, resistant to change. But from the four new extended episodes of Gilmore Girls, all of this feels much more problematic and, frankly, irritating than it ever did during the first series. Is it because we have all grown older, time has marched on, and we hope more of Lorelai, Luke, and our other diner-frequenting pals? Or were we just oblivious to this show’s flaws from the ’00s, a time when reporting of television was not quite as prevalent and think-piece-y since it’s become in the forthcoming years? Or did the present election outcome, which threw multiple logs around the preexisting white-intolerance fire in this country, make us less inclined to embrace the unaware bubble that is Stars Hollow? (Donald Trump destroyed Gilmore Girls, didn’t he? Sure, yeah, let’s go with that. Sookie probably would.)
All the above factors play a role in our answers to the brand new Gilmore Girls. But let’s not underestimate the level to which a number of the comedic and story judgments in annually in the Life feel off. Among the most jarring examples is a running joke about Emily Gilmore’s (Kelly Bishop) brand new maid. Emily always had maids awaiting her hand and foot and was famously rude and dismissive to every one of them. In per year in the Life, she has Berta (played with Rose Abdoo, who plays Gypsy) working for her. Not only does she not fire Berta, for a change, she shields Berta’s children into the home, even attracting all of them together with her when she finally moves to Nantucket. This is supposed to represent advancement for Emily, who’s now a widow and is maybe more inclined to surround herself with people. “Look how much she has come,” the show suggests. “She is not only nice to the aid, she treats them like family”
But there is something profoundly condescending in all of this. For starters, Berta, who does little more than smile, nod, and talk about how wonderful Emily is while her children run amok, might only be of a demeaning, Americanized stereotype when she wore a T-shirt with the Taco Bell Chihuahua on it.
What’s worse is the fact that Emily constantly complains about the fact that she can not know what Berta is saying because her speech is unrecognizable. To emphasize just how foreign-sounding it’s, Emily notes that she brought within an acquaintance who works for the U.N., as well as she could not determine what speech Berta and her family had been speaking. It is another moment that is supposed to be amusing but again reminds you that Emily Gilmore is essentially Lucille Bluth. The difference is that on Arrested Development, it is very clear that Lucille’s behavior is shameful and hilarious as it is so clearly inappropriate. Because Emily is a more complicated character and one for whom she often feel sympathy, particularly now that she’s a widow, it is more difficult to tell when the show would like us to laugh with her, laugh at her, or just go, “Oh, honey:”
But maybe what’s most difficult to take in per year in the Life is the slight but irrefutable change in Rory and Lorelai. As I mentioned previously, in the first series, Rory and Lorelai struggled with cash, though it often felt like they didn’t. They could only afford Chilton and Yale with assistance from Emily and Richard, and afterwards, Christopher’s inheritance money. In Rory’s early college days, Lorelai even had to ratchet back on the takeout to be able to spend less. Most of the time, though, they lived comfortably. But — and this is significant — they lived comfortably in a way that indicated they hadn’t forgotten what it felt like to have hardly any.
We know that once Lorelai had Rory, they lived in what was essentially a drop behind the aptly named Independence Inn, in which, before being a supervisor, Lorelai did the sort of work that her mom’s maids had always done. Lorelai felt strongly about handling things on her own, partially because she resented the way her parents treated her, but also because she didn’t need to become them: snobbish, pampered, and walled-off from reality. Although she and Rory finally do accept cash from Emily and Richard, that urge never leaves Lorelai, or, particularly in the first three seasons, Rory, who doesn’t fit in at Chilton right away since she doesn’t she believe she goes among so many affluent kids. The fact that the both of them were portrayed as being grounded in this way made it easier to take their self-centeredness or the fact that they lived in a home that appeared wildly beyond their means.
In annually in the Life, though, this groundedness seems to have disappeared altogether. Lorelai is functioning the Dragonfly Inn very efficiently, and will apparently afford to cover every star chef in America to pop up into cook for her. Rory pops over to London whenever she pleases on an independent reporter’s salary, and never seems even semi-concerned about how she can keep paying for those plane tickets.
Again: This is not brand new. Lorelai and Rory were always buying things — mostly food — that it seemed like they should not be able to afford on one income. Now, however, there is less effort expended on communicating their fierce work ethics. Granted, it is hard to convey that in four extended episodes versus 22 annually. But with Lorelai randomly cutting out on the inn to go on a Wild trip and, more egregiously, Rory’s expecting a career as a respected reporter to be handed to her when she falls asleep during interviews or sleeps with her wookiee sources, they both have a heightened sense of entitlement that often overwhelms our ability to empathize with them.
Close observers of the last minutes of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life may have noticed an interesting detail concerning the wedding of Luke and Lorelai: a indication that started Luke and Lorelai’s wedding date since November 5, 2016, three times before Election Day. That makes me wonder just how one-time Obama admirers Lorelai and Rory, in addition to others in the sheltered if well-intentioned Stars Hollow, a town found in a depressing state, responded to the news that Trump would be our president-elect.
If they are anything like other comfortable, innovative white Americans, then they may have been shocked from a feeling of complacency. If that’s true, then what we see in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is not merely a pronounced, exasperating version of the privilege that the show often depicted in its glory days. It is also showing us the last, flickering moments when people like Rory and Lorelai could still wallow in that privilege.