Introducing Gilmore Women: Two journalists discuss everything that’s wrong with every episode of “Gilmore Girls” & why we still love it
Why we're returning to Stars Hollow, and why you should join us!
Welcome to the pilot episode of “Gilmore Women,” a weekly newsletter in which we, Maggie and Megan, break down an episode or two of Gilmore Girls, a show we love dearly and that also, like so many of our favorite feel-good nostalgic shows, hasn’t aged very well! We both returned to Gilmore Girls in this uniquely dreadful year in an effort to tamp down the stress brought on by doomscrolling and CNN-checking during the 2020 election and the workaday horrors of life during a global pandemic. And while it still brought us comfort, it also made us think about all the ways the show missed the mark.
This is a weird time to be a journalist — in true Gilmore fashion, we’re both reporters — so we thought it might be a fun change to write something that wasn’t a daily case count of new coronavirus infections or a commentary on deep-seated sexism in professional sports, and so here we are, starting a newsletter (yes, we know, along with every other jaded, bored, laid off, or fired journalist).
Like a more-functional Paris and Rory, we met while working on our college newspaper in a very charming town in New England 30 minutes from Hartford (but on the Massachusetts side). We went to a school populated by smart, driven Rorys (and Emilys—more on that later), where we learned to examine things critically—even, and maybe especially, the things we love.
Gilmore Girls is one of them, and we want to write about it, and all of the questions it raises for us, two women who first watched the show at about Rory’s age, and now are, ahem, older than Lorelai was in Season 1. (Yikes!) Expect the newsletter to dive into such questions as: How does the editor of the Yale Daily News join the press pool for the Obama campaign and yet not get a job in journalism? How did the show that gave us Sookie St. James end up so fatphobic? How is the coffee at Luke’s good if it appears to come out of a Hills Bros. can? Why is everything in Babette’s home tiny? Is she a hobbit? How did Lorelai not marry Luke the second they finally admitted they are in love? And can Amy Sherman-Palladino write any love interest that is not a “bad boy who is actually really smart”?
Each weekly email from “Gilmore Women” will delve into questions like these and more as we recap, analyze and critique each episode of Gilmore Girls. We’ll go in order, so watch along with us, or just remember fondly—or not so fondly. Either way, this will be fun!
But first: Here are our individual tales of how we discovered—and became obsessed with—the rich text that is Gilmore Girls.
It was always there...
For most of my formative years, I planned my life around where I would be on Tuesday evenings: somewhere with a television and a couch. Early on — the show’s pilot aired when I was in 8th grade — I know I was plopped on my sofa with my mom whenever Carole King’s “Where You Lead” started to play. I think she was happy to watch a show with me that was about a mother and a daughter who were close. Later, of course, I preferred to watch the show with my friends so we could squeal about Rory’s love interests and fawn over Lorelai’s outfits.
When I went to college (just before Season 6 started to air) I brought my Gilmore Girls DVDs, probably already a little worn out from bingeing them during every moody, teenage weekend or holiday break. That first night far from home, when my roommate told me she was feeling homesick, we popped in a DVD and watched Rory and Lorelai’s rapid-fire dialogue on her tiny dorm room TV, because she was a Gilmore Girls fan, too.
To this day, I know that I’ll probably befriend, or at least be on the same wavelength as, someone who tells me they are a current or former GG lover. There’s just something about a show that centered smart, funny, independent women at a time when that just wasn’t done that often that drew bookish, driven millennial girls like a moth to the flame. Now, I wonder if I would have been so OK with caring about school, or wanting to go to a good college, or hell, even wanting to work in journalism, if I hadn’t had Gilmore Girls as an influencing force. But now, 20 years since the first episode aired, and four years after a lackluster reboot, I’m ready to face this thing I love to find out why it had to end SO BADLY, and whether it was really just bad all along? — Maggie Mertens
From babysitting to the newsroom...
The summer before college, I worked as a nanny for a girl who was too old to have one, meaning I got paid to do crafts and eat bagels and make sure my temporary ward didn’t run off with strange boys. We watched a lot of Gilmore Girls. The first episode I ever saw involves Jess Mariano and a sprinkler. I was hooked.
The DVD box sets became cherished possessions in college, and every Tuesday night, just like Maggie, I’d watch the latest episode with my housemates in our common room. I still remember our anticipation over the episode where Jess returns (!!!), and our insistence that Rory, floundering at Yale, should probably just get her act together and transfer to Smith, her grandmother’s school (and ours).
Later, in my twenties, Gilmore Girls resurfaced, oddly, while I was working at an alternative weekly newspaper where our editorial M.O. always involved a fair amount of mocking things other people loved. I once got seriously razzed for nominating a poetry reading as a recommended event of the week in an editorial meeting, so I never expected to find myself in an office of earnest Gilmore Girls fans.
But when the Netflix revival came out, I found I had been all along! Not only did we devote the entire film section of the paper to the show the week the revival premiered, but several of my coworkers and I stood in line at a local coffee shop that was giving out free coffee in Luke’s-branded cups as part of Netflix’s evil-but-effective marketing strategy. Alas, the Luke’s merch ran out while we were still in line with Portland’s vibrant Gilmore Girls community, and we later got into a flame war with the shop owner when we had the audacity to describe our sad waiting-in-line experience in a blog post later that day. Such is alt-weekly life. Later, one of the coworkers I survived this ordeal with purchased all of us matching Gilmore Girls mugs. I still have mine. We watched the revival as a group, and I also watched it on Thanksgiving with my mom, as we sipped bourbon on the couch.
As a resolutely nerdy teen and young adult who had big ambitions and crushes on hyperliterate semi-bad boys, I have a lot of affection for Gilmore Girls. Like My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase or Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Willow, early-seasons Rory was a character I could see myself in, a girl whose characterization involved loving books and Hillary Clinton and Christiane Amanpour and watching movies with her mom for fun (hello, my youth). Rewatching as an adult, I now find Lorelai and Emily oddly relatable, too, and I’m consistently kinda horrified by some of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s narrative decisions and blind spots. I can’t wait to delve into them. My fave is problematic, and I’m ready to go deep into everything I hate about this show that I love. — Megan Burbank
Gilmore Women is a weekly newsletter from journalists Maggie Mertens and Megan Burbank examining everything that’s wrong with Gilmore Girls.
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