In the spring of my freshman year, a big group of girls crammed into my tiny dorm room to watch the finale of Gilmore girls. We each had a spoon, and we passed around a tube of Tollhouse cookie dough to share. We moaned and groaned about the terrible seventh season, and we smiled and laughed and gushed about this show we had loved so much.
I distinctly remember, too, the first episode of Gilmore girls I ever watched: it’s the one when Lorelai and Emily steal bathrobes from a hotel. (Season 2, Episode 16, Google tells me.) I was hooked from the get-go.
In an attempt to prepare for the revival, I started rewatching the show a few months ago. I suppose I forgot how much parenting small children eats into binge-watching time, because I only made it to the beginning of Season 4. Even so, I’ve realized how much about this show I didn’t appreciate during my first go-around. I did not appreciate the relationship dynamics between Lorelai and her parents (Emily is a Gilmore girl too, you know!) or how deeply flawed Lorelai and Rory are (and really terrible decision-makers). I didn’t realize how much the four seasons affect what’s happening in the show. (Has anyone on the Internet done a meta-analysis of what kind of plot points take place during which seasons?). I didn’t appreciate the subtle humor of Sookie or Mrs. Kim, and I didn’t feel the intense pity for Paris I feel now.
I guess what I mean to say is just this: for me, the show is better upon second watching.
Last week, I drove up to Traverse City so my cousin Meaghan and I could watch the new episodes together. Admittedly, my expectations were perhaps irrationally high, only because I loved the show so very much and because the original writers were involved in this reboot. (Not to mention—hello, Internet hype!) Did the show meet my hopes and expectations? Nope. It left a lot to be desired, I think, and I agree with the vast majority of the Internet: Rory was terrible, and her decisions were terrible, and just generally WHAT THE HECK RORY, GET IT TOGETHER.
I still found the experience of watching the show so incredibly enjoyable. As cheesy as it sounds, it felt like being reunited with old friends. But what I keep coming back to more than anything else is this: I love Stars Hollow.
It’s true. I love that quirky, unrealistic little town. On a recent episode of The Simple Show, Tsh Oxenreider and her guest Kendra talked about how Stars Hollow is a character in and of itself; it has personality and in so many ways, it drives the plot. I couldn’t agree more. (That episode is full of spoilers, just FYI.) All I keep thinking since watching the revival is that somewhere, deep in my soul, I needed a visit to Stars Hollow, and I am missing it even now.
(Please note that there may be some spoilers here. You’ve been warned!)
Here’s what Stars Hollow taught me and reminded me, this go-around:
1. Our commitment to home matters. Our move to Michigan has left me feeling like my heart is divided between so many different homes, and I guess that’s ok. After all, C.S. Lewis has said that our longing for something this world can’t satisfy reminds us that earth, after all, is not meant to be our home. And yet. I don’t want to live like Rory, three different cell phones in my purse, never actually feeling committed or tethered to any given place. I don’t want to walk around saying, “I’m not back, I’m not back, I’m not back.” I don’t want to put too much pressure on any given place to be something it’s not or never could be. At the same time, we can not be whole and healthy if we are divorced from our physical surroundings. We need to choose a place and be all in, for as long as life’s circumstances allow. Rory’s inability to choose a home mirrors her inability to choose who she wants to be in this season, and I don’t want to fall victim to the same trick.
2. Achievement matters little, but integrity matters a great deal. I, like Rory, have fallen victim to the idea that a college degree, prestigious career, and impressive resume is my highest calling. Rory had one great achievement and then felt completely lost in its wake. Meanwhile, Luke actively avoids building the “empire” Richard hoped for, but we love him all the more for it. And aren’t Paris and Doyle choosing achievement (in the form of careers and a crazy house) over each other, dismantling their marriage? Stars Hollow may not provide many opportunities for achievement or upward mobility, but it does allow people to be their most authentic selves.
3. We all need people who see us, believe in us, and call out the best in us. This is what Jess does for Rory always (but specifically, in the revival, by giving her the book idea). This is what Sookie and Luke do for Lorelai. Sometimes, the loudest voices in our lives are not these most helpful voices; we need to seek out the good ones and give them highest priority. #teamjess
4. It is worth working for the kind of families and communities we want. Lorelai did this for much of her life—working hard and forsaking almost everything to build the kind of home and family she wanted and needed. Taylor does this with every insane statute and community initiative. Even Kirk does this in his own crazy way. Yes, you have to suspend disbelief a lot in Stars Hollow, but I find that this relentless optimism is giving me hope in these crazy times.
5. To be people of integrity, we’ll sometimes need to forge our own path and write our own rules. A friend of mine pointed out that Rory thrives when the rules are written for her and when there is a rubric or syllabus to follow; she excels in school because the expectations are perfectly clear. Rory flounders when the rules aren’t spelled out for her, when someone might be disappointed, or when the right answer isn’t immediately clear. She second-guesses herself and makes poor decisions. As someone who has clung to the rules far too tightly for most of my life, I get it. Meanwhile, people like Lane and Luke seem to be people of such integrity because they are more concerned about who they are becoming than what they are doing.
I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had about Gilmore girls over the past week, and even that fact seems to mirror Stars Hollow somehow. Let’s be honest—the Internet has been straight-up terrible in the aftermath of the election. But the Gilmore girls revival reminded me that the Internet can also be a place to discuss, analyze, and celebrate together. (Not to mention, collectively groan over a fictional character’s terrible decisions.)
Thanks, Stars Hollow, for being a lovely little home away from home. Thanks for all you’ve taught me about family, community, forgiveness, and loyalty. I can’t wait to visit again with my own daughter one day.