If you grew up with Rory, you’re now the same age as Lorelai. Let’s work through these complicated feelings together…
I often find myself wondering where I fall on the girl-to-womanhood spectrum. I’m curious about the markers of such a passage, and struggle with where I would prefer to fall on it, if the choice were up to me. How do I see myself? How do I want to be seen?
In the year 2000, Gilmore Girls premiered on network television. I was 18—slightly older than Rory (the daughter half of the mother/daughter protagonist duo) and the same age as Alexis Bledel, the actress who played her. My mom, my nine-year-old sister, and I were all devoted fans; there was something in the series for each of us and we sang the theme song, debated plotlines, questioned wardrobe choices, and researched the many pop culture references together.
Now, almost 15 years later, the series has arrived on Netflix. After streaming the pilot, I was startled by my almost immediate sense of my own maturity: at 32, I am currently the same age as Lorelai, the mother/ girl played by Lauren Graham. Where had the time gone? What was I to make of this? If I were to choose a role now, which would it be?
[A quick synopsis for the non-aficionado reader: Lorelai Gilmore, former runaway teen mom, raises sweet and overachieving daughter Rory in idyllic Connecticut town. The series follows the two as they reconnect with Lorelai’s estranged parents, grow up, and navigate their romantic and platonic relationships.]
When first cooking up this article for ITG, I thought that it would be a feature about the makeup references within the series. There are quite a few—from MAC’s Viva Glam (real) to Lorelai’s favorite Vicious Trollop lipstick (disappointingly fictional). Both Rory and Lorelai regularly pine for Sephora, and many scenes are set within the Stars Hollow Beauty Supply Shop. In fact, during the pilot, the first spoken exchange involves a request to borrow a lip gloss.
The Gilmores are interested in makeup, fashion, and dating. They read glossy magazines and hang out in cosmetics aisles. What's remarkable—at least for network television—is that such interests are never presented as shallow or silly, as solely the domain of airheads or mean girls. Rather, they are bundled up with the rest of the characters’ ambitions, which include getting into an Ivy League college, starting a business, becoming a foreign correspondent, and being the best girl/woman, mother/daughter that they can be.
Which brings me back to my original line of inquiry: What does it mean to be a girl, and is it a limiting category that I've outgrown simply by aging? Gilmore Girls, I think, solves my dilemma by blurring the definition. While the word “girl' features prominently in the title, no value judgments are made about its meaning. From the outset, the characters strive to become better versions of themselves independent of cultural assumptions about age or gender.
The series takes traditional markers of female maturity, the things that we typically associate with the word “woman'—marriage, motherhood, careers—and places them out of joint. There is no singularly approved blueprint to follow, for either sex: the single teen mom gives birth to a valedictorian; the male town eccentric is the best clerk at the beauty shop. Controlling, skirt-suited matriarch Emily Gilmore is at her most charming when she indulges her girlish whims and, vibrant though Lorelai may be, we wish that she acted more adult and accountable.
Rather than choosing to see either girl- or womanhood as fixed points from which there is no return, series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino presents the two states of female maturity as dials to be tuned. Growth on the show (at least, for this fan) means acquiring a sense of self-possession, whether aged 18 or 32—lip gloss and all. Which is a good reason to indulge in a little binge watching…add a box of Mallomars and the Lorelais themselves would wholly approve.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.