I may be the only person still watching Gilmore Girls, but it’s one of those situations of intense stubbornness after hanging on for seven seasons, and I struggle to admit just how far it’s fallen. This set of thoughts is divided into three parts, however, and this one is titled “The good”. The bad and the ugly are still to come.
Gilmore Girls is the quintessential dramedy, which means that other than our lead characters and a few choice others, most of the characters are really more caricatures than people. Even Lorelai’s parents, Emily and Richard, waver between cardboard cutouts and individuals with some genuine depth of motivation–the actors playing them are both quite brilliant, so kudos to them for bringing the depth. In my opinion, it’s when Emily shows some of her real self that this show really and truly shines.
Emily is of a generation and social class to which I do not belong, nor do I really relate, but that I can imagine emotionally when she talks about it with a level of self-awareness. In her world, being “Richard Gilmore’s wife” means that she acts entirely as the woman supporting the great man so that he can accomplish great things. She organizes and coordinates so that his home life runs smoothly, and she works very, very hard to maintain the front that is required by their social stature. Now, that’s obviously not a model of what feminism has done for us, and I think I’d be insane within 30 seconds of living that life. It also means that she deviates into controlling and domineering fairly regularly, but when it starts to break down and she realizes she doesn’t know how to be anything else, I feel her pain. She’s really envious of her daughter’s independence, and I love to see a strong, independent woman as much as the next feminist (whether Lorelai really is that is the subject of “Part 2: The bad”), but I also appreciate a character who can make me relate to women who, for whatever reason, never really had or saw that they had that option, and the feelings inherent in a lifetime of living that way. Emily has made a couple of really moving speeches to Lorelai in recent episodes that have softened Lorelai and made her understand a little better too. One was about how she was dealing with her fear after Richard’s heart attack by coordinating and organizing and playing the social role because she was afraid to lose him, and because that’s what she’s always done. The other was about how she has always lived with Richard as though they were paddling a canoe together, whereas Lorelai has been in a kayak on her own, paddling both sides.
It’s a clearly non-feminist character in a clearly non-feminist role within her life and marriage, but it’s one–again, when they let her deviate from caricature–that is capable of making me see the world a little more through her own eyes. That’s pretty much what I’ve got for “the good” right now. Negativity to come.