Gilmore Girls: The Parent Problem

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, dear friends. Know that I missed all of you just as much as you missed me. I was “doing the healthy thing” and not watching as much television, but have no fear! I’ve fallen off the wagon. Hallelujah! And for what has my brief experiment in TV abstinence been broken? Gilmore Girls. I’m actually very glad for this, though. Before I had my Tony award nominated semiregular blog, I had a large critique of this show, and now, adoring public, I finally get to share it. Aren’t you excited?

Gilmore Girls is probably the definition of sweet and adorable. It’s like the show version of a cup of tea when it’s snowing. Everything from the soft indie music score to the early 2000s camera quality tugs at the ol’ heart strings. It is a show that’s built on a foundation of likable and interesting characters that works best when it relies on pre-existing elements rather than tackling higher concepts. It is a show that sets a high standard and stays at it. No episode is bad, but you never leave it thinking “holy shit, my life is different now.” It is the perfect binging show (Except for that Netflix season which was complete trash, but we don’t talk about that).

Still, despite it’s high quality, if everything was rosy I wouldn’t have a job, so, even though Gilmore Girls is a show with almost all positive qualities, there is one conspicuous problem that I want to hit on. Spoilers ahead, people.

The show is predicated on the strained relationship between Lorelai Gilmore and her parents, especially her mother. In the first episode, Lorelai makes a deal with them to come by for dinner every week in exchange for money to pay for her daughter’s schooling. Hijinks ensues, and the contentious dinners provide fodder for many an episode. Gilmore Girls is by far not the only show to employ this sort of story line where an estranged and somewhat dickish parent attempts to re-enter their child’s life. There’s issues at first, but in the end the parent sees the error of their ways, and everyone hugs and laughs and has a party. The important bit of the story is when the parents realize they need to be better people, and they are then forgiven.

Except that never happens in Gilmore Girls. All the makings of the execution are there: elitism, snooty comments, selfishness, and plenty of fireplaces to hug it out in front of, but it never happens. Emily and Richard Gilmore remain distinctly bad people. Even through the show’s final season, they still make decisions that undermine their daughter and granddaughter as well as being generally unpleasant to be around. Without this eventual resolution, the show feels somewhat incomplete. For the first season, it’s fine, but it can get very wearing for the viewer to constantly have to wonder why we have to sympathize with people who are constantly bad to the protagonists we’ve grown attached to.

It is easy to understand why the show runners chose to do this. In most shows, this story line is a two or three episode arc, but Gilmore Girls bases an entire series around it. If Emily and Richard suddenly realize the error of their ways then the show becomes less interesting as it loses the central conflict. In some ways, this is the show producing an accurate representation of life. People don’t always change, and there aren’t always happy endings bursting with hot cocoa. Still, in a show like Gilmore Girls that seems like it takes place in a snow globe, this missing plot point sticks out jarringly from an otherwise excellent show.

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