'Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life' is a Parable for 2016
Editor’s note: Spoilers, obviously.
It took a few days for the reality of what I’d just seen to sink in. Surely this can’t be real, I thought - I must be in the midst of a very long, very lifelike nightmare. Alas, I hadn’t imagined Netflix’s Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. It happened, and it is 2016 in a nutshell: It’s not the TV we want or need, but it’s what we’re getting because damn it, history repeats itself and life is unfair.
With this four-part episodic addition to her original Gilmore Girls, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has managed to both drag us back in time and deliver an on-the-nose commentary for our current state of affairs. She finally got to deliver the final four words she’d always had in mind to end the series:
Rory: I’m pregnant.
The daughter of a once-teenaged mother is now set to be a single mother herself. No, being a single mother isn’t wrong. But in this context — in a show built on the premise of a young mother working her hardest to give her daughter the best opportunities she can as she hopes her life turns out differently than her own — it’s not the ending most fans would have chosen for her.
I’d have been devastated had this come when the series originally ended. Now, its cynicism is just too damn perfect.
Consider Gilmore Girls’ original run: October 2000 to May 2007, a good chunk of George W. Bush’s presidency. The series ended with Rory finally graduating Yale and heading off to cover the campaign of an exciting new political figure, Barack Obama. She had rejected the marriage proposal of on-again off-again boyfriend Logan and was ready to start her own life. It wasn’t the ending Sherman-Palladino wanted. Too happy.
Welcome to 2016!
Nine years later and we have indeed come full circle, having left the show in the history books along with a presidency that saw our country change with infringed liberties and endless wars only to return as we face a truly terrifying new administration that makes that era seem downright peachy. We’ve learned nothing. Actually, we’ve made things worse. And Sherman-Palladino’s four words are downright prescient, brilliant, damning.
Rory accomplished some things during our time away from her — published in the New Yorker and the Atlantic is progress! — but not enough. She became complacent and expected change to happen overnight with little effort. Lorelai and Luke kept an easy relationship in which they never truly communicated with each other. It was easier to shove aside their differences instead of addressing them head-on. And both Gilmore girls relied on their wealth or the wealth of others to see them through hard times, every time.
Things got scary, and so they retreated to what was comfortable, clung to what they’ve always known or have at least idealized into believing was better. Rory kept heading back to Logan, who is likely the father of her unborn child. Luke and Lorelai got married instead of hashing out their issues. And mother and daughter stuck to the humor of the Aughts and reveled in ugliness with their fat shaming of townsfolk at the Stars Hollow pool. The image of them reclining poolside as children served them has me wondering if they were always like this, or if time and a general desire to snub “political correctness” has them itching to push the limits of common decency.
Rory is facing what Lorelai faced, albeit starting motherhood at 32 instead of 16: A love triangle with Jess and Logan (a la Lorelai-Luke-Christopher) that gets to the heart of her identity crisis; the need to figure out how to survive financially and work hard, something she is not entirely used to; and the reliance on the wealth of others. She’s older and hopefully wiser than her mother was at this similar turning point, but will that be enough to break the cycle?
The Gilmores repeated themselves, and we shouldn’t be surprised. We repeat ourselves. And so, Life takes us back to bad habits and our less-evolved selves, and it’s everything we asked for.
Sarah Carlson is busy sobbing through a West Wing rewatch. You can find her on Twitter.
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