Monday 16 January 2017

Gilmore Girls reboot: Is it horribly out of touch?

As the ladies from Stars Hollow return to our screens, our reporter considers whether the show is a balm to the soul in turbulent times or horribly out of touch

Published 25/11/2016 | 07:00

The light-hearted Gilmore Girls is a far cry from The Walking Dead
The light-hearted Gilmore Girls is a far cry from The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead
BACK: Lauren Graham (left) stars as Lorelai and Alexis Bledel plays her daughter Rory in ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’
Lorelai and Rory Gilmore
The Gilmore Girls cast. Picture: Gilmore Girls/ The CW

I've had today's date marked in my calendar for months. No, not because it's one month until Christmas, nor because it's pay day. Today is the day the long-awaited Gilmore Girls reboot premieres on Netflix: four 90 minute episodes, each focusing on a season of the year, and I, for one, can't wait to lose myself in each and every one.

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You might think that makes me a complete saddo and, look, you could be right. But the truth is, I need the Gilmore Girls in my life right now. Unlike so much on television at the moment (Gogglebox the exception), it is a unique balm for the soul. Having rewatched all seven seasons over the past few months, I'm quite simply chomping at the bit to return to the fictional town of Stars Hollow. I want to pretend such a place exists, full of whimsy and good people.

Because 2016 has been a pretty crappy year. From Trumpism to Brexit to Aleppo to the alt-right, the news is full of things to make people afraid. We lost some of our greatest cultural icons in the form of David Bowie, Prince and Muhammad Ali, to name but a few. Closer to home, it seems we're a nation under siege by anxiety, in conflict over the Eighth Amendment and dealing with a homelessness crisis our leaders don't seem to know how to resolve.

So forgive me if I'm in the humour for a little light relief - forgive all of us seeking solace in not-so guilty pleasures.

BACK: Lauren Graham (left) stars as Lorelai and Alexis Bledel plays her daughter Rory in ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’
BACK: Lauren Graham (left) stars as Lorelai and Alexis Bledel plays her daughter Rory in ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’

As much as I enjoy Game Of Thrones, Westworld and The Walking Dead, I don't want to be immersed in gore, sex and violence all the time. I watched Sharon Horgan and Sarah Jessica Parker's new show Divorce expecting belly laughs and glamour - instead, I saw a family fall apart (I guess the clue was in the title).

Right now, I just want to watch something nice - something light but with depth, funny but not gross-out - to allow me to escape just a little. For me, that's the world of Stars Hollow, a world where the most pressing dilemma is whether you're Team Dean or Team Jess.

For the uninitiated, allow me to explain. Gilmore Girls ran from 2000 to 2007 on American television, landing here not long after. It tells the story of Lorelai Gilmore, her teenage daughter Rory and, to a lesser extent, her mother Emily.

Lorelai is a single mother who had her only child at 16 and fled her suffocating life of privilege in a posh Connecticut suburb for the small town of Stars Hollow. They say it takes a village to raise a child and that was the case with Rory. But the two have a happy life - an incredibly close relationship, plenty of friends and enough to get by.

That is, until Rory's obvious intelligence means she's destined for an Ivy League education. This leads her mother to place her in a private school that costs a fortune, forcing her to turn to her parents for financial help. If it sounds quite simple, that's because it is. Not an awful lot happens in the series. It's a show about relationships, personal ups and downs, and being true to oneself. It drew us in because most of us could relate to either teenage Rory or 30-something Lorelai, their friendships and romantic foibles. There are no major twists or cliffhangers, nobody gets disembowelled (spoiler alert!). There isn't even that much sex, and if there is, it's strictly PG.

The dialogue is witty and rapidly paced, the pop culture references come thick and fast and there's a soothing chorus of "la la las" every few minutes. It paints a picture of the small-town America I've always dreamed of - leafy New England is almost pornographic in its visual perfection, everyone eats massive breakfasts at the local diner and it's as kitsch, quaint and idyllic as can be.

Lorelai and Rory Gilmore
Lorelai and Rory Gilmore

But now in Trump's America, can we even buy in to this fantasy anymore? Can America-philes like me coo over Thanksgiving turkeys and Fourth of July cook-outs when reality tells us that many small towns in the States aren't really that friendly or welcoming to anyone that isn't white, straight and relatively wealthy?

Gilmore Girls could be seen as horribly out of touch when one thinks of what the new President-elect represents. The show has been accused of being whitewashed and insular, with poor representations of people of colour and the LGBT community.

And yes, it is largely a show about privileged white people, but so are countless others that I love: Sex And The City, Friends, Frasier. And I don't care if it's not very realistic - when I want realism, I watch the news.

In fact, Netflix is where I often find myself turning these days. When network TV is pulling out all the stops with more blood, more devastation and more shock-factor to bring in viewers, the online streaming behemoth is spending billions on original programming. I'm thrilled the company is behind this reboot - with creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and virtually all the original cast back, I trust them with this beloved material.

So allow me to binge on Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life this weekend. I know I won't be alone - Irish people young and old have been hotly anticipating the reboot on social media.

If you never watched the original series, now is a good time to start... and you'll have the catch-up movies nine years later to ease the pain of finishing.

The Gilmore Girls cast. Picture: Gilmore Girls/ The CW
The Gilmore Girls cast. Picture: Gilmore Girls/ The CW

Now, let's just hope they're bloody good.

Irish Independent

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