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Essay: The Gilmore Girls – analysing the revival

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  • Published: 24 January 2023*
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An episode of The Flash entitled “Flashpoint” follows a superhero travelling to the past in an attempt to revive his mother.  By doing so, The Flash rewrites history and attains the life he had always envisioned.  He soon discerns that his actions do not come without ramifications as his new utopian world soon begins to combust, forcing him to reverse his path and scrape his way back to reality.  However, the life to which he returns does not mirror the one he once had.  The Flash essentially establishes three separate timelines: the flawed original, the self-destructive fantasy, and the altered reality.  Now, he can never return to his first life as he has sent it into oblivion. The same is true for the creator of the beloved television program Gilmore Girls, Amy Sherman-Palladino, who attempted to time travel to the past when she revived the show in the four-film series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.  Because she left the original show before its conclusion, she viewed the reunion as her opportunity to rewrite the story’s ending.  As a result, three different timelines emerged: the show’s actual ending, Sherman-Palladino’s desired ending, and the revival’s re-creation of her vision.  Sherman-Palladino believed her revival would remedy the original show’s unfit conclusion, an idea that only further damaged the story and its characters.

Sherman-Palladino left Gilmore Girls in April 2006, a time when MySpace prevailed and Pluto was a planet.  There were no IPhones or African-American presidents.  Over the past decade, however, our society has undergone substantial changes, and so have we, the exception being Sherman-Palladino.  The moment she departed the show, she clicked pause and left her vision of the story in 2006.  A decade later, she found her way back to that outdated, no longer relevant remote control and hit “play”.  The revival picked up where Sherman-Palladino left off, a place that now existed solely in her imagination.  As a result, she implemented the concluding message she had envisioned in 2006 into the 2016 reunion series, essentially neglecting the elapsed time.  By ending with a single, pregnant Rory, Sherman-Palladino aimed to represent the circle of life through mirroring Lorelai’s past.  This pattern was an overarching theme throughout the original show: the theme song even said “where you lead, I will follow.”  While this premise may have been the ideal conclusion for the 2006 Gilmores, we are no longer in 2006.  When Lorelai became pregnant, she was forced to choose between her long-standing dreams of attending an Ivy League school and the responsibility that came with teenage parenthood.  By choosing Rory, she sacrificed her hopeful career and success.  Likewise, 2006 Rory would have had to choose between her potential to be a successful journalist and her chance to be a mother.  However, in 2016, the choice has already been made for her as she has no job, dreams, or ambition; a child would not inconvenience her or deter her goals in life, given she currently has none.  The staggering difference between teenage Lorelai and adult Rory eliminates the parallel that Sherman-Palladino wanted to create.  She demonstrated that we are not destined to end up like our parents since Rory, simply, does not end up like her mother.  When Sherman-Palladino left the original show before writing the ending, something was broken that nothing (not even a six hour revival) could repair.  A decade later, she tried to glue the scattered pieces back together, but the cracks were too visible to ignore.  She should have let the abandoned and long-forgotten remains where they belong: in the past.

In the original series, Rory personified the future I imagined for myself; she achieved then extended past my aspirations, something that had always resided in and inspired me.  When I saw her get accepted into her dream school, become the valedictorian, and then begin a journalism career with ample potential, I thought that I, too, could transform my dreams into reality.  However, where I once found comfort in her character, I now find complete dissatisfaction, thanks to Sherman-Palladino’s revival.  The films compromised and diminished every bit of respect I once held for Rory.  Sherman-Palladino banished the hard-working, decent Rory, and replaced the beloved character with immoral counterpart.  This new Rory was indifferent toward her career, repeatedly unfaithful to her boyfriend, and more entitled and stubborn than ever.  Although Rory sometimes acted in such an immoral manner throughout the original series, it was okay because she was a teenager, and that’s what being a teenager is all about: growing up by fucking up.  At 32, she should have matured or, at the very least, learned from her past mistakes.  She is ten years older, yet has not aged a day.  Her representation reveals Sherman-Palladino’s betrayal.  The original series emphasized optimism and persistence, whereas the reunion highlights pessimism and failure.

The lack of realism in the reunion films tainted not only these six hours, but also the preceding seven years of material I love.  Correction: loved.  Sherman-Palladino laid too much emphasis on Luke and Lorelai’s struggle to communicate.  While it is unlikely that Luke and Lorelai still would be unmarried after ten years, I can choose to look past that.  However, the idea that they never have even discussed the possibility of having more children is too unrealistic to accept.  Lorelai deeply desires to and is surpassing the ideal age to have kids, but didn’t think it was important to mention it to her boyfriend of a decade.  This lack of discussion stretched the silence an inch too far.  Nay, a mile too far.  Until now, the storylines in Gilmore Girls always had maintained the perfect balance of allowing us to escape our own world and hardship, while simultaneously instilling a sense of realism.  The hyperbolic, pointless conflict between the couple strips such equilibrium away.  Once we begin to see its unrealistic nature, our perspective on the show becomes irreversibly skewed.  Now, when my eyes zone in on the characters, my once-perfect vision is clouded.  Unlike Sherman-Palladino, I cannot travel back in time and replace someone else’s story with the one I want.  So, I guess from here on out I’ll just have to suck it up when I watch, squinting my eyes at the screen as I try to make sense of the blurry faces.  The faces that were once so familiar somehow will be partially unrecognizable.  I will never again be able to see them in the same way I used to, forever plagued by Sherman-Palladino’s failures.

The revival’s flop demonstrates the unnecessary nature of resurrecting stories.  The reunions are always built up in a way that makes disappointment inevitable.  Sequels and revivals never satisfy us because each person envisions the characters’ growth and future after the narrative’s conclusion in a different way.  To fulfill every fan’s imagination and expectation would be to achieve the impossible.  As a result, the majority walk away regretting their decision to engage in the plot’s afterlife; once the nostalgia washes away, they are left with nothing but unfulfilled wishes.  Writers ignore this fate and knowingly pick up the crumbs left by their predecessors because each one believes she can disprove the predetermined outcome, but she is always wrong.  Now, all we can do is await the crash of this pipe dream that continuously bears dissatisfaction.

Originally published 15.10.2019

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