This blog isn’t meant for cult-TV analyses, but I just had to get my thoughts out:
The Gilmore Girls reboot was…subpar.
BUT, only for the Rory and Lorelai arcs, and only superficially. I do think, however, the stars of the show weren’t R&L. It was Emily Gilmore. Here’s why.
The reboot focused much on life and death, which is fitting considering Richard’s death. From the funeral scenes, to the Life-and-Death Brigade that was rather meant to pull Rory out of her funk (which is a kind of death), the show reboot focused on the circle of life. It also focused on finding your way in life…or not, as evidenced by the 30-something gang, who have lost their way in the world and have ended up back where they all presumably began their lives, in Stars Hollow.
Rory is no exception. She didn’t quite make her brilliant way in the world, she never “found herself,” or make a name for herself. She’s still…finding herself, and still making the same mistakes she’s made in the past: having an affair with a taken man, thinking she’s too good for a job that she ends up not being too good for, and squandering opportunities. This is no different, in some ways, from Lorelai, who has always seemed a bit lost, and in the reboot, wants to try figuring something out by going on a Gone hike.
But if you think about it, the, what I’m calling the original GG (the first 7 seasons) is about finding yourself, making a name for yourself, and making a life for yourself. Its values are about being true to yourself, either finding or making your own identity, and frankly, being independent.
Lorelai leaves her privileged upper-class life to find her first real job as a mother at the “Independence Inn”–how fitting a name for the journey she is about to take, and has already begun taking, by leaving her parents’ home. Then, when she’s older, she opens up her “Dragonfly Inn”–when she finally has the wings she needs to completely, or almost completely, make it on her own.
However, Lorelai and Rory have always needed grounding, which came from a man, regardless of the ‘independent-woman’ themes the show runs with. Lorelai needs Luke, and Rory needs Jess. Both times Rory was lost, first when she dropped out of Yale and was with Logan, and again when she’s aimless once more…and again with Logan, Jess helps direct her on a productive and soul-searching path. Jess grounds her.
When Lorelai goes on that Gone hike to find clarity and possibly, meaning, to her life, she never makes it on the trail. She never makes the journey, which I think is one of the major themes of the show overall: you can’t look beyond yourself to create your life, you have to look within, and really know yourself. You have to be self-aware and self-motivated.
So the show has always focused on independence and creating your own identity. And to do that, you have to look beyond your social circle and what you’re used to, and figure out what it is you want for yourself, and not what others expect you to be.
Emily does just that.
Emily’s identity was always caught up with Richard’s, first as his wife, and now, after his death, as his widow. But because of his death, she has to figure out who she is and what she wants and needs out of life. In the original, she touched upon this, classifying herself as Richard’s husband, and feeling envious that Lorelai is independent and knows how to use the computer and figure things out on her own.
Emily has always craved her own identity–or rather, has always wanted an identity, found it as a wife and a member of the DAR, but has now lost all of that.
Something that I thought was symbolic was Richard’s painting. Emily makes a mistake and commissions a painting with the wrong dimensions–the painting takes up an entire wall and looms over the room. This is symbolic of Richard looming over Emily’s life–not oppressively or domineeringly, but simply because he was her husband and generationally, that worked for them.
Emily rarely makes mistakes like giving the wrong measurements. This is a lapse in judgment that could be chalked up to her mourning and not thinking straight, but I think it goes beyond that and symbolized that Emily has always tied herself to Richard and his life, and still wants the comfort of that life and identity.
Towards the end, she has the painting re-commissioned, this time ending up with a painting that is more reasonable and portable. You see the painting hanging lovingly on the wall of her Nantucket house. Emily will always carry Richard in her heart, he will always have a place in her life, but the weight of being “Mrs. Richard Gilmore” is gone, and she is now her own woman–a major value of the show as a whole. Further, the painting is portable: she’s not tied down to the life she made with him. She gives up/is kicked out of the DAR, and decides she wants to sell the house she and Richard made a home in for half a century.
This theme/value of the self and independence is further evidenced when Emily says,
“I’ve never bought anything big before.
Your father bought this house and our cars.
All my credit cards still say, “Mrs. Richard Gilmore.”
But the Sand Castle? The Sand Castle says, “Owner: Emily Gilmore.”
She is no longer “Mrs. Richard Gilmore.” She isn’t a “Daughter of the American Revolution.” She isn’t a socialite of sorts, or a hostess, or “just” a mother and grandmother.
She doesn’t need Richard to ground her, or guide her, or direct her life, like her daughter and granddaughter seem to need someone to do for them.
She is self-aware and self-directed. She finds contentment once she is true to herself (something that L&R still need to learn in their lives).
She rightfully takes her place as the Gilmore Matriarch now that she espouses the values of the self that the show is founded on (moreso than L&R have ever done).
She is “Emily Gilmore.” And she is her own woman.