By Erin Gardhouse
It’s no surprise that many Gilmore Girls fans were left disappointed by the absence of a last-minute engagement for at least one of the girls on the series finale that aired May 15, 2007, and signaled the end of the beloved show’s seventh and last season. For a show about two colourful small-town single women, isn’t an engagement the closure we expect when they bid adieu, in exchange for the years of racing home and eating dinner in front of the television? But no Gilmore Girls fan should have really expected a perfect romantic happy ending. If Rory first rejecting Logan Huntzberger’s heartfelt marriage proposal at her graduation party and then leaving in a horse-drawn carriage with — that’s right, her mother — didn’t already clue us in during the second-to-last episode, it was driven home in the finale: above all, this was a show about two strong, ambitious and funny women, who only need each other, and happen to be mother and daughter.
Despite the idealistic concept of a mother and daughter who are truly each other’s best friend, most viewers — daughters, moms, and men who have confessed in exchange for anonymity (TV Editor: I don’t know what she’s talking about) — always felt like they were in the presence of something familiar and real, eerily echoing their own lives. Many young women who have followed the show devotedly and are in their early twenties now, found in the trials and triumphs of Rory Gilmore parallels to their own lives. Even if they didn’t have to make the painstaking choice between attending one of two top universities in the United States, and their idea of a job search requires less than seventy-four resumes, they — like Rory — probably settled into university at the same time, challenged their deepest friendships, and broke down when it looked like everyone else around them had a plan after graduation while they were still grasping at straws. And while we admired Rory for her tenacity and grace, we were admittedly relieved when she proved to be less than perfect — whether it was losing her virginity to a married ex-boyfriend, or not getting the New York Times Fellowship — because that just made her more like us. A true “girlfriend girl,” Rory made geeky cool, and her understated sexiness and increasingly enviable wardrobe never overshadowed her ambition and heart.
No doubt Rory got her spunk — not to mention her fast-talking habits and diet — from her mother. But Lorelei Gilmore is more than just the other half of a duo that can eat “pancakes with a side of pancakes” and stay thin, for she is witty and complex in her own right. At times the adolescent that never got to be an adolescent (due to her teenage pregnancy) comes out, but ultimately Lorelai is a picture of strength for anyone who doesn’t fit in with their environment. She rebelled against the high-society life of her parents, and has always felt alienated from the other mothers at Rory’s schools, because she didn’t have the same car, the same clothes, and was young enough to be their daughter herself. But Lorelai carved a life for herself and her daughter in the gossipy small town of Stars Hollow, working her way up from being a maid at an inn to being the owner of her own establishment. So when the town celebrates Rory’s accomplishments, they are really celebrating Lorelai’s. As her own father says at Rory’s farewell party: “It takes a remarkable person to inspire all this.” With strong leads like these, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino showed a remarkable talent for writing women’s voices. After Sherman-Palladino left the show at the end of the sixth season, the rapid-fire dialogue, littered with obscure pop-culture references (affectionately coined Gilmore-isms) continued, but fans worried about the fate of the Girls. Not the least of these worries was that Lorelai would wind up with two-dimensional Christopher (Rory’s father) over the miserly but lovable Luke. Indeed, the whirlwind marriage early in Season 7 — which dissipated as quickly and meaninglessly as it arose — was the centre of a controversy that had everyone predicting an early end to the show. (On tv.com, the episode “French Twist”, where Lorelai and Chris get married, received the lowest viewer ratings of the series.) Of course, curious plot missteps and inconsistencies were not unique to the final season, despite what some fans may have you think. For example, whatever happened to the “real writing job” Rory landed in Season 6, after the long and heartbreaking rift between mom and daughter? It was a symbol of Rory’s ambition and independence, a turning point in her character development, which was then overshadowed by the drama at the Yale Daily News and the appearance of Luke’s “new” 13-year-old daughter. Rory’s “job” was scarcely mentioned again.
Regardless, every season of Gilmore Girls was worth watching whether that be for its main characters, or even the support characters who remained one of the strengths of the show as they deepened throughout the seasons to illuminate important themes, like the nature of family. The close familial relationship between Lorelei and Rory was contrasted with that of Lorelei and her parents, Emily and Richard, which beautifully showed family conflicts and generational divides. An even more complex example was Lane’s relationship with her conservative Korean mother. Watching friendship and conflict develop between the rock and roll teen and her straight-laced religious mother was a delight, and a necessary departure from the easy compatibility that Rory and Lorelai emanated. Similarly, the exploration of class issues was accomplished by Rory’s pursuits in Emily’s Daughters of the Revolution group, as well as by the contrast between her relationship with Dean — who never went to college, married young, and worked at a supermarket — and her relationship with trust-fund beneficiary Logan Huntzberger. But of course, these characters were not there to wave a finger in our face and teach us an important lesson. They were colourful, funny, and at times creepy (Kirk’s sash, anyone?) but all of them, in some way, reminded of us of people we know in the real world. And the series finale saw them at their best. Could Taylor have possibly made a finer farewell speech than the one littered with birthing metaphors? Could Luke have summed up his feelings for Lorelai in a way truer to his character than by saying: “I just like to see you happy”? Although Seasons 5 and 6 had us picturing at least one wedding (Luke and Lorelei), not to mention the possibility of an addition to the Gilmore family — and we will always wonder how Sherman-Palladino would have ended it from there — the end of the series ended as it should. Even if we can’t be sure exactly what will happen for everybody, the show left us with the feeling that it has always given us, and what made it so great. It left us feeling that things were exactly as they should be and that it’s all going to be OK. Kind of like real life.