Gilmore Girls: Guilty Pleasure in a Hair Shirt

gilmore-girlsOkay, I admit it – lately I’ve become addicted to Gilmore Girls. It wasn’t on my radar when the original series was broadcast in the early 2000’s. And I wasn’t sufficiently appreciative when my son pointed out the town set in 2010 when he was showing me around LA. But when the recent sequel A Year in the Life dropped on Netflix around Christmas last year my visiting daughter and daughter-in-law eagerly watched it, and drew me in. I wasn’t exactly wowed, but my curiosity was spurred to take a look at the original series and after a few episodes I was hooked.

Many things initially annoyed me about the characters, especially the mother-daughter role reversal and Lorelai’s over-indulgent and often juvenile approach to child-rearing. Yet when I finished an episode it wasn’t long before I wanted to watch the next one. And then the next. It’s become my latest guilty pleasure.

But it’s a guilty pleasure with a hair shirt. Even as I relish the fast-paced, smart dialogue and Lauren Graham’s remarkable acting prowess in portraying the wounded vulnerability of the flawed and charming Lorelai, I get annoyed. Not by the characters or the sometimes silly plot lines or even the stereotypes of rich and working class characters. I can put up with all that. It’s the inaccurate details that get to me.

gilmore-girls2The series is set in a fictional town in Connecticut and in nearly every episode there’s at least one detail related to the setting that’s wrong. These inaccuracies probably wouldn’t bother me at all if the series was set in a region I wasn’t intimately familiar with. But it’s set in New England, where I’ve lived most of my life, so each time a detail doesn’t ring true, it jerks me out of the story.

In my writing I take the details very seriously. I go to great lengths to keep it real enough so that anyone who’s personally familiar with the setting won’t find the novel jarring. I spend years researching details. Perhaps I’m too obsessive. But I want to avoid doing anything to “break the spell” of the novel I’m trying to bring to life on the page.

Most of these Gilmore Girls details I’m grumbling about are small, it’s true. Such as affixing a “the” to the interstate number, e.g. “the 95” instead of simply saying “95” as every New Englander does. Or winter scenes in which snow falls on fully-leafed out trees. Or a character complaining that it’s too cold to be outside because it’s forty degrees. They don’t have an impact on the plot lines or the wonderful dialogue. And maybe most viewers don’t even notice – let alone care.
But it happened again yesterday when I watched an episode that was supposed to take place on Valentine’s Day. The main characters took a trip to Martha’s Vineyard, off Cape Cod. And though they wore hats and jackets, the lawns were all bright green, the trees were fully leafed out, there were flowering plants on the patio and sailboats plying the water, and the characters had supper outside on a deck overlooking the ocean.  Supposedly in the middle of February. On an island off Cape Cod that a month ago (in 2017) was digging out after getting a foot of snow.  All wrong!

Sometimes there’s nothing to do but laugh.

Okay, now that I’ve ranted, I feel better. I’m going to continue watching the rest of the series. Then I plan to re-watch the sequel to catch its nuances. And I expect to enjoy it. I’ll try not to let the inaccurate details bother me. Instead, when they pop up, I’ll think of my son, who’s lived in LA long enough to consider 40 degrees “cold.” And who recently attended a party on the Warner Brothers lot, complete with gently falling fake snow.gilmore-girls-winter


Fear Itself

My parents were married during World War II and I was born a few years after it ended, which makes me a Boomer. My generation has often been unfavorably compared with our parents’ generation. We’re often portrayed as self-absorbed, narcissistic, and materialistic. Sometimes we were called the “Me” generation. On the other hand, we were generally idealistic, optimistic, and remarkably lucky. We were the beneficiaries of sustained economic growth, and incredible scientific and pharmaceutical advances. We were shaped by the Cold War and the Vietnam conflict. We questioned everything.

rooselveltsWe grew up in the shadow of Franklin Roosevelt. He was both revered and reviled. The two sides of my family held opposing views of his presidency, so for many years I was confused about how to think about him. When I was quite young the animosity was so strong on the paternal side that some relatives elected to call my mother “Ellen” rather than her given name. “Eleanor” reminded them of Eleanor Roosevelt whose only crime seemed to be that she had married Franklin.

My mother’s family, on the other hand, was generally favorable toward the Roosevelts and particularly admiring of Eleanor’s accomplishments. (My mother dearly loved her in-laws and never objected, in my hearing at least, to being renamed.) Eventually I formed my own view of the Roosevelts based on what I learned in my reading and studies. My political coming-of-age was during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, which were exciting and tumultuous times, so Roosevelt was tucked in the distant background of my consciousness. In my mind, his administration belonged to my parents.

But his words have become starkly relevant to me as I’ve reflected on our current social and fearpolitical climate. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he proclaimed in his first inaugural address during the depths of the Great Depression. How I wish we had political leaders who could inspire us with that kind of courage and optimism! But to me it seems that from every side most of what we’re hearing today is aimed at stoking fear.

But in my experience the American people, for all our faults, are not cowardly or pessimistic. We don’t like consuming fear with our morning coffee. At our best we are helpful and generous. Even us Boomers. So maybe I’m looking in the wrong place. Maybe it’s not our leaders we need to be listening to right now.

Maybe it’s our neighbors.