When the real world is too much to handle and I find myself needing to soothe an onslaught of anxieties, or if I’m simply in need of some familiar background noise, I escape to a special place in my heart called Stars Hollow. It, of course, is not a real place, but the fictional town in which Gilmore Girls is set, and I tend to liken it to a coping mechanism all its own.
Like almost no one (or so I assume), I associate parts of my life thus far not only to what year I was in school or a significant event, but what television show I happened to be bingeing at the time. Fictional worlds have always been particularly important to be (shoutout to my last post), but one summer sticks out like a sore thumb. Between my junior and senior years of high school, I had planned to do a five-week musical theatre program at a performing arts boarding school in Massachusetts. Because of my separation anxiety and fears of living away from home/my parents, this was not something I was overwhelmingly looking forward to, but I thought I could hack it. Long story short, I was wrong, and was back home within a few days. Despite the guilt and shame I felt for not being able to partake in, let alone enjoy, what should have been an amazing opportunity, I felt overwhelming relief just to be home. I remember distinctly that, when I left, I had just started season 2 of Gilmore, and proceeded to finish the series within a month or so. Granted, I have no idea whether my brain somehow formed an association between that show and relief during what was a tumultuous time for me, or if I could have watched it at any time and still latched onto it, but for whatever reason, I did just that.
For those who are not familiar, Gilmore is a peak early aughts dramedy about a single mother and her daughter living in a small town and navigating relationships with friends, neighbors, classmates, coworkers, boyfriends, and, most notably, parents/grandparents. It’s known for valuing fast talking and rampant pop culture references above intriguing plot, which is probably one of the reasons I enjoy it so. I talk fast, am a useless current events fiend, and take to shows with unlimited rewatch value. For some reason, I never tire of the same episodes over and over (except for the ones about which I have intensely negative opinions—looking at you, season 7). Thusly, it is not simply a tedious coping mechanism I use to calm myself down. I watch it when I’m anxious, but also bored, tired, or simply too lazy to pick out anything else (which is often), so I know it like the back of my hand. I know which cold opens I find the most hilarious (2×12), can match episode numbers to titles, have strong feelings about story arcs (end of season 2 and early season 7 can go to hell), can compare the validity of Rory and Lorelai’s boyfriends, know which episodes include the entertaining town events (3×07), have a mental list of my favorite townies, and know the only scene that will legitimately make me cry (5×14).
“Rory’s Birthday Parties” (1×06), the episode I was watching earlier tonight (as a result of a wave of anxiety, of course), actually inspired me to write this article. In it, Emily Gilmore not-so-tactfully throws a birthday party for her granddaughter and invites an assortment of Rory’s peers, all of whom she doesn’t like very much and make her feel uncomfortable. The next night, Rory and her mother have a contrasting party in Stars Hollow filled with townies and friends of all ages—a party that is reminiscent of quite a few birthday parties from my own teen years (since I’ve never been very keen on—or good at—peer relationships). It’s these little things that comfort me not only as an anxious individual, but one who likes thoughtful, offbeat television.
People say that this show, especially the early seasons, is like a warm quilt and a cup of tea.
I agree, and will raise you a weighted blanket and a mood stabilizer—in my case, anyway. It’s not exactly a cult classic like Buffy or Twin Peaks, nor is it obscure by any means—I know many people who are fans and have even engaged in varying levels of rewatching—but I doubt they equate with it the same stability and comfort that I do. I hope some people do, though; it’s definitely healthier than some coping mechanisms I’ve come across. It is not prescribed, nor instructed, nor is it in any regimen of treatment one could find, but it fills me with comfort and safety and laughter and hope for a happy, small-town future, one with a motley assortment of characters and where small dreams are perfectly okay. Just as Stars Hollow is a home base for Rory as she grows, Gilmore Girls is my own Hollow, and will be as it stays on Netflix for eternity (god willing).