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After All These Years, Why Do Millennials Still Watch Gilmore Girls?

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Almost two decades later, millennials are still watching Gilmore Girls. What is it about this show that keeps us watching?


Recently, I was chatting with friends when one mentioned that each year around Christmas, she rewatched Gilmore Girls from start to finish. Surprisingly, many of us chimed in that we do the same at some point during the year. One even mentioned that she watches occasionally as a never-ending cycle that she turns on when she feels like she needs a good fix.

Would you assume rewatching the same show over and over again would get old? Yes.
Do we all keep doing it? Yes.

But as a die-hard Gilmore Girls fan myself, I can say with absolute certainty that this show never gets old. It’s a show that I’ll sometimes play in the background as a complete tedious work or clean my house—chuckling to myself as I hear one of my favorite lines and pausing to watch my favorite scenes. But it’s also the show that I come back to after a hard day when I just want to snuggle under my covers with a bag of Thai food and my laptop, watching the same episodes that I know 100% by heart.

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And I’m not alone in this. Millennials everywhere can’t get enough of this show. We cling to these characters like dear friends, laughing when they laugh and crying when they cry. It’s not just nostalgia. The Gilmore Girls taught us about life when we were awkward, overwhelmed teenagers—but here’s the kick, they still do.

The first episode aired on October 5th, 2000. Set in a picturesque yet eclectic Connecticut town, single-mom Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter, Rory make their way through life together, navigating friendships, relationships, goals, dreams and hardships. That’s it. There is no crazy plot or twist. Just a story about a mother and her daughter living life together.

The show is an even split between the life of Lorelai and Rory. Growing up in a wealthy but oppressive household, we learn that Lorelai rebelled at any chance she got, eventually finding herself pregnant at age 16. Fiercely independent, she ventures out and gets a job and raises her daughter, Rory, on her own. She and Rory create a friendship and bond different from any other mother-daughter relationship ever seen on TV. It’s not the embarrassing mom and angsty teenage daughter stereotype so often portrayed on screen. They’re best friends and mother and daughter at the same time, and it’s magical.

 

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For a young girl in a Britney Spears world, Rory Gilmore became my hero. This wildly intelligent, ivy-league bound, kind-hearted, witty teenager was everything that young women needed. She and her mother liked staying in for old movie nights with takeout. They poked fun at the perfect, cheerleader stereotype—the type of girl that so many of us felt intimidated by. They made it cool to love reading, old music and to know about movies like “Bringing up Baby” and shows like “I Love Lucy.” They both made mistakes but always worked to make things right.

Gilmore Girls affirmed that the girl that I was and wanted to be was not just good, but that it was actually cooler than what other shows and media were telling me was cool. And that women should want to grow up to be successful and important.

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While writer Sherman-Palladino didn’t set out to break ground in this regard, she was aware of the climate in which she was writing. “Women at the time, in TV, were split into two groups: there was the popular pretty girl or the angry girl who wore combat boots. As the cries of ‘make women stronger’ came out, all they did was take the same pretty woman and put a gun in her hand and have her run around in heels. The concept of strong women is still, and was especially then, a terrifying concept to a lot of the networks, because they were afraid that that’s not how people want to see women. But it is how women wanted to see women.”

The Gilmore Girls taught us about life when we were awkward, overwhelmed teenagers—but here’s the kick, they still do.

So what? you might be thinking. It’s great that this show gave you a role model as a teenager. This doesn’t explain why you still watch it over a decade later?

Because all those years that I, and other girls my age, identified with Rory, we now identify with Lorelai. The “grown-up” challenges that she faced, now relate on a deep level. When Lorelai sits on a park bench crying, overwhelmed by the stress, fear and responsibility of opening and running her own inn after years of managing a hotel, I think of the time I sat, paralyzed by fear, wondering if I would be good enough to run my own business.

It dawned on me that this show would never stop teaching us about life. Each time I watch, a different character or storyline relates to me in a way that it never has before.

Rory loses her virginity in college but her best friend, Lane, waits until marriage.

We watch Lorelai’s best friend Sookie celebrate with joy over her first pregnancy, then cry seasons later when she finds herself pregnant with her third child because she just feels so tired and doesn’t know how to muster up the strength for another baby.

Lorelai and her mother Emily struggle with their relationship—one moment we relate to Lorelai as she becomes frustrated with her mother’s unreasonable expectations and high-class lifestyle. But then, our hearts hurt for Emily as we see her desperately try to mend the relationship with her adult daughter in the only ways she knows how.

 

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This show doesn’t teach us one message, one “right” way, one life experience. It gives us so many moments to say “Oh, that’s me!” And to feel the comradery of others who might struggle with the same things in life that we do.

Their lives are far from perfect, but so are ours. They fail sometimes and so do we. But  I know that I’ll cry every time I watch the episode where Lorelai graduate college as a 30-something-year-old woman—because I graduated college after years of thinking it wasn’t in the cards for me. And I know that I’ll cry whenever I watch Lorelai—seasons later—stand to clap for Rory when it’s her turn to receive her diploma. Because I remember looking up to see my own parents applaud and embrace after I walked the stage at my graduation. One day, I’ll know how Emily feels watching her daughter and granddaughter graduate.

When Sherman-Palladino was asked to pick an episode that best sums up the show for anyone unfamiliar with it, she chose “Road Trip To Harvard” from the second season: Lorelai has called off an engagement and suggests a trip to Harvard to Rory as a distraction. “Then she sees that in a couple of years her whole life is going to change, because her daughter is going to be gone in this wonderful place. It’s a quiet episode, but it’s about these two women and how they belong to each other.”

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The Gilmore Girls belong to us: the millennials everywhere who needed to know—and still need to know—that they can be excellent, smart, overwhelmed, kind, confused and brave at the same time. The town of Stars Hollow, with snow softly falling on the town gazebo while Lorelai and Rory enjoy a coffee at Luke’s Diner, will never stop being relevant and never stop feeling like home. And that is why we’ll never stop watching.