The Stars Hollow we know and love is a place where nothing happens. Where Kirk breaks in and installs an alarm system, and nothing happens. Where half of a foreshortened table for the Festival of Living Pictures goes missing, and nothing happens. The plots revolve around two lives predominantly, four lives more broadly, and the living, breathing ins and outs of a small town, gently, and nothing happens. Birth happens, death happens – and yet, nothing happens. The Stars Hollow you grew up with, or were introduced to recently by way of Netflix, exists in an unshaken snow globe, where the seasons change but nothing in the way of global warming, or broken hips on slicks of ice, ever happens.
November came, and Amy Sherman-Palladino shook the snow globe.
She didn’t give Stars Hollow an alien invasion (with the exception of Kirk, who has been there so long that he has assimilated), or even a political upheaval. Instead, she did something pretty simple, and pretty unbearable: she removed the filter.
There is a harsh reality in coming back to the show some 9 years after it last aired. We, as viewers, have changed. You’re older, probably a bit uglier, maybe a bit ruder and nastier and more jaded. 2016 has poked you in the side and called you a moron, but more than that: you Google more. You know more. When you watched it the first time around, on television, with ads, you didn’t know their real names. You didn’t know that Luke used to be a professional baseball player, or that Alexis Bledel was a native Spanish speaker. You didn’t care.
You know everything now. That Melissa McCarthy didn’t want to come back. That Alexis Bledel had just had a baby. You know the backstories and you’re actively involved in popping the bubble. You jab more, you question more. You’re no rosy-cheeked kid: you’re an amateur investigative journalist, and a Daily Mail reader and an expert on Botox.
You’re different. But no one’s holding a camera up to you and asking that you look and act and feel exactly the same way you did nearly a decade ago (I was in my first year of university, drinking Smirnoff by the bottle and writing naïve essays on New Zealand judicial system, what were you doing?).
Luke looks older. He’s gone a bit grey and softened at the jaw. His chest has thickened and his brow has drawn down. He looks a bit like your least-favourite uncle, who drinks 5 beers on the trot and goes into the garage to chop things into smaller things just to get away from you and your cousins. You don’t sort-of-wonder what it would be like to have sex with him anymore. You wonder about his nipples, whether they’re drooping in that older-man way. The single bed above the diner isn’t cute. Why won’t he open a franchise? Is this really enough for him? It’s not enough for you.
Lorelai doesn’t look the same. She’s still beautiful, of course, but not in that disarming, charming, break-you-apart way that she had: in the denim shorts and the wrap-around dresses and the wholly impractical skinny-knit scarves. She frowns more. She looks like the you you see in the mirror, or the one you might see soon – tougher, braver and also colder. A little bit disappointed. A little bit disappointing.
And Rory? Well, that’s the thing about coming to fame as an apricot-faced teen: she still looks completely beautiful. She’s post-pregnancy, our Alexis, and that’s lent her a glow she might not otherwise have. It’s also given her breasts, but we can ignore those. Rory doesn’t have breasts. Rory has brains.
Or does she? It’s not just time doing the damage, or shaking the snow globe, if we want to keep going with the metaphor, which I do. There’s Amy, standing above, shaking her head. We, her viewers, these expectant millennials, are her greatest blessing and her ultimate burden. We made her a contender, but we weren’t enough – we didn’t convert to Bunheads and we stuck it out through that maligned seventh season, even if we didn’t like it much. We’re still asking, what about the campaign trail? Why didn’t Rory send stuff to Christiane Amanpour?
This is Amy’s snow globe. She has come back, and she is asking you to stick with her vision: a Stars Hollow in which the seventh series didn’t happen, in which we have to rewrite our memories, even the good ones. Luke never sewed together all those tents. That didn’t happen. Logan didn’t propose. The second heart attack has been re-written.
Ignore Amy for a little bit here. Here is what happened in my imaginary Gilmore Girls reboot, the one I put together from memory and hope and pure attachment: Rory is now a features editor for the New York Times. She lives in the city, she is still friends with Lucy and Olivia, she is celebrated and vaunted and successful. But she protests and pickets – she cares. She makes a difference. She gets trolled on the internet. She has been subject to death threats. She stands up for what she believes in. Her mother visits her on the weekends and they have heady expensive dinners, and go to the theatre. They don’t stand in lines. And she’s with Jess, of course, because feminism be damned: my favourite fictional romance will get its happy ending. She deserves it. I deserve it. They have lots of sex and eat Deliveroo in their underwear. And they’re happy. She’s the yo-pro dream; the Millenial ideal.
Lorelai and Luke are married and have babies. She has expanded the inn, then sold it, and is a consultant. She travels, sometimes with Suki, sometimes without. Her problems aren’t really problems, like expressing breast milk and a lowered libido, her problems are fake problems, like that Luke is still trying to serve her baked chips. She is happy. Luke is happy. I am happy.
The rest is less important, but still very much decided upon by me: Paris is gay, and a judge, and a surgeon. Lane has left Zac and is a good mother but also a successful person. She finished university. She achieved something. I don’t care what – she just got to experience something outside of the snow globe.
Emily? Amy got Emily right. I’ll keep that Emily, every bit of her. Emily is perfect. So is Kirk. And Petal.
It’s not just the plot-lines, which were not as I imagined, that I mourn: it’s the filter. It’s the glow. It’s the sense that nothing from the outside world can eke in and wreck it. Even the failures in the original series were rewritable: Rory lost out on an internship, but would still succeed. Luke and Lorelai split but could still have a glorious, impossible, infinite love-affair.
The reboot smacked me in the face with a 2016-branded realism.
Rory is a failed writer, and not only that, a crappy person. She whines, and cheats, and enables further cheating. She paws at the remnants of her mother’s privacy and independence to scrape together some vestige success. She relies heavily on old friendships, and the last bits of her wide-eyed beauty. She’s vain, and arrogant, and boring.
Lorelai is bored. “They want more, and this is all you are”, foretold Dean, and there it is: Lorelai is bored. But not only that, she’s also boring: abandoned by her bestie, trying to make a 2006 business succeed in 2016, holding back her friend, upsetting her partner, allowing her daughter to wander off-track.
Lane is a housewife. Zac is balding. Miss Kim is a caricature. Richard is dead.
I watched it (twice) with an open mind, and I get it: life is not filtered, personal journeys do not come with inbuilt blessings, no one is perfect, and it’s supposed to be soothing for me, in some way, to be shown that even Rory can fall, and fail. This is Amy turning around to her audience and saying: sorry, darlings, but this is where we’re at. You’ll never own a house. You’ll never know job security. Copper boom. You’re doing alright.
But that’s not why we watched it. I shouldn’t speak for you, but I’ll speak for me, and my sisters, and my friends now watching it for the first time, gripped by it, drawn in by the absolute deliciousness of nothing happening. No terror, no doubt, no fear – only banter and dogs and burgers and lazy crazy hazy days of summer. There are any number of shows about the perfect family in the perfect town that subvert that perfection, but few – so few – that let the perfection live on, uncorrupted, ever-perfect.
And now there’s one fewer.
I’m not mad about it, not really. The characters were true, and so were the storylines. I was delighted to have so many of the original cast back (though I missed you, TJ, Liz, Madeline, Louise, Lucy, Olivia, Richard), and I slipped back into it easily. The theme song, and the gazebo and the irritatingly empty coffee cups. The antique store, and the diner, and the inn. I liked the swearing. I liked the sex. I liked that Star’s Hollow had grown up, with me. We’re both a bit seedier, and older. I’m OK with that.
But I do miss the glow. I do miss the shine. I do miss the filter.
And I do think the reboot could have been done with a softer lens, a nod to the viewers who have had a hard few years, and perhaps didn’t need quite as many knocks. The stars could have been allowed to shine a little brighter, and the life lessons needn’t have been quite so hard. A bit less Trump, a bit more Obama. I wanted my Star’s Hollow a bit less empty.