gilmore girls escapism

a revival worth watching

October 5, 2016. 7:30 a.m.  

Vanuatu Coffee Roasters, a local coffee shop on Federal Hill, is swarmed with at least a hundred people—many of them sporting Brown University sweatshirts. Cars driving down Atwells Avenue slow down and cause traffic as drivers and passengers alike do comical double-takes to survey the long line forming down the street and along the block.

It’s cold. It’s early. But worst of all, people haven’t had their morning coffees yet. Some have been lined up since six in the morning—and nothing says coffee like six in the morning.

Who is responsible for the unusual crowd at Vanuatu, and why are hundreds of people lining up for coffee at this cute hipster joint and not at Starbucks? Blame the Gilmores.

As part of a national promotion for the Netflix revival of the Warner Brothers/The CW hit series, Gilmore Girls, hundreds of coffee shops across the country underwent makeshift makeovers to become “Luke’s Diner” for a day. “Luke’s,” the go-to coffee shop from the Gilmore canon, promised free coffee and a “special surprise” to the first 250 people to show up to their so-called “pop-up shops”. Hence the long line.

The congregation of people is, surprisingly, not homogenous. A visibly wide range of genders, races, and ages suggests that the beloved show about a fast-talking mother-daughter pair still resonates with all kinds of people, even nine years after the show’s end.

“I’m just going to cry so much when I see it,” one girl says to another. “It’s going to be perfect.”

The line starts to inch forward. Excited, the girl asks her friend, “Are you ready?”

She pushes the door open.

“I am so ready for this,” the girl says.

The pair step indoors, eyes wide as if stepping not into the warmth of Vanuatu Coffee Roasters, but into the magic coziness of Luke’s Diner and inside the captivating world of Stars Hollow.

November 25, 2016. 12:01 a.m.

Technically, Thanksgiving was yesterday. A stuffed stomach full of stuffing props my laptop up as I get Netflix up on my browser. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is the first thing on the homepage. I check my Twitter and #GilmoreGirls is already trending. I can almost hear the frantic typing of some critic, jotting down her notes, ready to watch all four 90-minute episodes in one sitting in order to write for tomorrow’s paper. I close my laptop. I can take my time—I’ve waited nine years.

November 25, 2016. 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

I spent all day in Stars Hollow (my bed). In the same way that Vanuatu Coffee transformed itself into something magical a couple of months ago, my room—with its Netflix-binge-friendly amenities of a comfy mattress and endless snacks—transformed into a kind of magical crystal ball of sorts. For six hours I, along with thousands of fans across the country (whom I keep interacting with on Twitter), peeked into the lives of the Gilmores & Co. from the comfort of our own homes, with the ease provided by our smartphones or our laptops. It seems ridiculous to think I used to sit down after school to watch this same show on an actual TV set. Yet, there’s no nostalgia. Just like the girl from Vanuatu, the feeling in the air is mostly of readiness and excitement for new content.

The revival is brand new! There are stories to be told! There is so much catching up to do! What does a character—any character—from nine years ago look like now, in the age of iPhones and Teslas? When Netflix announced the series revival, the promo video showed Lorelai asking whether or not Amy Schumer “would be her friend” or if John Oliver “would find her hot.” The show thus seemed ready to show its viewers that it—like them—was able to grow, while also claiming that “some things” (a love for coffee, endless pop culture references, witty rapid-fire banter) never change.

The idea was, of course, promising. The revamp of a classic show (with a clearly interested fanbase) and a short-term commitment (as opposed to a full network season) would allow for viewers to engage with the idyllic escapism that Gilmore Girls provides. Additionally, because of its framing (fewer but longer episodes), it didn’t have to promise much for people to feel thrilled about the prospect. Still, fans expected perfection. And though some were just happy to see their favorite characters back on their screens, many felt a bit cheated. Dozens of internet thought pieces point out weak points in the show—both in plot and in character development. Rory, a supposedly talented and promising writer, is still freelancing 10 years after she was supposed to work on Obama’s campaign. Lorelai is still immature. Emily Gilmore, the eldest Gilmore girl, has the most powerful storyline, but, I fear, because she’s not young, has a stable romantic life, and is uninterested in coffee, viewers often leave her aside.

This is neither a critique nor a review of the show. Instead, I want to celebrate the show for what it achieves—it grants the ability for many people to connect or reconnect over some simple, wholesome experience. No show is perfect, and the revival did the most with what it could. It’s worth watching.

If you are a fan of the show, re-visiting Stars Hollow will feel like drinking a cup of hot coffee. It could be sweet—like when Emily finally finds peace after the passing of Richard. It could be bitter—like when you find out some of your favorite characters are doing something completely uncharacteristic with their lives—fertility clinics, Paris, really?! But if you’re like most Gilmore fans, meaning you love coffee, you know that you’ll take it in any way, shape, or form. (Including an IV!)

Gilmore Girls created a unique, special milieu nine years ago—even then it wasn’t high art, or flawless—and that is its greatest strength. Nine years ago, in the Bush era, it served as an escape to a little town where the biggest drama happened between wealthy white females babbling over college tuition. As this eventful year wraps up, there is no better antidote or getaway than six hours of fast-talking, pop-culture-loving, immature and imperfect, familiar characters. Oh and coffee. Lots of coffee.