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Boob Tube Guru: How Gilmore Girls Helped Me Appreciate My Mother

Television is sometimes not the best medium for portraying real life. Sure, we have shows like Breaking Bad and The Wire, whose gritty portrayals of both the meth business and the dark underbelly of Baltimore law enforcement and crime respectively are probably close to reality, but those are worlds most of us will never walk through. Also, it’s fair to say that one would never encounter any situation involving vampires, werewolves, witches, brothers who hunt monsters and hang out with angels, fairies and storybook characters (though one can always hope). Many times, television is a highly stylized, ultra-hip version of everyday life. I spent a good twenty minutes last week explaining to a room full of teenage Korean girls that the life of an average American high school student bears little to no resemblance to the lives of the characters on Gossip Girl. They were highly disappointed.

However, like any art form, television has its moments that reflect reality back at us, even if the mirror might be made of neon glass. A show populated with supernatural creatures can still give insights into relationships, family and love. Then there are times, when even a medium as self-indulgent and potentially mind-numbing as television gives us a glimpse into our own lives and can clarify issues swirling around in a person’s life. It’s rare, at least for me, but it happens.

If you asked me to provide a list of my favorite TV series of all time, Gilmore Girls would be in the top five. I love this show, especially the first two seasons. The writing was fantastic and how the actors were able to wrap their tongues around such spitfire dialogue still amazes me. In Rory Gilmore, I had a girl who more closely resembled me than the flawless and glamorous girls portraying the average American teenager on network television. This was a girl as nerdy as I was, who loved books as much as I did and who would go to a party with a book and sit in the corner and read the entire time, just like me.

However, what connected with me the most was the relationship between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. They were not only mother and daughter, they were best friends and given a choice between spending time with each other and spending time with other people, Lorelai and Rory would always choose each other. With all the portrayals of teenage rebellion and shouting and slammed doors, this was one portrayal that mirrored the relationship I had with my mother. Not everything matched up of course. My mother was not a teenage single mother. She and my father are still married and she did not give birth to me until she was thirty. I’m also not an only child though my younger sibling has just as close of a relationship with our mother as I do. Our conversations do not have the rapid fire, pop culture laced repartee of the Gilmore girls, but we can talk for hours about any subject from politics (I get my leftist views from her) to celebrity gossip (she does not see the appeal of the cast of The Jersey Shore). She has a deceptively dirty mouth and sense of humor which would be scandalous on network TV.

Mother and daughter

However, despite the differences, the warmth of the relationship portrayed in the series reminded me very much of the relationship between myself and my mother. There are few people I enjoy spending time with than my mother. We have our issues, of course, and like the fictional mother/daughter team, we have our fights and our hurt feelings. The fights are actually terrifying for me. As portrayed on the show, the fights between Lorelai and Rory never seem fierce and Lorelai is never portrayed as a terribly authoritarian figure. My mother doesn’t get angry often, but when she does, I don’t so much fight back as get blasted by hurricane force winds and pray I don’t get struck by lightning. It’s only after an appropriate amount of time has passed do the two of us find ourselves in the same room. Sometimes it’s the den; sometimes it’s the computer room or bedroom and I’ll sit beside her or hug her from behind and we’ll say sorry and maybe cry and the world shifts back to almost normal.

The ironic thing is that for years, part of me felt ashamed for the close relationship I had with my mother. The majority of my friends had, at best, difficult relationships with their mothers and only a few of my friends throughout high school and college could claim to have a somewhat close relationship with their mother. It was cool to mock, complain about and outright disrespect ones mom, especially in high school. Back then, I would mostly keep my mouth shut or try to change the subject though sometimes, I would halfheartedly throw out some line about how lame and uncool my mother could be. Even in the present day, I’ll get little snide remarks when I talk about the relationship with my mother. “Oh, you talk to your mum* a lot? Haven’t spoken to her in weeks. How can you stand talking to her so often?” The only difference between then and now is that instead of evading the question, I just smile and say, “My mum is probably cooler than your mum,” and it’s probably true. She partied harder in the seventies than all my friends combined. One of the best nights I’ve ever had involved sushi, and missing a movie in favor of drinks and shots and dancing with my mother and sister at a dive bar, a fruitless search for an illegal substance and greasy Mexican at 2 a.m.

So a TV show that aired on what was then known as the WB helped me to embrace the fact that I had a freaking fantastic relationship with my mother. The relationship portrayed on my screen gave me comfort and made me realize I should be profoundly grateful for the kind of bond I had with the woman who gave me birth. Many I know do not get such a gift and their maternal relationships more resemble that of Lorelai and Emily Gilmore, the other major mother/daughter pairing portrayed on the show. The two of them had a tense relationship at best and it stood as a marked contrast to Lorelai and Rory. So even though my mom and I are a world apart (literally) I have no problem telling anyone who asks, “Yeah, my mom is pretty cool.”

*The individuals who have asked me this question are always British.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

10 replies on “Boob Tube Guru: How Gilmore Girls Helped Me Appreciate My Mother”

I hated this show and I still can’t watch it without wanting to run my fingernails over a chalkboard.

My daughter was in her tweens and young teens when this show aired and I remember being horrified when I watched it with her because you know what, at that age, your mother is not supposed to be your best friend.  She’s your mother and she’s supposed to parent, not bond with you over cute boys.  I know whatshername was basically a child when she had Rory but it always felt like she was still doing her own growing up.

It seriously irritated me and still does – I feel like I’m typing 100wpm.  My daughter and I went round and round over what was healthy in that relationship and what wasn’t.  I still think she was a horrible mom who would have made a great older sister.



I loooove that show! (And my love for it couldn’t even be ruined by a horrible roommate that only watched that and Full House.) It also reminded me of me and my mom. We’re really close, even when it wasn’t cool to be that way. Case in point: A couple weeks ago, my mom had an irregular mammogram. She went in for an ultrasound yesterday, and it came back to be cysts. Instead of calling me to tell she didn’t have cancer, she texts me and simply states: “Boobs are all right. Cysts” because she thought I would be busy, but didn’t want me to worry. Oh, mom.

I’m an only child who grew up with a single mother, and I remember my mom watching Gilmore Girls. She always said it reminded her of us, but my impression of the show was that it was kind of twee, so I never watched it with her. A few years later I got hooked on it, but that wasn’t until my mom had passed away, and it totally reminded me of her. Way sad! Writing that made me tear up a little.

That’s awesome. :) I’m glad you have a good relationship with your mom. I too loved that show for the Rory/Lorelei relationship. My mom and I have a similar relationship though more because she is a super young mom than anything else (no drugs, bars, or partying, just a lot of good music, food, and hanging out). And I have also been in the embarrassed/annoyed to be the only one who likes her mom. On the plus side, all my friends who’ve met my mom also think she’s the coolest, so no one really says anything about it any more.

My mom and I are going to see Hunger Games on Friday night because we are both IN LOVE with the books and we decided that we had to see it with each other so that 1) no one would talk during the movie so we could both fully absorb the awesome and 2) we could talk about and dissect it afterward knowing that we’ve each read the entire trilogy.

And while I COMPLETELY LOVE Gilmore Girls, I own the entire series and have seen it straight through about 4 times, I have a hard time connecting myself to Rory and my mom to Lorelai. Even though I tend to study like Rory (looking at three books at the same time? Brilliant!) and my mom is a young mom. That’s about where it ends. For a long time I saw my relationship with my mother much like Lorelai and Emily. But now that I’m older, it’s easier to spend time with her. I still don’t see us as Rory and Lorelai though.

There are countless reasons why I love this show (COUNTLESS) but I think in the end, the fact that all the characters are very three dimensional and unique means that while I do not relate to any of them, I still want to still be with them. I want to know their opinions, their ideas, what they like to listen to, what they like to watch. They feel real. All of them.

God, I wish my town had town meetings.

Seriously. If town meetings were that entertaining I would go all the time. Also, my mother and I were the same way with the Harry Potter movies. Midnight showing, shutting down the annoying talkers etc. I moved to Korea before the last movie came out and was devastated that we wouldn’t be seeing the LAST movie together.

And I truly love the show for more than the Lorelai/Rory dynamic. The writing, the acting, everything was just so good. You’re right too. All the characters were so 3 dimensional, it was great.


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