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.
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.