A growing up tale for the good girl

Gilmore Girls fans erupted in celebration upon the announcement that Netflix intended to revive the long defunct series. Up until then, we had been contenting ourselves with short YouTube clips of fast-talking wit and online quizzes that did nothing for us (“Which Gilmore Girls guy is your soulmate?”).

There were countless things to like about the show, from the warmth of the small Connecticut town Stars Hollow, to the weird but well-meaning characters who inhabited it. But more than the quirky humor and constellation of pop culture references, what I remember the most about writer, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s creation was that I related to it as a growing up story.

I apparently wasn’t alone. Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff narrowed the show’s viewership down to a type. “The thing about Gilmore Girls is that it’s specifically about the women who love it — women who are young and college-educated and affluent enough to attend a TV festival and, yes, usually white,” he wrote about the cast reunion that took place at the Austin Television Festival last June.

Filipina viewers

Viewers in the Philippines may have been half a world (and skin tone) away from the plot, but there remained a lot for us to relate to. While we zipped around our vast and chaotic Metro Manila, our communal and cliquish culture gave us the feeling that we lived in a world as small and as cozy as Stars Hollow.  Rory Gilmore’s character was also a breath of fresh air. Prior to her, we had been bombarded with America’s mean/maarte popular girls for role models — an image that just didn’t sit well with our belief in pakikisama and desire to be nice to one another.

Here we were socialized to be good girls. “Studies first!” our parents and teachers liked to remind us. And we ourselves actually cared about our life choices. We spent our senior years in high school stressing over getting into the top universities and what career choices would bloom from our courses. Enter Rory, with her Harvard dreams, journalist aspirations, and genuinely responsible attitude. Finally someone the educated class Filipina could relate to. Rory was for the girls who didn’t understand Marissa Cooper’s cocktail of law-breaking and life-threatening issues.

Rory held my hand through my struggle to get into UP, the time I went AWOL and almost dropped out of college (I swear I wasn’t trying to copy her life), to when I finally broke into the publishing industry after much knocking. Her story ended with her getting the degree and career she wanted, as it did with many of the women I know who were fans of the show. And with her work seemingly done, her “sheep” sufficiently guided, she left on an optimistic, open-ended note (and we, the fans, collectively dove into our quarter life crises). Gilmore Girls aired its last episode in 2007.

Nostalgia vs. Growing up

I’m not sure how to feel about the promised revival, which will consist of four 90-minute episodes. On one hand, there is nostalgia and the desire to once again frequent Luke’s Diner and believe that university acceptance letters and being a published writer are everything.

But at the same time, none of us who grew up watching Gilmore Girls are where the show left us. Having been bombarded with bills, inhumane commutes along Edsa, and the numbing task of surviving adulthood, I don’t think it’s possible to go back to believing that life could be that quaint.

I wonder how Rory is doing. When we last saw her, she excitedly left for a job that paid “next to nothing,” buoyed on the celebratory send-off her entire town threw for her. Has she started to compare her journalist’s salary to her ideal cost of living? Especially now that she doesn’t have a rich boyfriend who happily houses her in his swanky apartment? Has she dealt with the painful politics that complicates a writer’s supposed honesty and freedom of speech? Has she found herself blank with nothing to say? Has she found herself staring at a sea of fake, uninteresting subjects? Has she asked herself “Now what?” after getting everything she wanted? Has she flirted with the idea of branching out into other industries? Has she wondered if she made a mistake, taking a very specialized route with a career that wasn’t very bankable? Has she figured out what to do with the platform she was given? Is she even still writing?

Will the Gilmore Girls revival grow with its audience? Or will it pull us back to more comforting times? I’m not sure which I want more, but I guess a good balance of both would be really nice.

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Originally published in The Philippine Star SUPREME (24 October 2015)

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