Gilmore Girls and the Gospel
I will admit a bit of confusion when our family e-mail chain preparing for this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations included a plan for all of the women to watch the Gilmore Girls re-boot together. Boy was I out of the loop! Though I will publicly confess there was a season of my life over a decade ago when I was a pretty faithful Gilmore Girls fan myself, I was one of very few who had no clue about their reunion on Netflix this holiday season. My sisters, nieces, and mother were very clued-in. I am, thus, certain that many girls in our youth ministries have also excitedly watched the most recent installment.
In a TV interview with some of the cast, Kelly Bishop (who played the role of Emily Gilmore, the mom/grandma character) summed up why she thought the show has such wide-spread appeal. She thought that because the show presented such a “basic sweetness and goodness,” and that it was generally “nice,” people were drawn to it. Coming from the prideful and snobbish character, who typically brought out the nastiness in her daughter on a regular basis, I found some irony in Bishop’s statement. Though there may be some truth to her words, I think I land in a different camp as I consider the broad appeal of Gilmore Girls.
I would actually suggest that Gilmore Girls was a trailblazer in television that presents characters and their lives as messy and imperfect. In the past, TV shows tended to portray their protagonists as heroes – individuals who were completely put together – people we all aspired to be like. But Lorelai and Rorey Gilmore welcome us into their broken, flawed relationships and we watch and marvel, “They are just like me!” (except they talk much faster and are far wittier). Then add in the quirky supporting characters – from Lorelai’s quirky best friend Sookie, to the awkward Kirk, to the bossy town politician Taylor – and we all suddenly see that this town of misfits are also our friends, our family members and neighbors. These are the people we do life with each day. I believe this show was influential in creating the culture that exists today where being real and genuine is one of the highest values.
The realness of the Gilmore girls represents both a broken world-view and simultaneously a redemptive one.
As a stereotypical rebel figure in her teens, Lorelai shamed her family from high society when she got pregnant out of wedlock. With the baggage she carries as a result of her upbringing, the realness that she embraces and passes on to Rorey includes very few rules and expectations. This plays out from the non-nutritional food choices in the home to the sexual freedom in her relationships and Rorey’s. Lorelai’s message is clear: there is no “right or wrong,” as long as you are open about it and remain true to yourself. Like Rorey says in her high school graduation speech, “My ultimate inspiration comes from my best friend, the dazzling woman from whom I received my name and my life’s blood, Lorelai Gilmore. My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be. She filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to Eudora Welty to Patti Smith. As she guided me through these incredible eighteen years, I don’t know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her.”
While some of the values Lorelai conveys are misconstrued, she simultaneously portrays a character who has experienced Gospel freedom. Though she was raised in the oppressive social sphere where image and appearance was the highest value, her messy life experience sets her free from pretending to be someone she is not. She sees her mistakes, her imperfections, and knows that appearing to have it all together provides no hope of freedom. Through it all, we see the faithful presence of Luke as the rescuer. And though Lorelai is not always faithful to him, he remains faithful to her with the culmination as the celebration of marriage.
As almost always can be found, the Gospel message runs through each and every story that is told, because (whether we know it or not) the Gospel is the longing in all of our hearts.
On the same day that the women in my family sat down together to watch the Gilmore Girls reunion, a picture went up on Facebook. It was a picture of my mother and her four sisters. The maiden name of all these women: Gilmore. The post included a witty caption about these women being “the real Gilmore Girls.” As I consider the story represented in this photograph, I can’t help but compare and contrast with the show itself.
You see, my mom’s father sat down in his living room and died when she was eight years old. This left her mother with five Gilmore girls to care for, no education, no money, and no job. The drama in this story unfolds for years to come as the girls were often left to fend for themselves, my grandmother heading off to school to earn her degree and provide for the family. In one regard, gazing at this picture makes me feel so sad, knowing the genuine mess that each of my aunts and my mom experienced growing up in a home without a father, and a mother who was often not present.
However, Psalm 68:5 says that God is a father to the fatherless and a defender of the widow. This is the story of my grandmother and her five Gilmore girls! It is amazing to see how God has been a father and husband to them. Each of these women can share of a Savior who entered their messy story and rescued them. God has used each of these women in amazing ways as He has loved them and defended them in their imperfect life experiences.
It might be a bit of a stretch, but Lorelai and Rorey’s experience could (in some ways) fall into this category. Rorey is fatherless (so-to-speak) and Lorelai is without husband. The difference is this: in these two characters embracing the ugly reality of their stories, they never find true salvation (just look at the shocking “final four words” of the re-boot).
I am so grateful for a Father who welcomes us to be real. But it doesn’t stop there. I am equally grateful for a Savior who entered into our mess so that as we grow in the freedom to be real and genuine, He rescues us and makes us new. He makes us Holy. He makes us truly free.
There is gospel truth to be found in the episodes of Gilmore Girls. If your daughter or student is a fan (as many of mine are), I pray these insights about the show might serve as a point of relational and gospel connection.