In the pilot episode of Gilmore Girls, we’re introduced to a highly caffeinated mother-daughter duo on the precipice of change. 16 year-old Rory has been accepted to Chilton, a prestigious private school. Her mother Lorelai must turn to her wealthy parents to ask for help paying the tuition. Between cups of coffee, skirt hems, the new boy, and a hay ride we’re invited into the magical world of Stars Hallow and the lives of the Gilmore girls.
Stand Out Scene:
Following Rory’s acceptance to Chilton it becomes apparent that Lorelai has no means to pay for the first semester’s tuition upfront and must go to her parents for money. After finishing her cup of coffee outside, looking completely out of place, Lorelai heads in to her parents’ home. Her mother’s surprise at seeing her daughter is covered with the witty line of “Is it Easter already?”. And alas we are introduced to the patriarch of the family:
Richard Gilmore: So, you need money
Lorelai Gilmore: Yeah. But It’s not for me- it’s for Rory. And I fully intend to pay you back- every cent I don’t ask for favors- you know that.
Emily Gilmore: Oh yes, we know.
Emily Gilmore: On 1 condition: Since we’re now financially active in your life; I want to be actively involved in your life.
To begin, I need to name and claim one thing: I have seen Gilmore Girls a lot. I own the DVDs, I watched the later seasons as they came out, I binge it on Netflix- but this is mostly because I like to craft, sew, or crochet and I want a little background entertainment. Never have I sat down and said: “Hmm, I wonder what Gilmore Girls might teach me about God or make me reevaluate how I live my life?” So, as I sat down to watch the pilot episode with a word document open ready to take notes I was skeptical if this strange desire to make something more of my guilty pleasure might not live up to the hype in my head. I was not disappointed.
Gilmore Girls is every bit as charming if you give it your 100% attention. If you shift from attention to contemplation the charm quickly turns deeper. We’re supposed to identify with Rory and Lorelai-they talk fast, drink coffee, and live quirky “normal” lives in a small town. As we’re introduced to Richard and Emily we’re meant to be distanced. Their house is large and gothic, their clothing is strangely formal for what seems like lounging around the house, and their furniture looks like it should be in a museum. As a young, independent woman, as I watched the scene unfurl with Lorelai asking for money, however, I was struck with compassion for her parents. The news of someone being admitted to a prestigious school is something that most families celebrate together. In this situation, Lorelai tells them only out of desperation, she doesn’t want to include them in the joy of the accomplishment but rather comes from a place of shame of being unable to pay for the schooling herself. (The history of Lorelai feeling shamed by her parents has a long history that will continue to appear throughout the series.
Lorelai continues to distance herself from her parents as she promises to pay them back, (obviously they have the means to contribute financially) and reminding them that she doesn’t ask for favors. Emily’s response acknowledging that they know Lorelai doesn’t ask for favors hit me as a deeply sad statement for the first time. Perhaps this is something that her mother has mourned. As a strong and proper woman herself, perhaps Emily knows the loneliness and struggle of not being able to ask for help or a favor. I wonder, if Emily had been waiting and hoping for the day when her daughter might have no other option than to come to them for help. Given her condition of wanting to be actively involved in her life I think it’s possible that this day was long anticipated. This loneliness and anticipation brought the story of the Prodigal Son to my mind: an unapproved lifestyle, inheritance squandered (or rebuked), and the fated return. Lorelai may not have received quite as warm of a welcome as her biblical counterpart did but she was welcomed, cared for, and brought back in to relationship with the family she left. (Has anyone else noticed that when she left home it was to work at The Independence Inn?)
As I look to my own life, I wonder about the ways that I have clung to my independence and unwillingness to ask for help to my own detriment. My pride in seeing myself as individually capable blinded me to the ways that inviting others in may have been the stronger or more kind choice. Asking for help is not a small task in our society today. Admitting that we might not be capable of handling all of life on our own is a fact most are unwilling to own. No wonder we’re so starved for relationships and community. The challenge in the show, and in our lives, is that when we open ourselves by asking for help we must then navigate new relationships, ideas, and expectations.
God who invites us into community, be with all of your children as we try to forge the way on our own. Grant us humility to see when we might be better off including others and the openness to lend help to others when they are in need. Forgive us for the things we do alone that we might do together. Transform our hearts and help us to turn outward to serve and be served. Amen.