The holiday season can have a lot of positive and negative associations for people, but for me there's always one constant – Gilmore Girls . While some are captivated by the magical aspect of romance around the holidays, and others wait for their Christmas miracle, for this writer, the holiday season is primarily about family. Family in and of itself can be a tricky subject, especially as dynamics are complicated with the holiday season and stress and pressure that come along with it. This is why I find myself drawn to watch the ever-popular WB hit Gilmore Girls every holiday season (and not just the holiday episodes either). The message and comfort the series provides withstands whatever may be the current situation with my own family and leaves the promise of hope, healing, and growth (of some kind) moving forward.
In the small town of Stars Hollow, Lorelai ( Lauren Graham ) and her daughter Rory ( Alexis Bledel ) have found their place and peace in their community, the primary focus of the series. They’ve created a beautiful life of their own with incredible and exceptionally caring people surrounding them, like Sookie (Melissa McCarthy), Miss Patty (Liz Torres), and Luke (Scott Patterson). Lorelai is a fixture of the community with running the inn, one of the town’s few places for tourism, while Rory is essentially the town’s very own daughter with how protective nearly every single person in town is of her. At the same time, Lorelai’s complicated relationship with her parents Emily (Kelly Bishop) and Richard (Edward Herrmann), who she left behind with their riches as a teenager to raise Rory on her own, is just as important. After Lorelai asks them for money to pay for Rory’s private school tuition, she is forever swept back into her parents’ world with Emily’s condition of weekly dinners and check-ins.
As someone who can relate to Lorelai’s complex relationship with her parents and their loaded comments, the rollercoaster ride between them is familiar and eerily comforting. It’s consoling to watch this dynamic play out on television, as it’s rare to see the relationship between parents and child depicted as realistically as Gilmore Girls does. There are good times, bad times, and simply times of mere co-existence. As Lorelai struggles to find a way to move past her resentment for her parents and their shared past, her parents have to repeatedly make peace with Lorelai not living the life they had dreamed for her as a child. Neither side is wrong (though Lorelai’s is often portrayed as more sympathetic), which helps the viewer truly understand their complicated feelings no matter which perspective you’re looking at it from. Keeping their relationships intact is hard work and not fixable with a simple apology, which is how these relationships are usually written on television. There’s a magical moment where everything is suddenly forgiven and all is well, but Gilmore Girls takes care to show that it is little acknowledgements and apologies along the way that help to repair a relationship. Because, in the end, the Gilmores all love each other. That much is clear even if they can’t always show it because they’re all a bit emotionally stunted due to their history.
While Lorelai’s relationship with her parents is tumultuous and always on rocky waters — the most relatable aspect of all — her relationship with Rory is another great depiction of what family can be. Lorelai and Rory don’t have the healthiest relationship as the boundaries between parent and best friend are muddled, but the bond they share is unbreakable, beautiful, and so heartwarming to watch. They have their spats, as another mother/daughter duo would, but they always come back together and make things right. They enjoy each other’s company, willingly share aspects of their lives, and truly love each other unconditionally. It’s a great contrast to Emily and Lorelai’s mother/daughter relationship, which is often the complete opposite because of Emily’s inability to not pass judgment on Lorelai’s decisions (and vice versa).
Above all, though, the town of Stars Hollow fills that family void. Stars Hollow is the perfect town for a Christmastime escape, filled with silly traditions and holidays that bring the community together. Despite their quarrels, the town is one large found family in many ways. Even characters like Luke and Taylor Doose (Michael Winters) who are always bickering can come together in their love for their town and (most of) its residents. There’s a reason why Lorelai was able to create such a fantastic and fulfilled life in Stars Hollow with Rory, and it’s because of the fantastical kindness, support, and care that the residents show one another. They managed to beat the odds and find success and stability, despite Lorelai being a teenager with no work experience and a baby, because of what the town stands for. Mia (Elizabeth Franz) channeled the best of Stars Hollow to give a desperate Lorelai a job and place to stay at the inn, which blossomed into her future.
Gilmore Girls is about family in every sense of the word, which makes it such a welcoming watch during the holiday season. Lorelai found her home — a place she felt comfortable with people who made her feel like she belonged, something her parents’ world never offered her — in Stars Hollow, which was just as much the beginning of the creation of her own family as giving birth to Rory was. Her relationship with her parents is never perfect, but they continue to try and work hard to keep their relationship on even ground, particularly because of Rory’s affection for her grandparents.
There’s no “conventional” family in this show, and they make a point to never put one above another. The people of Stars Hollow that they have chosen to love and make their family are just as important to Lorelai and Rory as their blood relatives are. On the rare occasion when Emily and Richard are in Stars Hollow, the people that love Lorelai and Rory do everything in their power to make them feel welcomed as they, by association, are something family-like to Stars Hollow too. In short, Gilmore Girls delivers the message that family is what you make of it. It’s not easy, but can be incredibly fruitful. And, you can have many different kinds of family that are there to help you through different situations. What better message is there to absorb around the holidays?
Gilmore Girls is streaming on Netflix.