Gilmore Girls – A Nostalgic Liar or a Compelling Comeback?

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Revivals are a funny thing. One on hand, if a show has been mothballed long enough – and, perhaps more importantly, enjoyed an alarmingly devoted fanbase both during and after its run – then it will automatically be greeted and received with feverish enthusiasm. We will gawk at how that character is now bald and slightly more rotund around the middle. We’ll gawp at how the lead character hasn’t changed one iota, sans for a more nimble nose. We will find the same feelings of sympathy and satisfaction we had when we watched it in our salad days.

That’s all a given. Even a franchise as fraternised as American Pie flushed us with feelings of love and awe when they released their reunion movie. One could even argue (though would probably be forced to leave the room or, fittingly, hide in a toilet cubicle sucking one’s thumb) that Dumb and Dumber To, for all its lack of progression and ‘90s anachronism of a script, gave the audience, for the first fifteen minutes at least, a sugar rush of delight that characters we align so close to halcyon happiness were back frolicking on screen.

But let’s nip this in bud – nostalgia is a pretty liar. You know it, I know it and the makers of these products bloody well know it. It’s the girl you used to have sex with back in sixth form, the one that gave you the thrill and thrust your ex-wife never could. You’re naturally going to be glad to see them when you bump into them at that local bar. It’s the boy who gave you your first dance before jetting off to spend his father’s trust fund, leaving you to ponder what might have been. Nostalgia injects us with a giddy sense of wistful wonder and joy, but when the drug wears off, all these things must be judged on the ‘now’ and not the ‘then’.

The latest fodder to be thrown into the comeback canon was Gilmore Girls. It may have added the extra A Year in the Life, to propose feelings of freshness as opposed to a mere ‘Kirk is back and being goofy’ session, but all in all it was hard to ignore that warm feeling of homeliness that spewed forth. When Rory and Lorelai, the quick-witted, coffee-quaffing duo that demonstrated a solid independence and intelligence that was so endearing, walked together in snowy Stars Hallow, it was like someone had lit a Yankee candle in a room silenced by darkness. All of a sudden, that homely, heartfelt pang rushed through your body and the world felt alright again.

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And as the show has gone through the different seasons, it has certainly been a hoot to see what the characters have been up to. Lest we forget, Gilmore Girls was as much about the town as the Gilmores themselves, a goldfish bowl that always teetered on the right side of Blue Velvet-esque distortion. It was a thrill to find Kirk was still as loveably eccentric as ever (his Oober racket just about worked without being too annoying), it was great to see Digger Styles, seemingly unchanged, drag up his off-centre banter at a funeral, and Babette and Morey were still a queasily approachable couple who you never knew where the line was towed.

However, once dust of nostalgic delight had been swept away, judging A Year in the Life on its merits reveals some flaws that you just wish would go the way of Taylor’s septic tanks. The main issue is the characterisation of Rory. Of course, the whole idea of nostalgia is that we want our characters to have been frozen in amber – we wanted Paul Finch on American Pie to be the same snobby intellectual he was at school. We wanted Mulder and Scully to share the same detached, wry outlook on their work. And, with Gilmore Girls, we wanted Rory to be the same sprightly, sympathetic girl she was in the show’s salad days.

That’s where the danger of nostalgia comes in – Rory has changed and grown up, which is obviously good; too much of the mild, inquisitive teenager of old might have not worked on a 32-year-old woman. However, at the same time, the Rory many viewers envisioned as a grown-up probably didn’t coagulate correctly onscreen. In this revival, Rory seems deflated, downbeat and, in some cases, even arrogant – there was always a defiance and determination within the youngest Gilmore, which is what made her character so endearing and influential. Here, though, it seems wrapped up in self-satisfaction – she shrugs off a website chasing her signature and, when she finally realises she could do with a steady income, decides in an “it’s a living” lurch that it’s the job for her. But it gets worse – she botches the interview after doing zero research or planning, and seems aggrieved when the CEO, however annoying she may be, isn’t won over. For the first time watching Rory, I wasn’t rooting for her.

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Maybe that’s the point? That we needed to see Rory experience a downfall or two (in the second episode, ‘Spring’, a lot of her walls come crashing down) in order to show the brutal realism of adult life. But it would be more compelling if it was Rory questioning the karmic alignments of life (why is the girl who did everything right being given such a raw deal?), but in actuality it’s of her own doing – her faith in a sketchy feminist drunkard is slightly blind, as is her seemingly unshakeable faith that her portfolio alone will secure her work on a whim.

This is before we’ve explored the deeper issues. A particularly frustrating scene, and one that is thrown away as a comedic sidebar, is when Rory tells Lorelai she had a one-night stand with someone dressed as a Wookie. It’s brushed under the carpet using the standard Gilmore banter boilerplate, but is this what Rory has become? There’s nothing wrong with the odd dalliance in the bedroom, of course, and this is the modern world. She’s a modern journalist. But this is the girl who, at the tender age of 16, couldn’t tell Dean she loved him because she wasn’t sure she meant it. While she admits it was out-of-character, it feels way too dissimilar to Rory to ring true – no matter how tanked Rory gets, the idea of a girl so aligned to responsibility knocking boots with a Trekkie just feels a mighty stretch.

Then you get to the other men in her life. The idea of one of her three suitors occupying a romantic position feels right – otherwise it would just be a trio of shoehorned cameos that linger on past love (i.e. Jess). And it makes begrudging sense that it would be Logan, the man who was born into money and thus can offer Rory a plush pad. But in Rory’s role as ‘the other woman’, a role she seems to happily accept, is that destroying her character further? The old Rory surely wouldn’t be satisfied in being a dirty secret, someone who can watch on happily as a man cheats on his fiancée? Her conscience wouldn’t allow it. And yet here she uses Logan as a pillow as well as a sex-chum, and doesn’t really seem to care that he’s hitched. Sure, she slept with Dean when he was married, but there was a beautiful naivety to her first time. Here it just feels like pointless fucking.

Rory’s story arc rings the least true, simply because it feels like it has too much of an agenda – Rory is built up and knocked down, her previous innocence tarnished in a sea of freelance jobs (surely no journalist these days can afford to fly from London to the USA so frequently?), pointless trysts and an unplanned pregnancy. Gilmore Girls was a delightful reunion that tugged at the heartstrings and gave us the same sense of comfort it did before, but like all things comforting, it can be bad for you in the long run.

 

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Pro-Rape Meetings – The Hymn for the Narcissistic and the Confused

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I remember taking a module in university called ‘Unpopular Texts’. I only chose it because I loved the lecturer, which is embarrassingly myopic in hindsight, and our first task was to watch a movie called Threads. Within the movie, there was a nuclear blast which rendered most of earth a wasteland, wherein the ‘humans’ began to devolve into cavemen. Even the ending – in which a primitive woman gives birth to a stillborn baby – was depressing. That was the future, according to 1987; in 2016, their realisation wasn’t quite so bleak, but we often have to do a double-take on some occurrences.

Lately, there has been the emergence of Return of Kings, the self-anointed seers of the future of manhood. Their plans are brutish and archaic, and they spout the kind of sexist, offensive drivel that would make a Viking blush. It’s hard to believe that in the modern age we are still being entertained with such out-of-focus, dangerous spoutings, but Daryush ‘Roosh’ Valizadeh and his band of Merry Men are ensuring that mankind – with the emphasis on ‘man’ – must hang their heads in shame at their fellow gender.

“I think women are a good thing,” was once quoted by Peter Mannion in The Thick Of It, when challenged on his superannuated raison d’etre. It was ham-fisted and horrible, but made sense within his character; to him women were like iPads, a daring new invention that were making life easier, even if it meant reluctantly releasing the grip of the biro. But for Valizadeh and an assortment of other men, women are a threat – everything ‘men’ seem to hold dear is under fire from a hoard of forward-thinking, hard-working women who must be stopped and must be secluded from an all-boys club, where no doubt the Stella will swill, the porn will perish and the fists will fly.

Return of Kings is no better than Isis, in theory. Of course, I am not for one second saying they are equal, so please don’t berate me for that one. But their views are so antiquated and wrong it’s hard to believe anyone would be succumbed to join. But, like Isis, some men are easily swayed because they are drowning in a sea of banality; Return of Kings must be like stumbling from the bar into a dreary jazz club, where they discover men of the same tastes and ilk, and realise maybe this is for them.

Men will be drawn into it for different reasons – some will simply join because they are tired and disgruntled at their own short-sighted opinions of feminism (the chants of “they hate anything with a dick” and “lesbians need to shut up” are always around the corner). Others will be confused and agitated, joining out of sheer ignorance. Others will no doubt have their own dangerous agendas. But it’s a sad reflection on today’s seemingly educated society that we are being introduced to groups that must be the equivalent of the good old No Slaves Allowed Treehouse Gang, formed by Mark Twain’s butler. Some will just simply, and laughably, say it’s the “male version of feminism.” After all, if feminism is all about bashing men (which, according to them, it is), then surely men are allowed it, too? I’m guessing they’ve even got a Janet Street Porter effigy to burn with excessive Lynx Africa.

Their most controversial comment has been that “rape should be allowed if it is on private property.” The ramifications of such an utterance are innumerable, but breaking it down it’s as shocking as it sounds – to these people, women are no better than a flagrant squirrel. They are game. They are vermin that have stumbled into their shrubbery and, thusly, should be punished. And punishment in their primitive form is to use the pulsating weapon they’ve been blessed by God with. They view women with such disdain that they’d no doubt defend themselves by saying “it’s their own fault.” Wearing skirts, after all, means a girl is “asking for it.” So being in their house, whether or not they have been invited, they must have known what was going to happen. It reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons, when Chief Wiggum sets up some sort of torture chamber and tells Homer: “Now once a person is in your house, anything you do to them is nice and legal.”

Valizadeh still wants men to be able to “meet in private away from a loud, obnoxious, dishonest, and potentially violent mob”, perhaps referencing the numerous petitions that have been signed against him. Thankfully, the ‘meet-ups’ he had arranged – which, staggeringly, were taking place across 43 countries, like some sort of deranged Live Aid – have been cancelled, but that’s not to say they won’t find a way of being arranged. They will still try to peddle their ways, make their voices known and preach from their own inaudible Bible. That’s what gender representation is all about, after all.

Freedom really does come slowly at first.