I'm an unabashed fan of "Gilmore Girls" because it nails what so few shows do — the grown-up fairy tale. I posit that anyone who takes it more seriously than that is really missing the point of a delightful TV show, which returned last Friday for an encore season after a decade.
The secret to the "Gilmore Girls" sauce is that it manages to be both pure fantasy in its storylines and full of real, deep feelings in the emotional terrain it explores. This happens in very much the same way that "Cinderella," "Bambi," "Pinocchio" and "The Lion King" did storytelling. On the surface, they're pretty, shiny, silly things, but underneath, there's deep humanity. That's what makes this show great.
Stars Hollow, where "Gilmore Girls" takes place, is a fantasy town, beautifully rendered by series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, and it's even prettier and more darling than I remember. We're talking pigs running down the street with signs on their back, town troubadours, ever-pirouetting girls and boys at Miss Patty's dance school, a castle replete with a heart-of-gold witch (Emily Gilmore), a constantly transforming town green and the biggest whopper of them all — a mother and daughter who not only love each other, but eat junk food, don't exercise and never get fat. It is a wonderful world where neighbors are quirky and loving, disagreements are minor and everyone cares about their hometown as much as the main characters do.
Stars Hollow is not a fantasy like "Leave it to Beaver" is — it is explicitly meant to be a place where magical things happen. Like midnight weddings lit up to perfection, Rachel Ray as a B&B chef and ex-boyfriends who are all wonderful and handsome (and pine for you, each in their own way). It's a place where some characters are one-dimensional and others have special powers and absolutely everyone has a wisecrack ready to go — even elderly nuns who are moving out of their lifelong home.
So it seems strange that there's so very much grousing about the show not being "realistic," as an incredibly humorless writer at The Atlantic covered (with a 21-bullet-point list) in her article "Turns out Rory Gilmore Is Not a Good Journalist." No, the writer was not trying to be funny; she was serious in her takedown of a fictional character's sex life — even though it included a one-night-stand with a Wookiee and repeatedly forgetting that a boyfriend of two years exists. I mean, if someone doesn't get that those are jokes, I'm not sure what to say about the state of humor today. You could argue that it's not funny, but to write seriously about how a fairy tale isn't realistic? That's like wondering where all the brilliant dialog is in "The Fast and the Furious" movie franchise.
Slate's Willa Paskin took a similar tack, criticizing Rory every which way for not being more grown-up. "She is a flibbertigibbet, a peripatetic woman without a permanent address and a number of half-finished projects and unsuitable boyfriends to her name," Paskin writes. Keep in mind that Rory is an overachiever who grew up taking care of and helping to raise her very young mom, so it would make perfect sense for her life to be a little messy. Seeing Rory try to deal with challenges (and failing) was refreshing — and made for laughs and plenty of good comedy, which is kind of the point of the show. That storyline also fed directly into the "Gilmore Girls" fantasy: What will the smart, capable princess (Rory) do when faced with adversity and disappointment? That's definitely more interesting than the alternative: a perfectly situated and happy Rory without any problems.
Plenty of people did get exactly what was going on throughout the course of four comically bizarre, strange and amusing "Gilmore Girls" episodes. Author Cheryl Strayed, whose book "Wild" was a central plot-point of a head-shakingly silly series of events, wrote of her book's inclusion: "That scene when Lorelai wanders behind the closed store near the trail and looks out across the wild landscape then calls her mom? Took my breath away and made me cry (after laughing at so many other parts)."
The "Gilmore Girls" revival was like a long, glorious dream, complete with a so-strange-it's-funny musical interlude, a steampunk romp scored to a Beatles cover and the famous four words Sherman-Palladino wanted to end the show with so many years ago but couldn't. I won't reveal them here, but they suggest that this fantasy is far from over — and I'm hoping that means there's plenty more "Gilmore Girls" to disagree with in the future.