Monday, August 29, 2016

Gilmore Girls: Remembering, repeating and Working through pt1

I have been teasing about it for a while and now I shall tease no more. This week I am starting the first in a series of slightly psychological reviews of Gilmore Girls. Why slightly psychological; firstly there is no shortage of GG reviews, therefore it is necessary to take an angle, secondly as I am a psychologist and am completing my doctorate in psychology I don't think I could honestly claim to see it in another way.

You may note that it sounds like a heavy title and I suppose it is. If you are a psychologist you may recognise this as a reference to Freud's seminal paper. However if you are not a psychologist I encourage you to continue reading. I intent to take an only slightly psychological stance and will not be filling this review with psychologist specific references. Partially because I spend enough time doing that in my thesis and I honestly could not be bothered but also because I intend these reviews to be generally accessible. So I will keep my referencing of obscure terms to a minimum. My other intention is to put forward a number of reviews. I may break it down into multiple reviews. All building up to an episode by episode review of the new season in November.

Now as I am aware that not everyone who comes to this website loves Gilmore Girls so I intend to space these out over the next three months and each of the posts will come with a cookie recipe, because you know...TVandCookies.

So anyway here we go...

Image property of Warner Brothers*

In a recent round up of the best episodes of the Gilmore Girls on a popular website they said that you can skip season one all together. Well, I'm sorry but I firmly disagree. Season one is essential! It establishes the mood of the show and the foundational context of the opposing worlds of Stars Hollow versus "Hartford," (i.e. Emily and Richard's World, Chilton). I use invert commas here for a reason. I recently watched a video of a Gilmore Girls fan who pointed out some geographical inaccuracies with the show and made a point that the depiction of Hartford is quite inaccurate which gave me a smile. I actually got to visit Hartford in 2009 and I was bitterly disappointed to see that Hartford was nothing like the place they describe in Gilmore Girls, at all!!!

However I digress, Season one. So, for me, the most important episodes are the Pilot, Rory's Birthday parties, Rory's dance, Star-crossed lovers and Other Strangers, and Emily in Wonderland. I will go through each one and explain why.

The Pilot is amazing and introduces us to all the major players and contexts. The intro scene with Lorelai, Luke and then Rory sets the pace and tone for the whole show and demonstrates the incredible Sherman-Palladino story crafting skills. We meet all the major players; the aforementioned three, Sookie, Lane, Richard and Emily, and Dean. Then there are the references, you have to love the many, many references. My favourite mother daughter fantasy relationship is beautifully depicted. I know the word chemistry is generally saved for romantic couples but the natural and loving banter between Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel gives the impression of people who have known each other for years, I guess like mother and daughter/best friends! It's so comfortable and that entices us, the audience into this beautiful, relaxed environment and makes us want to visit again and again. Then the core conflict between Lorelai and her parent's is played out beautifully in the first Friday night dinner. The acting in this scene between Kelly Bishop and Lauren Graham is wonderful, of course,but the dynamics are much less subtle than they come to be. In many ways I enjoy this, it's over spilling of pent up emotions, it's tolerating that by all parties for a greater good.

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Rory's Birthday Parties
This episode starts with Friday night dinner and unlike the pilot shows us a glimpse of the hope behind the anger/hurt in the Lorelai- Emily relationship. We see Emily making efforts to connect and Lorelai getting excited by those efforts, responding in kind. This, for me,is essential GG viewing. People can be hurtful to each other for lots of reasons but hurting each other because you want to love each other, well that's the stuff of Shakespeare! The party that Emily throws is beautiful and it's clear what a huge amount of effort she has put in, however once the party starts (foreshadowed by the shopping trip) it is immediately clear that the party was thrown for Emily's fantasy grand-daughter and not necessarily the real Rory. I also love that we get to see more of Rory's character; her attempts to sublimate her needs for those of others and then the subsequent frustration and outburst. Rory gets a taste of Lorelai's life and we get to see the dynamic repeated with Emily and Rory with Lorelai putting her head out to change the dynamic this time, with positive consequences. Sidenote: if you want a laugh watch the random extras at Rory's second party!

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Rory's Dance
Oh this is another classic episode. We get to see more of Dean and we get to see a bit more of the elusive Christopher! We see one of the major introductions of the theme of separating Lorelai and Rory. Emily accuses Lorelai of influencing Rory too strongly and then we see Lorelai encouraging Rory to form her own opinion on dances. This is one of the things that I most admire about Lorelai and Rory's relationship. A single mother and daughter creates an interesting situation. There is no father here to create an oedipal triangle and Lorelai makes it crystal clear that her major priority is Rory. Therefore Lorelai must hold a third within herself (as many mothers do) but is particularly important for single mothers. We see Lorelai struggling to be greater than how she sees her own mother, as being trapped in the dynamic of their relationship, doomed to repeat the past in every interaction. It is Lorealai's desire, to give  Rory the chances she didn't have, that pushes her to re-engage with her parents and the grandparent's desire, for a second chance to give Rory what Lorelai refused, that force them to stay in relationship with Lorelai. They each want what is best for Rory (which of course is subjective) but this shared interest connects them and creates space for relating and small incremental adaptations. This is interesting as their core conflict could have been seen previously as Emily and Richard want what is best for Lorelai and Lorelai wanting what is best for Lorelai but those things being diametrically opposed. Now in Rory they may meet half way, kind of...
What we see in Rory's dance is a climactic effect of these various efforts. Lorelai and Emily are brought together by the dance and they dare to hope for mother daughter connection between them only for that to blow up in their faces when Rory's best interests are not met. The second this happens all of the pains and failures of the past come flooding back and we see the explosion that occurs in the kitchen and unfortunately Lorelai and Rory's relationship takes a blow from the flying debris. As you can tell, I kind of love this episode!!

So lets talk cookies

Macadamia White Chocolate Cookies

The recipe for the cookie base was a trial of these by Simmer and Boyle.
I was impressed but would make some small adjustments next time. I obviously went for white chocolate chunks and macadamia nuts in place of milk chocolate

Here's a couple of delicious pics

And on with the review

Image property of Warner Brothers*

Star Crossed Lovers and Other Strangers
This episode comes much later in the season and Rory and Dean are well established. The episode leads up to them going out to celebrate their 3 month anniversary. The episode focuses on love and we see Lorelai's frustration at being alone. We also see, in part, why Luke has not made a move with Lorelai, i.e. his history with Rachel. This concept is introduced in 'Concert, interrupted,' but now we meet the woman herself and see the dynamic in action. Now much of this episode seems less significant that the episodes above but I would argue that a subtle dynamic is building that comes to a head in the last few minutes of the show. (Spoilers to follow)
Lorelai has forsaken her relationship with Max for the benefit of Rory, and Max, but mostly Rory. However now she is alone, while Rory has a boyfriend. We see from very early in the episode how Lorelai subtly dismisses and downplays the importance of the anniversary. She projects it onto Emily, of course, but I believe it belongs to her. Then comes the date and Rory is blown away with Dean's efforts, that all lead up to the gift of the car and the declaration of love. Now, this could easily have been anticipated. Dean has been telling Rory that he loved her since day one and Rory clearly has intense feelings for him. But as she sits there with the meatball for her mother I believe that Lorelai plays an enormous role in Rory's inability to say 'I love you,' back.
As I mentioned above, Rory has not had a father in her life to separate her from her mother, or with whom Lorelai can model romantic relating. We see in 'Love and Snow and War,' that Lorelai has never introduced another man to Rory, which is something I massively applaud, it's undoubtedly difficult but has provided stability. However every positive has a shadow and the shadow here is that Lorelai has never modelled romance, nor has she ever let a man come between herself and Rory (the essence of the oedipal situation, not the incest part that people erroneously focus on). Therefore how is Rory to know what romantic love looks like, and furthermore how is Rory supposed to put a man between herself and Lorelai? This becomes particularly difficult within the context of the messages of hating love that Lorelai has been showing Rory for the whole episode. Therefore I believe this is an important episode because it shows the shadow side of the fantasy mother daughter relationship and I might go as far as to say that it foreshadows the eventual situation with Lorelai and Max. Eitherway, I suggest you watch it.

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Emily In Wonderland
So finally we come to the fifth essential episode of season one. In this episode we see Rory bringing Emily further into Lorelai and Rory's Stars Hollow world. The themes are somewhat similar to those in 'Rory's Dance,' so I won't get too far into them. However I enjoy Rory's naivety about how easy it would be to introduce Emily to the world that Lorelai worked so hard to keep her out of. The emotional punch of seeing the shed that Lorelai chose over Emily's beautiful house, with all it's advantages, leaves no room for doubt about Lorelai's desire to separate from Emily and her whole world. She reacts in the way that becomes the typical of the negotiation of the new dynamic, by trying to pull Rory closer to her, while in turn taking a step away from Lorelai. I like this episode and this story-line particularly. For me it sets the adaptation that perpetuates the conflict between Lorelai and her parents while trying to maintain the Rory connection. However the fact that Rory is not an inanimate object and therefore has her own interests and concerns, well this puts a spanner in the strategies and keeps things very interesting. Rory's tendency to want to facilitate other's needs is useful in that it gives them the impression that she is more malleable than she really is and this gives a hope that keeps this strategy in play throughout several seasons.

So those are my favourite episodes and there significance in season 1. If you just want to know everything that happened, the actor that played Kirk has been making summary's that cover all the major plot points in 60 seconds that are quite fun, so I would recommend those also. Otherwise I will return soon will more season reviews. I hope that you enjoyed this, it was a bit more involved than some of my other television reviews and since Gilmore Girls is my favourite show, possibly ever...idk, there is a lot more that I could say but I am trying to keep it to the important bits. Anyway, enjoy and the cookies are awesome too so maybe you'd give them a try.

*Warner Brother images used under fair use for the purposes of review

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