why “a year in the life” matters

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source: Netflix.com

There was a moment before I clicked play and after I yelled in excitement in which I wondered, “Why?”

Why has this show’s return excited so many people? What story does this show really tell?

There are so many important scenes in “A Year in the Life.” There were moments when I cringed as I remembered the flaws of characters I have analyzed for years, and there were moments where I sighed in happiness as I felt like I was spending time with old friends.

I was emotional from the very beginning. My friend Alex and I feverishly watched the bright laptop screen in the darkness, and our commentary ranged from nervous whispers to shouts of outrage or excitement.

But one moment, one scene, stuck out to me, and I felt like I was home. All those months of crazed over-sharing on social media made sense, and I remembered why this show captivated my heart.

The scene, from “Fall,” is when Lorelai finds herself on top of a hill outside of a roadside diner, after finding it closed and her quest for coffee fruitless. The moments leading up to it were right in tune. I smiled because the hike was just short enough for Lorelai after she says “I hate nature,” and per usual, she looked fabulous in her hiking clothes.

When she sees the view from the vista, covered in bright green trees and shining in the clear sunshine, I could see peace settle over her face.

When Lorelai told Luke that she needed time, I was worried. All those telltale signs of bolting that still cause me anxiety when watching seasons 6 and 7 were there. Luke even pointed them out. But then my friend Alex said, “No, this is good. She needs to get out of this town and away from these people right now.”

And when she was finally alone, in the sunlight, she smiled and breathed and closed her eyes. She pulled out her phone, and she called Emily. I remembered their fight from the kitchen in “Winter,” and my heart pulled with hers, because I know the feeling of calling your mom after a disagreement. There’s hurt caused by the friction of growing up and apologizing, in whatever form that may take, is difficult and heart-wrenching.

And then Lorelai began to talk. I remembered Lauren Graham’s choked up way of delivering the most emotive scenes, notably when she calls Luke after their breakup, and as she recounted a story from when she was a teenager, I was flooded with memories of why I love this show so much.

In this moment, we aren’t given a picture of the fast-talking, affable, confident Lorelai that drove our beloved show, but instead we see preteen Lorelai who was humiliated and heartbroken, called “cheap” and “loud and weird.” The way she delivered those descriptions was with the same shame we remember the even silliest insults we are given when we are younger.

We see a picture of a different Richard, often stiff and uncomfortable in his dealings with his rebellious daughter, who is so different from his profession of predicting and controlling. He was, as much as we may love him, a man who would rather sit behind his newspaper than communicate affection, and that was the man that Lorelai described in the ill-fated funeral story session in “Winter.”

But the Richard who Lorelai describes is the one who encouraged Rory in all of her endeavors and got her a 100-year-old copy of “Leaves in Grass” in Greek, and this time, his love and attention was turned to Lorelai. This Richard is one who looked at his daughter sitting dejectedly in the mall and got her a pretzel and took her to the movies and never spoke of it again.

And in this delivery, complete with Emily thanking her and hanging up without another word, is the family dynamic that has made Gilmore Girls sing.

Because we see ourselves in Lorelai and Rory. We see the greatest versions of ourselves, the people who overcome mistakes to make something good out of ourselves. But we also see insecurities and self-doubt, and we have to deal with the people both within and out of our families who take our hearts and treat them well, or poorly, or with indifference.

We are made up out of the victories and the fights. The people who hurt us the most are often those closest to us, and somehow, “Gilmore Girls” manages to tackle it all.

Thirteen-year-old Lorelai cried in front of her dad, and she expected punishment. But in a moment where she expected disappointment, Richard showed love.

In telling this story, we have closure with Richard. Lorelai’s grief has been obvious throughout these four episodes, and as much as she would deny it, a catalyst for uncertainty and a feeling of being unrooted.

But in telling this story, redemption is earned. For all the times Lorelai messed up, her apologies have always been sincere. But in telling this story, she gives Emily something more, and she shines.

When Lorelai says, “It was the best birthday I ever had,” my noble tears turned into sobbing. Because that’s it — that’s the show. Lorelai has been hurt time and time again by her parents, and she hurt them in return. With Emily, it’s verbal. But with Richard, it’s the emptiness of dismissal.

They orbit each other, but they rarely collide. But in this moment, when Richard loves her right where she’s at, we see the Gilmore iciness melted, and little Lorelai grows just a bit more into herself under care. We see Richard as a participant in the delightful giddiness of skipping school to watch movies and eat candy, but also as the most gentle of fathers, and that made me cry.

The capacity of our willingness to feel is what makes us humans. These emotions make up who we are. They build our excited discussions about the beauty of our favorite old TV shows returning and the characters we love to debate. These emotions unite us, even when everything else in our lives may be divided and give us even the silliest of hope in new beginnings.

I think the return of “Gilmore Girls” was much needed, especially at this time. Politics and the most deep-rooted of beliefs and fears and worries pit us against each other. How do we reconcile with people who never seem to root for our causes? How do we pretend to be okay as we ask our least favorite relatives to pass the potatoes at the Thanksgiving table?

Somehow, we do it. We choose to love when it’s hard. We don’t back down, and we stand by our mistakes, as well as our greatest accomplishments. Sometimes we need to call our moms on mountaintops, and we need to remember the good in people who hurt us badly.

We need to remember: Life is short, talk fast.

And make your conversations count.

 

 

 

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