How the Gilmore Girls Do Money
The world of Stars Hollow, CT, is indeed a magical one. It rarely snows, and only ever in a picturesque, ad-for-Christmas-in-New-England kind of way. An unzipped coat and vivid scarf are enough to keep one warm. A single working mother can afford a lovely house to share with her daughter, with whom she can also afford to eat out three meals a day and binge on candy while watching rented movies besides.
As part of a truly Faustian bargain — or perhaps an Wildean one, a la “Dorian Gray” — all calories ingested by svelte brunette junk-a-holics named Lorelei are absorbed vicariously by Miss Patty. Thus our protagonists can subsist on french fries and Al’s Pancake World take-out Chinese and never gain an ounce. Diabolical.
But we overlook these quirks because Stars Hollow is charming. Its beloved denizens are feminists, bright-eyed and quick-witted, and the show itself is unafraid of dealing in a realistic manner with the fraught interrelation of money, family, and class. Lili Loofbourow at the Cut explains:
Money is rarely about money in Gilmore Girls; it’s about coercion, it’s about power, but it’s also about creating financial channels for love where other methods failed. … For all their differences, the Gilmore women all understand money as a way of securing the dynamic they want, whether that means refusal and distance or obligation and acceptance. Those echoes are key to the show’s project of exploring what money means for women — particularly women seeking some form of emotional independence.
In other words, Gilmore Girls is the rare comedy that makes you think. It handles thorny questions about income and wealth, being broke vs. being poor, and so it lets its characters sometimes appear spiteful, manipulative, and petty. (Because they are; because we all are, at least occasionally, when gold is involved.)
Lorelei worked hard to escape her upper-class upbringing and would, if you asked her, probably proudly disclaim any allegiance to her WASPy forebears; and yet far more often than she realizes, she acts with the imperious privilege of the wealthy. She is the archetypical Poor Little Rich Girl, a rebel who, at heart, is much more country club that she realizes. Look at how she treats her ostensible best friend, Sookie: like a cross between a servant and a sidekick. Let’s not even get started on how she takes advantage of Luke.
Rory has the sense to realize that, despite what her mother’s income tax forms might reflect, she and her mom are not working or middle-class. They are immensely privileged, both of them. When Rory gets to Yale, she fits right in. And then she settles into her caste, dating what’s-his-name, the conceited blue-blood*, who is really just Tristan II: Tristan Returns.
She is much more annoying during this phase because she still does not own her Class Status the way, say, Emily does. Say what you will about Emily Gilmore but the lady is no hypocrite. She has Noblesse Oblige sewn into the tags of her underwear. When other people sneeze, she says, “Noblesse oblige you.” (Does that joke work? Anyway.)
Part of the show’s genius is that the women at its center do not always appear likable in part because they deal with the more sordid aspects of life. Remember when Carrie needed to buy her apartment and had no money, and Big cut her a check for a down-payment, no strings attached? And then Charlotte saved the day by handing over her $40,000 engagement ring without wanting anything in return or resenting the gift or even ever bringing it up again? Like fun would that happen in real life, and like fun would it happen on Gilmore Girls.
* Logan Huntzberger