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Raising Rory & raising Ruth: on Gilmore Girls

One of the iconic dramedies of the turn of the century, Gilmore Girls follows a mother-daughter team through seven years of life and love in fictional small town, Stars Hollow, Connecticut.  A beloved television show for most American women ages 21 to 40, mother Lorelai and daughter Rory grow up amongst bizarre and beloved townspeople who offer their companionship —whether desired or not! — on a consistent and transforming basis.

As a part of the formative canon for young women today, the formula of the series deserves examination. In a world of television shows that are either blockbusters detailing the lives of the rich and famous  (a la Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Nashville — even The Mindy Project), or short-lived but heart-felt snapshots of more “normal” life (Parenthood: 5 seasons; Everwood: 4 seasons; Hart of Dixie:rumored to be capped at 3.5 seasons), what gave these witty but unarguably middle-class girls from the Northeast staying power for the better part of a decade?

Their story’s premise is that the people who you love are your life.

Through the seven seasons, the “girls” develop relationships with Lorelai’s mother and father, whose home she’d left when she fell pregnant with Rory at 16. Not only are their family ties strengthened, but the townspeople, the community which has raised these girls from their teenaged years into adulthood, demonstrate true devotion and loving kindness which transforms the Gilmore girls into true women. The opening sequence, which produces a physiological reaction in most female friends of mine, is set to a Carole King song inspired, appropriately, by the book of Ruth:

If you’re out on the road
Feeling lonely and so cold
All you have to do is call my name
And I’ll be there on the next train

Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead

These women learn, together with their ragamuffin community of townspeople, how to love each other well, just as Ruth and Naomi taught generations of young women (and men) thousands of years before. It’s not a coincidence that this long-running television show and church life have much in common; Gilmore Girls mimics the form of congregational life in most particulars, both pleasant and unseemly. Living together through frustration, anger, and joy is the seed of transformation. Watching people be transformed by love is an everyday and a miraculous occurrence that deserves devotion, attention, and delight.

Stars Hollow, CT, is a school for holiness, in which the Gilmores receive a thorough education and by their graduation day leave all devotees with proud tears in their eyes.


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