When Gilmore Girls originally ran for six seasons on The WB (and for a seventh season on The CW) back in the early 00s, I missed all of it. I had no frame of reference for it in that period other than, "It's a show that I'm not watching." Usually, when it comes to popular TV series and movies that you miss, there are specific references or plot points that you pick up, thanks to cultural osmosis. If you've never seen Citizen Kane, you probably know that Rosebud is a sled. If you've somehow missed out on Star Wars, you likely have a vague idea of what The Force is, and understand the unquenchable thirst towards Chewbacca. But it wasn't so for Gilmore Girls and me. I assumed it was about a plural amount of girl, and "Gilmore" was probably the name of a location or maybe the company these 2 to 1000 women worked at.
About a decade later, I watched it all on Netflix, and I was amazed by how engaging the saga of Rory and Lorelai Gilmore and their many loves, coffees, and quips was. But what really stuck with me was how it nailed an aspect which a lot of shows miss or drop the ball on: the treatment of long term relationships. In particular, the way that long term relationships end.
Too often, characters will date each other for months and years, and then they break up and ... that's it. They have a final talk (or blowout fight) that covers all the problems that they had, finalizes their moral positions on each other, and buries the hatchet between them. Now, I'm not the most experienced person in the world when it comes to long term relationships, but mine never ended that neatly. There was always at least a little bit of regret, some longing, some things left unsaid, some sad drunk texts sent back and forth in the middle of the night -- all things that slowly made their way to the nothing that is "truly over." They flickered out, rather than being totally snuffed out at once.
Gilmore Girls got that. Relationships didn't really come to definite ends. Even after Lorelai calls off the wedding of the first major guy she dates, Max, there's still weird chemistry between them. They even make out later, and it only ends when Max tells her that he needs to get away from her. When Jess and Rory split, the angsty little poetry nerd doesn't even break up with her properly. He just hops on a bus to California while Rory tells him that she's gonna move on. All Rory's major boyfriends pop back up in the series, by the way, to either re-date or try to re-date her. The same goes for Lorelai's.
Even Lorelai's big Will They/Won't They partner, Luke, tries to frame himself as this bastion of manliness can't help but be a posturing weirdo when he and Lorelai break up for the first time. It doesn't help that he's a fixture of the town, and it helps even less that they cast a shadow over each other, neither really willing to call it quits on one another for good. It really puts a damper on the whole "Stars Hollow is a wonderful little magic place" when you risk running into your ex every 10 seconds.
I'm not saying that all long-terms relationships end with a smattering of miss phone calls and awkward reunions. When some end, it's over, and you just gotta pretend that you don't know the other person whenever you see them at Chili's later. But I'm glad that Gilmore Girls went out of its way to show that these momentous attachments don't have to be cut short by an actor not being offered a contract for another season.
Instead, it gave us real, sad life, one where you break up, and you cry, and you talk to them still, and you feel worse, and then, a year later, you break the Anberlin CD they gave you because you're finally ready to move on.
Daniel Dockery is a writer for the internet. You can follow him on Twitter!