TV Question: How Does 'Gilmore Girls' Town Economy Makes Sense?
Every family drama functions largely as lifestyle porn, with their sprawling homes in a gorgeous metropolis that they can in no way afford with the profits of their personal shopper business or whatever. But the entire town where the Gilmore Girls live, with its nebulous but smotheringly tight-knit population of exclusively small business owners and employees, seems uniquely unsustainable. Figuring out the population is its own rabbit hole: According to the town sign, Stars Hollow, Connecticut has almost 10,000 residents, but not only does that seem absurdly high for a town that appears to consist of about 10 square blocks ...
... but it's also later explained in season five that the town has between about 500 and 800 residents. Apparently, the sign is grossly out of date.
But by any measure, its number of bookstores per capita is off the charts. Sure, the total number is only two, but across the country, there's about one bookstore for every 20,000 people, putting Stars Hollow in the top bookiest places in America. They also have at least nine restaurants (far more than the average per capita), several specialty shops, and even their own dance school. If Stars Hollow's population is 800 and they have children at the same rate as the rest of the country, that's about 200 children, about half of whom are girls, about half of whom are the age of the girls that Miss Patty appears to teach. Even if all 50 of those girls attend Miss Patty's classes, there's no way that's enough to keep her in the lifestyle to which she appears to be accustomed.
Not to mention covering her sexual harassment lawsuits.
Miss Patty, notwithstanding, there are a few ways this could work. If the town was made up of lots of upper-income people who work in the city and bring their money home, they could sustain all these businesses, but every character we meet works in town and not at high-paying jobs. It's hard to eat at Luke's every day when Luke doesn't pay you enough to eat out every day. Tourism also undoubtedly brings in a lot of money for the fancier restaurants, Mrs. Kim's antique shop, and two (!) entire inns, but they're not sending their kids to Miss Patty's School of Ballet or shopping at Doose's Market.
Or any of the 97 places Kirk works.
Neither are many of the residents, probably -- they're driving half an hour to Walmart because corporate exploitation always beats out local flavor when it comes to the price point. Taylor Doose's personal finances are a spiderweb from which we'd never escape, but how does Al keep his Pancake World turning when the whole joke is that no one ever eats there? Won't somebody think of poor Al? And we should all be worried about Miss Patty's credit card situation. Here's hoping she's getting some sweet alimony checks from her many husbands.
Top image: Warner Bros. Television