Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday Culture: Gilmore Girls and What It Can Teach Us About Marriage

image found via gawker.com

Let's be honest; with "Gilmore Girls" on Netflix for free right now, we've all been in a little bubble- watching those two beautiful ladies as they go through the ups and downs of Chilton, Yale, and Friday night dinners, in the lovely home of Richard and Emily.  We all collectively have a love-hate relationship with Luke and Dean, and our hearts pitter patter whenever Lorelai walks in the room.

It goes without saying that Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel are amazing actresses, but I have watched, granted for the first time (ever!) for me, I have been struck by just how amazing the writing really is!    Seriously, I think it could do another run for some several years, although I'm stopping with Season 5. But, you guys? The writing really is that good. And seriously, this show has taught me so much about marriage, and how to do it, and how not to do it.  Lorelai's beauty is a blessing in disguise. And watching Lorelai's parents, Emily and Richard, has been particularly eye-opening in regard to the what-not-to-do in a marriage. It has taught me more about marriage, on so many levels.

1. All Manner of Ridiculousness Can Be Forgiven.
It is clear from Lorelai's actions that she does not really look up to her parents. She makes several references, particularly in early season 4, that definitely indicate that she does not respect them as parents, or role models, and she sees more tension than good when she looks at their marriage to each other.  This is incredibly sad, and in fact one of the things I like the least about her character.  (Grow up Lorelai! Respect your parents! Geez louise!).

When Emily and Richard's marriage crumbles in the fourth season,  though, it is not surprising; Although to me, it does seems surface on so many levels. Emily is clearly an aloof mother, oftentimes unkind, and she becomes a shopaholic when Richard starts spending too much time on work and on business trips.  From the Yale vs. Harvard football game episode, it seems that Richard and Emily have become collectively a little too fond of the drinking, judging from the number of bloody marys and shots that they both drink.  It is a not a little disturbing to watch them making bad decisions, and it is no wonder that their marriage eventually ends up on the rocks (pardon the pun).  But in actuality, they have some serious strikes against them.

The main reason they start fighting, and Emily goes on a wild shopping spree, is because she finds out that Richard has been having yearly lunch dates with his old girlfriend from college, Pennilyn Lott. Although he swears that nothing happened between them, Emily's trust in Richard is shattered.

But it is not old friends that truly came between them. The eventual major blow that causes them to separate is that Emily finds a letter written from Richard's mother to Richard, dated the day of their wedding, and in it, his mother begs him not to marry Emily.  She claims that Emily will not be good for him. Despite all of Emily's problems, this is quite a sad plot twist, and in many ways, her not feeling accepted by Richard's mother deeply affects her core.

She ends up going on a date with another man, Simon, and Richard is left to live out in the Pool House. It is quite a sad series of episodes as we watch their marriage crumbling and the fights between them becoming more and more serious, and more and more bitter. One wonders if they will get back together at all.

*SPOILER* Yes, they do get back together. Ironically, a fender bender brings them back together, they reunite, and makes plans for a vow-renewal ceremony. Richard has to finally fight for Emily, when he sees Simon talking to Emily. He claims again that nothing happened with Pennilyn Lott, and she claims- rightly- that nothing happened with Simon. The truth that they are both remaining faithful through hard times causes their eventual reunion.

2. People Should Stand Up For the Truth
My question about the situation is: Why didn't Richard ever really stand up against the separation, or the claims that he was cheating on her, or was never really in love with Emily in the first place? This seems like a hole in the plot, or a flaw in his character, I'm not sure (I haven't decided) which. He seems to accept his fate-  to live in the pool house- almost completely passively, after years of  standing by his wife. He never takes serious issue with the idea that his mother disliked Emily. He grows a mustache,  yes, but granted, that seems to be the only serious outward protest or acknowledgement of the strange and sad situation going on between them.

He should have stood up to her wild claims that he never loved her. However, while discussing this issue together, my husband pointed out, that it shows that he truly loves her, because he didn't listen to what his mother said. He married her and loved her, despite what his mother thought of Emily. From Richard, we learn how to do nothing until your wife comes around... and maybe that's a good thing, even though it strikes me as very wrong and actually somewhat ridiculous.

3. No Man is an Island
Richard and Emily renew their vows with a ceremony and a second honeymoon. The sadness is brought back to a very happy reunion, and the only sad twist of fate is that Christopher tries to fight one last time to get Lorelai back at the ceremony for Richard and Emily.  Is he so foolish to think that after all this time, she actually will believe him this time? And is he even that sincere- if it took Emily practically giving him a shove in the "right" direction?

Lorelai proves one last thing about marriage.  She proves that no man is an island, despite her own best wishes. Throughout the first four or five seasons, she meets Luke for unofficial dates, constantly eating the food at his diner, developing a relationship with him- if not for love, then merely out of habit. They do eventually have a more serious relationship, but it would be mere flattery to say that they didn't actually have an "intimate" relationship - for all intents and purposes- all along.

What can learn and how can we takeaway marriage do's and don'ts by watching Richard and Emily?  And even more importantly, what can we learn from a woman like Lorelai, who is so fiercely independent that she runs from every serious attempt at marriage that may come her way? What do you think?

Maybe  we should bring this show back- this time as the "Gilmore Guys"? (Ha, ha). More of a focus on Luke and Dean and all of their many character flaws? The men in our culture today could learn a something from all of their mistakes. Or Luke and Lorelai's someday proverbial son, whoever-he-is?  I'm just wondering what I'm going to do when I'm done watching this on Netflix?!.... dun dun dun....!

What do you think about Gilmore Girls and What it Can Teach Us About Marriage?
*season 4, episode 9


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