Fandom, Nostalgia, and the Power of 'Gilmore Girls'
Thousands of Gilmore Girls fans visited pop-up Luke's Diner coffee shops across the US on "Gilmore Day", indicating the strength of the fandom's passion and support.
As soon as Netflix approached the idea of rebooting the WB landmark series Gilmore Girls, the Internet went wild: hearts skipped beats and a dormant fandom began to awaken. Recently, across all 50 states, thousands of fans gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the Gilmore Girls premiere on 5 October 2000, at Luke's Diner pop-up shops. Sixteen years, 153 episodes, and four highly-anticipated 90-minute episodes in the can, fans prepared for the 25 November launch through a unique and clever trip down memory lane.
As I stood in a mile-long line awaiting my chance to enter "Luke's", regularly known as Drip City Coffee Co., based in downtown Seattle, I observed and met other fans. Many were older than 21, not all were female, and many brought their moms. I've often thought of Seattle as the world's biggest small town, made most evident when Seattle Seahawks games are treated with the same intensity and passion as any small town Friday Night Lights crosstown rival game. This was never obvious than when Seattle Seahawk and Drip City co-owner, Sidney Rice, attended his store's Luke's pop-up to pour some cups of coffee for those of us waiting in the rain.
Yesterday morning, however, it was Stars Hollow that took the title for the world's biggest small town. Everyone in attendance, across the country, shared in a social media-based town meeting by posting pic after pic of their Luke's Diner coffee sleeves, posing with friends, and taking selfies with a cardboard cutout of Luke Danes (Scott Patterson). They left reality behind for a little while to wander through a world that fans have longed to join.
The story of the Gilmore Girls revival is bittersweet. It launched primarily out of a successful and popular ATX Television Festival reunion, with reunion panel / cast member Edward Hermann, who played Richard Gilmore, the first to sign. The legendary TV actor often discussed his love for the series, and encouraged the other cast members to join in the ATX reunion. Just prior to the festival, though, Hermann passed away. Motivated by the crowd support, cast interest, and a chance to honor the Gilmore patriarch, series creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, went to work devising a plan to create new episodes and give the show the ending they’d always planned. (Due to a contentious contact dispute in 2006, the Palladinos were cut from the final season of the series and not invited to support the writing team in the direction and ending of the series.) Although this revival is tinged with sadness, fans, cast, crew and creators alike rejoiced in the opportunity to see the initial vision come to fruition.
Having experienced the frenzied nature of Comic Con International in San Diego this past July, I knew what to expect from a fan event. Yet, for a show that's been off the air for eight years, and one that's best described as a dramedy, it has one of the largest fandoms outside of the geek universe. This series doesn't dive into villains, aliens, or superheroes, but the dedication that fans have for its mom/daughter duo offers a clear example that the fan obsession goes beyond the genres of fantasy, comics, and sci-fi; instead, it comes directly from the love of characters.
Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) are the center characters of this cult favorite. Millennial youngsters and their moms watched for seven seasons the bond between a mother and her 16-year-old daughter that looked like a strong friendship than a more traditional mother/daughter relationship. Now, 16 years since the premiere to the day, there's clearly still something special about this relationship that connects for its fanbase.
Nostalgia is often the affiliation of the millennial generation. There are many reasons as to why we've become the #throwback generation. For myself though, a now 24-four-year-old who used to tape Gilmore Girls episodes on VHS, the nostalgia for this series is because of its well-crafted fictional world. For 16 years, I've wanted to jump into the TV and sit in on one of town selectman Taylor Doose's (Michael Winters) overbearing town meetings, or attend one of Miss Patty’s (Liz Torres) dance recitals.
Mostly, I really wanted visit Lorelai's Dragonfly Inn, and drink coffee with her and Rory. Like most highly beloved series, the universe of the series feels complete. From the fast-paced chatter to the over-the-top townsfolk and the all-too-real dramatic peaks, little ever felt missed.
Coffee in hand and the feeling that I was reconnecting with old friends, Gilmore Girls remains, for myself and many others, as one of the best TV series of our time. Luke's Diner may be only a small part of the Gilmore universe, but it's the part that most easily transcends the televisual fourth wall to arrive in your own home town.