Where real and reel converge

By Rosalyn D Mello | Mumbai

Some television shows allow us the luxury of ceding to a quasi-utopic world, where all problems have solutions, when every day is spring

The premise of the show Gilmore Girls was apparently concocted on a whim

There must be an appropriate term for the void you feel when you've watched the final instalment of a television show. When Lena Dunham's Girls ended, along with my circle of feminist friends, I went through a phase of mourning. Sure, we couldn't relate to any of the lead characters. They seemed bratty, superbly unconscious of their relative privilege, and thus, unlikeable. But we knew that this was a deliberate manoeuvre on Dunham's part.

Nonetheless, many aspects of the show's lead protagonist, Hannah Horvath's personality resonated with so many of us who were viewing the show illegally in a third-world context. It was a predominantly 'white' show, despite its feminist intonations. And yet, there was something strangely universal about its content. I remember calling up Mona immediately after watching several episodes, because something that was said echoed with our relationship, some element of female intimacy to which I hadn't been previously exposed.

I have vivid memories of glimpsing scenes from Gilmore Girls in my adolescence as it screened on television. I had registered the witty repartee between mother and daughter, both named Lorelai Gilmore. But I hadn't ever seen the show as a continuous narrative, because that was the nature of television; shows had fixed timings, and, growing up in a household with three other siblings, I rarely had control over the remote.

Some months ago my mother, who, like me, shares my sister's Netflix account, watched the show from start to finish. I hadn't yet, and so, couldn't exchange notes then. Around August this year, I decided it was finally time to visit the universe of Stars Hollow. This morning, four months later, I arrived at the last episode of Season seven. I know I have the more recent Year in the Life season to watch, but I am worried about the massive void that the show's ending has left behind.

I don't regret not having watched Gilmore Girls when it was being aired on television. The show, conceived by Amy Sherman-Palladino, ended in March 2007. I was a student of JNU then. I wasn't ready. I think I had to arrive at a more evolved feminist state of being to truly appreciate Sherman-Palladino's incredible genius. I also had to arrive at a phase in life where I most desperately needed the distraction of a quasi-utopic world.

When I told close friends in Goa that I was slowly sinking into the Gilmore world to the point where I'd stopped watching anything else, they scoffed at me. "It's so white," they said. Strangely, I think that's what I enjoyed about it. There's no room for gruesome murder or political scandal. If someone dies on the show, you are never shown the body. It's all closed coffins and spring festivals and every problem is pointedly first-world.

Yet, beyond all the pleasantries, beyond the town hall meetings and the coffee drinking and the competitive Ivy league environment and the WASPy privilege (White Ango-Saxon Protestants), Sherman-Palladino's show accomplishes so many subversive acts of feminist story telling. Intriguingly, the show's premise was concocted on a whim. "I sold it off on a line. It's [a] mother and daughter and they're more like friends than mother and daughter," she told The WB Television network at a meeting after several of her previous pitches had been turned down.

"And they all perked up and literally said, 'Great, we'll buy that'. I walked out of there and turned to my manager at the time and said, 'That's all I got. I don't know what the show is.'" The setting of Stars Hollow, Connecticut emerged after she made a trip there and stayed at the Mayflower Inn. "If I can make people feel this much of what I felt walking around this fairy town, I thought that would be wonderful… At the time I was there, it was beautiful, it was magical, and it was [a] feeling of warmth and small-town camaraderie… There was a longing for that in my own life, and I thought—that's something that I would really love to put out there."

Besides the urge for an escape from the complexity of contemporary politics, I took to Gilmore Girls also because I had watched and fallen madly in love with Sherman-Palladino's more recent offering, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, a brilliant period dramedy focussed on a married Jewish housewife who adopts her husband's dream of being a stand-up comedian. I feel certain I could now write a whole thesis on various elements of both of Palladino's beloved creations, but this isn't the place for it. This is more a public service announcement to those of you who haven't watched either shows. I envy you because you have a whole universe awaiting your arrival. For those of you who are veteran viewers, I'm happy to finally join your club.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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