In Gilmore Girls, aka the best show ever written, bright-eyed Rory Gilmore is continually seen reading a wide array of books. Whether in preparation for Harvard or for her time at Yale, she is always improving herself via literature.
Juxtapose this with Patrick Lenton, who found himself re-reading The Wheel of Time for the seventeenth time, grimly hoping the ingrained misogyny might somehow disappear if he just believed hard enough. What happened to his days of challenging himself? What about that one time he read Moby Dick and felt good for eight years? Patrick decided to take a leaf out of Rory’s books and read Rory’s books.
This week’s Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge is covered by guest reviewer Bridget Lutherborrow.
43.) Complete Poems of Anne Sexton
I’ve already mentioned in a previous RGRC post how my father was a special kind of asshole (I say this with love), who would literally stare at our lawn rather than watch a moment of Gilmore Girls. I’m willing to admit the stakes often aren’t that high in Stars Hollow. People have relationships: they go awry, they come good. People get married, get pregnant, get divorced, get a dog. No one dies who isn’t very, very old and very much a background character.
Sure, it sounds pretty boring ‘on paper’ (if you printed this out to read on actual paper: hi, Mum), but I’ve come to suspect a lot of people turn their noses up at Gilmore Girls long before it gets to that. I’ve come to suspect it’s all in the name: Gilmore Girls is girly.
This is precisely why pairing Gilmore Girls with Anne Sexton is a no brainer. A delicious piece of cake. As a confessional poet, Sexton’s writing covers similar ground to that of Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino: mother-daughter relationships, getting pregnant and un-pregnant; you know, girly stuff.
I’ve noticed two Anne Sexton references in Gilmore Girls during my latest rewatch. One, back in the good old Chilton days, is in the episode ‘Like Mother, Like Daughter’, when Rory is being sworn into secret society the Puffs:
FRANCIE: I pledge myself to the Puffs; loyal I’ll always be. A ‘P’ to start, two ‘F’s at the end, and a ‘U’ sitting in between.
RORY: Anne Sexton, right?
Then there’s a much later episode, ‘Blame Booze and Melville’, in which Lorelai gets drunk at the launch of a magazine that is featuring her inn, the Dragonfly, on the cover. They send her and Luke a limo (realistic!), they both get really drunk (adorable), and end up “getting primordial” at Luke’s place (a nice change for Luke). The next day Rory is late to meet Lorelai before Sookie’s extremely belated surprise baby shower, and this happens:
RORY: Hey, what’s with the attitude?
LORELAI: No attitude.
RORY: You’ve been Anne Sexton since I pulled up.
The first example is Rory cracking wise. The Puff pledge is a piece of shit; Rory knows bad poetry when she hears it. In the second example, I can only assume Rory is calling Lorelai a downer.
Even when she’s not openly writing about her several suicide attempts, Sexton is a sombre writer. In ‘The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator’, Sexton refrains, “At night, alone, I marry my bed”, and talks about a “slippery eye”. There’s something a little tongue in cheek about the title. And yet, after describing a pretty good time with this slippery eye, the speaker describes being left for another woman, and her happy little maz turns glum.
Another poem, ‘Menstruation at Forty’, has the lines:
All this without you—
two days gone in blood.
I myself will die without baptism,
a third daughter they didn’t bother.
My death will come on my name day.
Cheery stuff. Then again, I don’t know what I expected. Menstruating sucks.
All this is to say that, downer though she may be, Anne Sexton wrote about important girly shit. Gilmore Girls tells us important girly stories. They may not always be perfect stories – *cough* fat shaming/lack of diversity/gay jokes – but the last thing this show should be judged for is having the word ‘Girls’ in the title.
Even Jess reads Jane Austen. Even Luke likes Pippi Longstocking.
Curious to see the full reading list? You can view it here.
Bridget Lutherborrow is a fiction writer and PhD candidate who perhaps already has enough challenging things to read. Nevertheless, after rewatching seven seasons of caffeine fuelled mother-daughter drama with RGRC regular Patrick, she’s decided to chip in and review a few things.