February 27, 2006Feature
The portrayal of the wealthy on Gilmore Girls
|It is something the lower-to-middle classes partake in and, thus, they need characters on their favorite television programs to be relatable; to be just like them.|
While TV is populated with regular folk just like you and me, there is an abundance of wealthy characters, better-off than your average viewer. By rich, I don't mean the splash-a-glass-of- 1787-Chateau-Lafite-in-your-face rich or the let's-have-a-catfight-in your-huge-ass-pool rich. (Although we have had the throw-pool-side-furniture-into-the-pool rich, thanks to spoiled brat Marissa Cooper, of The O.C. fame.) I am referring to regular folk with a lot of money. They don't have to overdo the antics and the drama, but they are mostly stereotypically portrayed as mean-spirited.
I don't know any rich people. Maybe they are your regular, materialistic snobs. Maybe they can be the nicest people you'll ever meet. Television doesn't help the cause much by making many overgeneralizations and stereotypes about the wealthy, so maybe a new outlook at the rich can change people's perspectives. Nowadays on TV, the rich can be seen as snobby with a grandiose sense of self-entitlement, and yet also with a little bit of emotion and some sense of feelings. Not all rich are portrayed as cold and heartless beings, consumed by the desire to make money and to live the life of luxury that said money affords.
The WB's Gilmore Girls portrays both sides of the class divide, from the ridiculously wealthy to those with a lot less. We meet the heirs of the rich, with their weird sense of entitlement, but also those that refuse to have anything to do with it (or so they say); we see the rich shown how to loosen up a little by their common folk friends; and we see that, ultimately, the rich may put on a brave front, but they have emotions, too.
These Kids Aren't Alright
On Gilmore Girls, Rory Gilmore has always lived a rather modest life in Stars Hollow, Connecticut, but still held the name of Gilmore, her grandparents part of Hartford's wealthy elite. Her mother Lorelai has shunned that lifestyle since the age of 16. But then she turned to her parents for money to send her daughter to Chilton, a Hartford preparatory high school, in order to better Rory's chances at an Ivy League education.
While her grandparents took her golfing at the country club and signed her up for cotillion, she had yet to truly grasp the Gilmore name she had been bestowed with. She had yet to use it to her advantage like her peers did.
|She hates the way he talks down to those beneath him. There may have even been a Judi Dench comparison. Now that's harsh.|
Soon thereafter, Rory becomes one of his clique and then his girlfriend. What is more, she starts to embrace the rich life her mother long-ago turned her back on. This prompts the beginnings of a rift between mother and daughter: Lorelai is forever disgusted with the rich life and everything it stands for. Rory is defensive and hurt at her mother's comments. Rory shmoozes with Hartford's finest. She joins the Daughters of the American Revolution. She officially becomes the granddaughter of Richard and Emily Gilmore. It is a life she soon discards, but it is one she does not fully turn her back on.
Loosen That Tie!
With such rich snobbery, some characters may come off as unlikable, non-relatable... and irredeemable. However, as is usually the case, someone comes along to show these rich folk a thing or two about regular life.
Lorelai and Rory have played the role of teacher over the years, showing their rich friends and family how it "is done in the S.H. „ bitch!" The stuffy rich life causes much loneliness and unhappiness: Paris Gellar's parents are rarely present and when they are, prove to be nothing but judgmental. Emily is forever fighting off loneliness whenever her husband is out of town or the distance between them at the dinner table is just too long.
|It takes a little prodding to convince Paris that the local diner is not the center of prostitution ring and that public transit isn't disease and germ-ridden.|
Richard loosens his tie, eats a meal at the diner and takes in the sights of the town. He has a good time. With some insistence, Emily takes a sip of Orange Julius and eats a cheeseburger (albeit with a knife and fork). She gets along famously with various townies: one of the highlights of the series is Emily getting drunk at Lorelai's house with her many eccentric and loveable neighbors.
These simple moments provide for some much-needed bonding time amongst everyone, and prompt the wealthy to see a world beyond mansions and parties and functions. And, hell, they may even like it a bit. As Babette put it nicely: "You know, you may look high-brow, Emily, but underneath, you're just a broad."
The Rich Have Feelings, Too
Logan, set to oversee the family empire, comes off as nothing more than an arrogant rich snob upon first meeting. He and his cronies snub those below them in status; he is part of the Life and Death Brigade where he and others partake in elaborate„and expensive„stunts; he gets away with criminal acts thanks to his father's lawyers while his girlfriend„in her own futile attempt to use her family name to get a lesser sentence„pays the price.
He has stated that he dislikes his pre-ordained life and laments that his life will soon be over, so he gets as much partying in as he can. Understandable, but if his character were a little more fleshed out, and we got to see his plight rather than just hear about it, viewers might see what he is getting at. And if he actually made an effort to not use daddy's money to get what he wants, since he apparently hates everything it stands for, and took responsibility for himself, maybe he'd come off as a little more likeable.
As for Richard and Emily, they come off as unapologetic rich snobs. They can be cruel to those below them and pull off haughtiness extremely well. But there is something underneath that shows they have good intentions, as crazy as it may sound and as cruel as their methods can be. Emily destroys her only daughter's happiness for her own reasons. She wants Lorelai to fall for Christopher, the father of Lorelai's child, who has an equally prominent name. She wants Lorelai to be happy; Emily's definition of 'happy' is different from that of Lorelai's.
They use money and status to get their way. It's how they get what they want, especially through buying affection: their funding of Rory's education is what prompted obligatory weekly dinners with their estranged daughter and granddaughter. And when they recently found out that Rory's father was now paying for Yale, they felt shunned.
Let it not be said these two were not hurt when their 16-year-old daughter ran away with a baby in her arms. Yes, they were concerned with appearance and with what their elite social circle would think. But, ultimately, they were heartbroken, as any parent would be, that their daughter abandoned them.
|His sense of self-preservation and devotion to his family is a characteristic that humanizes this imposing man and gains viewers' sympathies.|
The rich life comes with its many perks, but it is also evident that it is not all it is cracked up to be. It comes with many rules and obligations, enough to suffocate a person. For Gilmore Girls, it defines why Lorelai ran away in the first place, and, thus, justifies the continuation of the story. And while this story is seen mostly from her perspective, everyone else's viewpoint blends in nicely and each character, rich or poor, provides a little bit of insight for the TV viewer.
Maybe the rich won't seem so daunting to us anymore.
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