I confess. I am not a huge Gilmore Girls fan. I’m a fan, but not a diehard. A filthy casual. I have vague memories of watching the show during its original run. I can recall fall leaves in the opening credits, I think. A lot of knit hats, I think. I definitely remember the mother/daughter relationship that at the time gave newly minted parental me hope teen motherhood* didn’t have to end as an after-school special cautionary tale. What I don’t remember is if the show was as much of a surreal acid trip as the current revival on Netflix is and, quite frankly, after subjecting myself to six hours and a year in the life of Stars Hollow, I don’t have the stomach to find out.
*Over a decade and another kid later, I now find myself extremely judgmental of Lorelei’s (Lauren Graham) “Cool Mom” style. Teen me would be horrified to find I now relate more to Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop).
It’s been pointed out that Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) is officially the worst and our own Alan Sepinwall has gone into detail about the revival’s highs and lows. But neither Rory’s nor Lorelei’s incapability for self-reflection nor the more insane scenes such as the steampunk gorillas or the never-ending musical (which I assume play better to core fans) were what bothered me the most. No, that title goes to the town of Stars Hollow itself for possibly being the creepiest small town in America.
As if preserved in nostalgic amber, Stars Hollow remains impervious to change. The tiny populace is happy and community-minded. Greedy capitalism and Big Box™ stores haven’t devastated the economy. The town square is thriving. You can drive by the ballet school at any time of day (or night) and find the dancers hard at work. Everyone appears to be making a middle class living. The Dragonfly Inn is booked solid despite a lack of chef or spa. There’s always a fair or event going on that involves elaborate town square lights and decorations. But there’s also no (or spotty) cell reception and Uber doesn’t come to town. There’s literally a secret speakeasy that speaks to an underground element and no one blinks at masked marauders dressed as steampunk gorillas. Basically, if a gang of horror movie tropes stumbled upon Stars Hollow, they’d all be dead at the hands of the murderous townies before the credits rolled.
Throughout the entirety of the Gilmore Girls revival, Stars Hollow felt off. But familiar. It wasn’t until the summer episodes however, when the saccharine 30-Something Gang and their equally eerie parents showed up that I was able to place the feelings. With everything that has happened to the economy in the last decade, the town Lorelei and Rory Gilmore live in feels like Lakeside, Wisconsin from Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed American Gods. Stars Hollow is under the protection of a Hinzelmann kobold. It’s the only explanation.
What is a Hinzelmann? It’s a creature from German mythology that behaves a lot like the English creature Puck or an albatross. A household spirit, a Hinzelmann brings good fortune as long as it is appeased but will turn on its caretakers if not pleased by their offerings. In American Gods, the town of Lakeside continues to prosper despite most small communities around it disappearing due to economic change. Like Stars Hollow, the people are pleasant and the atmosphere folksy. Also like Stars Hollow, Lakeside holds a myriad of community events. Including the annual Spring Thaw betting pool. Each winter the Hinzelmann (disguised as an elderly human and beloved pillar of the community, obviously) takes a junked car and pulls it into the middle of the frozen lake. Then the town bets on how long until the lake melts and car sinks. Unbeknownst the citizens of Lakeside, each year a kidnapped child is placed in the trunk as a sacrifice to (and by) the Hinzelmann beforehand. The human sacrifice keeps the town safe and idyllic at at astronomical price.
Stars Hollow has the same unsettling feel of perfection that plagued Lakeside. I’m sure it’s just my jaded cynicism making me skeptical of flawless small-town living. But then again, Taylor Doose (Michael Winters) hasn’t exactly aged and seems willing to become quite malicious. And there are a lot of spare thirtysomething adult children just taking up space at town meetings. Has anyone seen Dave Rygalski (Adam Brody) lately? Are we sure he went to California? Just sayin’.