Previous: Rich White Women, Pinkwashed Capitalism, & The Downfall Of The Girlboss
Next: 8 Numbers Every Millennial Should Know About Themselves



View count:308,764
Last sync:2024-05-25 11:45
Want a crash course on investing, wealth-building, and leveling up your finances? Join us for our all-day, interactive conference, The Intentional Wealth Summit, on November 12th. (If you can't join live, you'll get access to everything to watch at your own pace.) You'll also get access to our free Wealth Building Prep Class, and our YouTube audience gets an exclusive $19 discount on the tickets. Click to reserve your spot today!

In this episode, Chelsea breaks down the confusing ways money comes into play in the world of 'Gilmore Girls' in order to answer this question: is this show in any way an accurate portrayal of middle-class America?

Check out our video with Lindsay Ellis dissecting television portrayals of the working class:


Join this channel to get access to perks:

The Financial Diet site:

Hey, guys. It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And if you haven't already, do not forget to hit that Subscribe button. And to hit Join if you want to take it to the next level and join our super-secret super-amazing society at TFD and if you have seen the title or the thumbnail of this video, which I don't know how you wouldn't if you clicked on it, you already know what time it is. And that is my favorite time of all, dissecting pop culture through a class slash economic slash financial lens. We have already talked about some of the greatest hits in terms of torpedoing our healthy relationship with money and class on this channel, hits like Sex and the City and Carrie Bradshaw's comically unrealistic life or the phenomenon of The Real Housewives, which brought us an entire baseball team's worth of scammers, including Erica Jayne, who got her own video on the subject. But while those targets are mostly culpable for going above and beyond in the grotesque aspiration and wealth they demonstrate, one of our other big cultural touchstones for women of a similar generation, i.e. myself, that doesn't so much focus on aspiration but focuses on the very legitimate and honestly sometimes confusing portrayal of social class, and that's Gilmore Girls.

Many of us who grew up watching Gilmore Girls felt that it was giving us a window into class dynamics that might prepare us for the real world or make us a little bit more aware of the various dynamics going on under the surface when there are different levels of money and power in a given relationship, especially familial ones. But almost every lesson that Gilmore Girls taught us about class was ultimately extremely compromised, if not outright ridiculous. Now, Gilmore Girls broached the topic of money in nearly every episode. And you could argue that this puts it head and shoulders above other similar shows because at least it was addressing the financial elephant in the room, as opposed to shows like Friends, where we're just led to believe that struggling actors and baristas are able to afford sprawling apartments in Soho. But while money is addressed on this show, considering that its entire premise is about class differences, it's remarkable just how completely tone deaf it was as both a piece of writing, and as a broader cultural phenomenon. So let's break it down with the miseducation that Gilmore Girls gave us about money and class. So let's just start with the basics. Most working or middle-class Americans don't have rich parents or grandparents to fall back on.

Gilmore Girls centers on Lorelei Gilmore, a hotel manager in her 30s raising her teenage daughter, Rory, in the quirky small town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. And in the show's pilot episode, we learn that after getting pregnant at 16, Lorelei ran away from home after giving birth because she didn't want the future that her parents had laid out for her, which basically included marrying well and doing things properly. 16 years later, Lorelei goes to visit her semi-estranged parents, Richard and Emily, to ask for a favor. She can't afford the tuition for the prestigious prep school that her daughter Rory was accepted to, so she needs their help paying for it. And because that kind of money historically always has strings attached to it, this is where the show's central drama begins. Lorelei must resume regular relationship with her parents in exchange for covering Rory's tuition, which sends Rory into a stuffy prep school, where the student body comes from a very, very different background than her humble middle slash working class roots.

Now, in the context of the show, we are supposed to see Lorelei as a kind of noble protagonist because she left her WASPy roots behind to live a life that was more true to herself. But one of her defining character traits on the show is how much she wants to have her cake and eat it too. For example, she's constantly miserable about having to go to her weekly Friday night dinners with her family but more than happy to let them float Rory's tuition or buy her a car for her graduation because it also benefited Lorelei. So even though so many of her decisions are framed as brave and independent, she ultimately makes them because she knows and utilizes the fact that she has something cushy financially to fall back on. For instance, near the end of season three, just as Rory is graduating from Chilton, her prep school, which, again, her grandparents paid for, Lorelei's father gives her some good news. Thanks to an investment that he made in her name the day she was born, she now has a check for $75,000 to do it as she wishes. We all love when that happens. Do you remember the first time your father came up to you, and you were like, here's a $75,000 check to have fun with because I made a good investment when you were born. We love that.

And almost immediately Lorelei uses this money to pay her parents back for the Chilton tuition, even though there were many other more pressing expenses to address. It could have been put toward Rory's now college tuition and the fact that mother and daughter were about to embark on a three-month tour across Europe. And her parents are understandably upset about the way she handles the situation, mostly because it represents an end to the transactional and somewhat obligatory relationship that they had because of their funding of Rory's tuition. But if she was so desperate to break off these ties from her parents, which is the reasoning she gave her daughter for paying it back in one lump sum, why would she not have been saving and paying them all along? Why wait for this sudden unexpected windfall to all of the sudden care about breaking free? Also, why the [BLEEP] are you going off to Europe for three months if you owe all of this money to your parents and your primary motivation in life is not having to see them on Friday nights? Show me the logic. And while Lorelei's parents in this show are framed as the pinnacle of WASPy, oblivious, tone deafness, they are far from the only characters in the show who exhibit it. Throughout the series, it is not difficult to see Richard and Emily's privilege.

Emily's never worked, for example. And there's an ongoing gag throughout the series where she can't keep a maid for very long because she continually fires them for not being able to keep up her impeccable standards. And the main reason for Lorelei's estrangement from her parents was that she felt stifled by the stuffy environment. She was giving big Rose Dewitt Bukater. She was not trying to have a life of polo matches and cotillions. As a side note-- and I might actually do a video on Titanic at some point-- but I would have married Colin, cheated on him. Be smart, girl. Secure the bag. But like in the case of Rose, money was used as a tactic of control. But even if Lorelei is framed as being more worldly and cultured and aspiring to a more spiritually rich life, she ultimately wants the same bougie [BLEEP] her parents do.

She wants an Ivy League education for her daughter without the burden of student loans and all of the opportunities that it would afford her. And she ultimately falls back on that privilege we all know and love in order to secure those things. And that's one of the things that's so frustrating about Lorelei as a character. She left home at 16 and worked her way up from housekeeper at an inn to the manager of it. So clearly she's aware that an extremely elite education is not the only way to succeed in life. But yet the extremely WASPy, traditional, old-school paths of success are the only one she ever considered for her daughter.

This gives me extreme vibes of in my hometown there was this extremely expensive Montessori school that cost like, I'm not kidding, almost $30,000 a year for high school. And all of the kids that went there were very much like aspiring artists and performers and directors and all of this stuff. And all of their parents were, of course, like, doctors and lawyers and executives and whatever. And around the college age, they all sowed their wild oats. Like, they went and did a bunch of crazy shit. Like, one of them was like in a vaudeville improv group in New Orleans, which is like should be banned under the Geneva Conventions as torture. But they were all basically out doing their crazy art house stuff in Bushwick, whatever. But eventually they all went back into the fold. And the vast majority of them, or at least the ones that I still can see on social media, they all ended up just getting normal legit high-paying jobs because if that's where you come from, statistically chances are that's where you'll end up. And yes, struggling the beautiful struggle for a while feels really romantic and sweet and bohemian. But ultimately, they just want a nice apartment.

And similarly, Lorelei's issues with her upbringing almost always seemed about her personal inconveniences and aesthetics less about anything systemic or class based. Like, that girl did not give a damn about the actual class inequities perpetuated by things like the Ivy League. And Rory has certainly leaned on her own privileged background when needed. In the aptly titled season five episode "But I'm a Gilmore," Rory is beside herself that her boyfriend Logan's parents don't think she's good enough for him saying-- I mean, I'm a Gilmore. Do they know that? My ancestors came over on the Mayflower.  And let's not pretend that all of their neighbors and various background characters in the almost completely white town of Stars Hollow don't have their own issues with privilege and entitlement.

For example, Taylor Doose, the town selectman and leader of the weekly town hall meetings, is a pretty damning portrayal of a New England NIMBY. He turns up his nose at all of the same things Richard and Emily wouldn't want in their own neighborhood, from skateboarding teens to permit-less streetcarts to disruptive musicians in the town square. And while Lorelei and Rory may, yes, have had some working class habits, their lifestyle was nowhere near an accurate portrayal of the working class. So yes, Lorelei and Rory's lives do look different from the everyday lives of Lorelei's parents. They take public transportation. They rarely travel. And Lorelei's putting herself through business school a few nights a week while working a full-time job. But their lives in practice look radically different from working or even most middle-class Americans. There's a running joke on the show that both Lorelei and Rory eat like complete crap, to the point where Lorelei thinks that she must be pregnant when she randomly craves fresh fruit. And yet they have seemingly endless metabolisms. The amount of pizza, junk food, and takeout they eat is portrayed as a cute quirk, thanks to them both having sample size physiques. However, while other characters often acknowledge the disconnect between their physical appearance and the way they eat, to a point that could honestly be considered kind of problematic, no one ever acknowledges that their food buying habits simply do not make sense for two people in a middle-class single-parent household. They eat at the same diner almost every single morning for breakfast, often also for dinner. And they almost every day order takeout. Like, [BLEEP] cut out on the Chinese a couple of days a week. There's your tuition right there. You don't need to go back to your parents.

Additionally, because this is just like the golden rule of sitcom TV, their quirky little houses apparently worth an estimated $2.8 million in today's market, which begs the question, similar to Carrie Bradshaw, how in the world is Lorelei paying her mortgage? According to a Time article from 2015, at the beginning of the series, Lorelei works as the manager of the inn. According to PayScale, the average salary for an inn manager was $51,564. When we first meet Lorelei, she has been employed at the Independence Inn for at least 15 years, starting as a maid at 16 and working her way up the food chain. While it isn't clear exactly when she became the boss, we can assume that with well over a decade of experience, her salary was closer to $62,000, which is the average for an experienced manager. So let's say Lorelei was able to save her pennies while living at the Independence Inn rent free for 11 years. And let's further say that she was able to snag a jumbo mortgage with the most generous down payment requirement of 15%. Even then, that is 420-- blaze-- thousand dollars down, to say nothing of closing costs, which would also be jumbo. And yes, there is a chance that her salary was much more generous than the median. But that's still ain't getting her anywhere near a $2 million home.

 And even beyond Lorelei's wealthy parents, money problems on the show are almost always deus ex machina-ed away. Like so many other shows centered around privileged white women-- Sex and the City-- money problems on the show are often solved with an improbable one-time fix. That conveniently leaves the main characters not ever having to confront their own habits or what might have put them in that situation in the first place. Now, most of these do come from the elder Gilmores. When Lorelei can't qualify for a loan to fix termite damage in her house, yet more evidence that she definitely wouldn't be able to afford that house's mortgage, her mom co-signs a loan with her. And one of the biggest examples came in season four when Lorelei needed money to finish renovation on construction on the inn because she and her business partner, Sookie, have run out of funds to pay their contractors. So after breaking down to her friend and future love interest, Luke, the owner of Luke's Diner, Luke ultimately lends her the remaining $30,000 she needs with basically no strings attached.

But the worst offender in the series, though, came in the four-part 2016 Netflix reboot titled Gilmore Girls-- A Year in the Life. Now, similar to the Sex and the City movies, it's up to you whether you consider this canon or not. I don't, but you do you. After spending the entire mini series flailing about unsuccessfully, having all of her articles killed in progress or flat out rejected, and making zero money, now freelance journalist Rory has a brilliant idea to get back on her feet professionally and financially, which is writing a memoir about her use titled Gilmore Girls.

Now, first of all, it is beyond unrealistic to expect the advance on a debut memoir from a completely unknown writer to pay the equivalent of an actual year's salary. I can talk all frickin' day about book advances. But let me tell you, first of all, they're not much to begin with. Second of all, they come in installments. You only get a little bit on signing. And third of all, you often don't even get the actual rest of it until years after the fact, depending on how long it takes you to write the book. But the even more frustrating thing about this situation is that while Rory spends 90% of the mini series complaining about these money problems, they appear to all but disappear as soon as she's focusing on this new project, even though the project hasn't even sold yet. As TFD contributor Shannon Luders-Manuel put it, "I'm left a bit disappointed with this ending, as it seems to provide false hope to those of us who are struggling to make a living as a writer. I'm all for Rory completing a manuscript, and it helps give me the continued drive to complete my own. But my bills are still there, seemingly endless, while Rory's have just left the screen."

Now, listen, we all have our problematic faves. And we can still love Gilmore Girls for its quirky adorkable pop culture reference-laden portrayal of a quiet New England town. But if we're looking for an accurate depiction of the working or middle class, especially for being a show that prides itself on giving us that, it is a big old fail. And as always, guys, thank you for watching. And don't forget to hit the Subscribe button and to come back every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for new and awesome videos. Goodbye.