Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sylvia Plath on Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls was a television show that ran from 2000-2007; it chronicles the lives of single mother Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter, Rory, who live in the tiny and quirky town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. The show is critically acclaimed for its complexity, witty banter, and rich cultural references. There are so many references embedded into the dialogue of the show, in fact, that many of the Gilmore Girls season DVD collections come with a "Guide to Gilmore-isms," described as "The 411 on many of the show's witty and memorable wordplays and pop culture references." These booklets are included to assist viewers who are confused about some of the references the Gilmores make (for instance, Nico, Billy Jack, and the Romanovs, to name a few).

One of the most commonly-referenced subjects throughout the seven seasons of Gilmore Girls was Sylvia Plath, whose works Rory, a voracious reader, devoured during her high school years. Rory's reading of Plath is analyzed in the 2010 essay collection Screwball Television: Critical Perspectives on Gilmore Girls edited by David Scott Diffrient and David Leary. In this volume, Anna Viola Sborgi analyzes Rory Gilmore's choices of reading, focusing especially on Plath:
Although some of these writers, in very different ways, reflect the kind of irony that permeates the series, one--Plath--at first seems an odd choice for an intertextual inclusion, given her famously tormented personality. In [the episode] "Double Date" (1.12), Rory reads the Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath while waiting for [her boyfriend] Dean and sitting on a bench outside his school. Plath's own personality, as much as the depiction of her autobiographical heroine in The Bell Jar (1963) (a girl making her way in the male-dominated New York editing world), might create some meaningful connections....There is, therefore, thematic overlap between this pioneering female author and the narrative developments in Gilmore Girls (p. 197).

But Sylvia Plath does not only appear on Rory's bookshelf. Her mother, Lorelei, also makes frequent references to Plath. During the episode "The Breakup, Part 2" (1.17), when Rory ponders attending a party thrown by her snobby classmate, her mother responds by quipping, "Honey, why don't you just stay home and read The Bell Jar? Same effect." On another instance, when Rory is contemplating who to write a college entrance essay about, the following conversation ensues:

LORELAI: You can evaluate a significant experience that's had an impact on you...or you can write about a person who has had a significant influence on you.
RORY: You?
LORELAI: Or one of your authors, Faulkner or...
RORY: Or Sylvia Plath.
LORELAI: Hm, might send the wrong message.
RORY: The sticking her head in the oven thing?
LORELAI: Yeah. Although she did make her kids a snack first, shows a certain maternal instinct. (Episode 3.3)

Obviously, Plath is depicted in a multitude of ways throughout Gilmore Girls: not only is she portrayed as a brilliant author who Rory admires enough to consider writing a college application essay about, but Plath also occasionally serves as the muse for several of Lorelai's jokes throughout each of Gilmore Girls's seven seasons. Either way, the show's constant references to Plath have furthered her presence in popular culture today.

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