rhode island, tv shows

Paper Coffee Cups and Seeing Yourself in Stories

img_0126

Today I stood in line outside a coffee shop for an hour, wearing Blueberry in our Ergobaby carrier, bouncing back and forth to help her sleep. The payoff? A plain cup of coffee in a paper cup printed with a quotation from the upcoming Gilmore Girls miniseries, and a paper sleeve printed with the Luke’s diner logo.

img_0128

Not a particularly special cup of coffee. Not even free coffee. Just the chance to feel like I lived in Stars Hollow, CT, where I could pop into Luke’s diner on a whim and maybe see Lorelai and Rory talking a mile a minute. Netflix was celebrating the 16th anniversary of the Gilmore Girls’ pilot by turning 200 North American coffee shops into Luke’s for the day, and I got sucked right in.

That, my friends, is the power of a story that speaks to you.

I saw a few episodes of Gilmore Girls when it aired between 2000 and 2007, but I didn’t really watch the show in earnest until the end of my college years, when I started borrowing the DVDs from my mom to watch in my dorm room. And I completely fell for it. I loved Lorelai and Rory’s tight relationship, the way they could talk about anything, and how they always managed to get through even the most difficult misunderstandings and come out stronger on the other side. I didn’t necessarily want that kind of relationship with my mom – I like our relationship just the way it is – but I still enjoyed the idea of it onscreen. I loved the quick, witty banter, despite the impossibility that all the characters shared the same pool of cultural references. I loved the messy relationships and the larger-than-life but still realistic problems.

Most of all, I identified with Rory, as she and I shared a quiet bookishness and love of writing. She’d been a reluctant debutante in high school (check – a story for another time), she’d gone to private school (check), and she was a year ahead of me at Yale (different colleges, though – her, Branford, me, Trumbull). Josh even jokingly refers to me as “Rory Gilmore” thanks to these similarities. They’re funny, yes, and I do like to play “how accurate is their representation of Yale” when we re-watch episodes, but it’s true: I love Gilmore Girls in part because I see myself in Rory. Her experiences on the show let me look at my own life through a different lens and maybe even consider what might have been, had I a penchant for journalism instead of fiction.

That’s why I stood outside a coffee shop for an hour today for the privilege of drinking out of a special paper cup: because I was lucky enough to find a story that resonated with me, that represented me in some way, and I am so excited it’s coming back for a miniseries.

But it got me thinking about readers and viewers who don’t have that kind of luck, or who have to search far and wide for stories they can identify with. Gilmore Girls is about the whitest, WASPiest show I can think of, and I am a very white and WASPy viewer. I didn’t have to search very hard to find it. But there are so many people, kids and teens in particular, who can’t easily find stories with characters like them. Who don’t see themselves in TV shows or movies or books except in circumscribed, stereotypical roles, who don’t have the opportunity to imagine possibilities through fictional characters. That’s why campaigns like We Need Diverse Books are so important, why shows like Jane the Virgin and Luke Cage and books like More Happy Than Not and An Ember in the Ashes are so crucial. The more diverse media we have, the better. Not only because it reflects the modern world, but because it gives teens the chance to see themselves in the media. And that’s a powerful thing.

Someday I hope every teen (or young adult) finds a story that speaks to her, so much so that she stands outside a coffee shop for an hour for a special paper cup.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s