The “Fall” episode of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life features Lorelai going “wildly” out of character by following in the footsteps of Cheryl Strayed as chronicled in her book Wild to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. When Lorelai gets there, she finds many other women also trying to find themselves by doing the hike. Amy Sherman-Palladino parodies the scenario and the women but told Buzzfeed that she wasn’t making fun of Wild:
I just thought [Wild] was a really great, beautiful platform that was resonating amongst women. At the heart and soul of Gilmore Girls … it is a show about women: interesting women, smart women, grappling with more than just romance. They’re really grappling with who they are.
Although Amy Sherman-Palladino does give allow the women hikers to voice some geniune reasons why they are attempting the arduous trip, she parodies the trendiness of these types of phenomenons, with so many quick to jump on the latest bandwagon to emotional and spiritual enlightenment (wasn’t it Eat, Pray, Love just a few years ago?). She also gets into the class system within this trendy movement, where the hikers are divided by “book or movie”, meaning whether they were inspired by Cheryl’s book (deeper, more genuine hikers) or Reese Witherspoon’s movie adaptation (trendy types who just saw the movie on a plane or cable). However, if you’re going to go on an emotional/spiritual quest, isn’t hiking better for you than joining a cult?
For our hero, Lorelai, even though she is following the herd as much as anyone else, she is taking herself way out of her comfort zone in hopes of getting unstuck. In the end, she discovers by accident that she has to find her own path.
The use of Wild in A Year in the Life was as much a surprise to Cheryl Strayed as anyone else–she told Buzzfeed that she found out when she saw the trailer and spotted Lorelai reading Wild poolside.
The fact that the writers of this show decided to tell my story within their own story, I feel honored and amazed. Like truly amazed, and deeply flattered.
When asked about the fun poked at the hikers, being asked “book or movie”, she said:
That’s one of the things that makes people love Gilmore Girls so much, is there’s often truth and poignancy layered among ridiculousness and humor. That was obviously a spoof or a comic moment, but there were some pieces of real truth in there, too.
In terms of the mother-daughter dynamic in Gilmore Girls, Cheryl says she identifies with Lorelai and Rory:
Wild is about two things: It’s about my hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, and it’s also about my love for my mother, and my grief. It’s the story of our life and our relationship, and so I was so identifying in what I was seeing in Rory’s journey, too. I was that girl who wrote about the complexities of the love and bond that I have with my mother.
And although Lorelai did not end up making the same physical journey as Cheryl, the emotional journey was similar:
I always say to people when they ask me if they should hike the PCT, it’s not so much about specifically hiking the PCT or following in my footsteps. You can’t replicate what I did, but go find your own journey. Go do something that makes you feel.