In Lauren Graham’s new book, Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, she details how she started her TV career playing the “Gal About Town”, a post-college type that many actresses want to hang onto before they’re consigned to the dreaded “Mom” roles, i.e. the wasteland of female roles. Traditionally, The Mom is the one who reacts to what her husband or kids are doing instead of having a life or dreams of her own. When Lauren first read the Gilmore Girls pilot, she was 31 years old. She was asked if she’d be worried about getting typecast at such an early age as a mom, but she says:
I never once thought about it. To me, Lorelai was equal parts Gal About Town and The Mom, plus a magical mix of smarts and humor that made her totally unique.
It did help that along with being a TV mom, we also saw her as Emily’s daughter, rebellious and sometimes bratty. Lili Loofbourow in The Week writes an essay of appreciation about how Lauren has redefined the TV mom:
Graham’s combination of Katharine Hepburn’s grand dame confidence with an almost vaudevillian gift for slapstick goes a long way toward explaining how she so convincingly restored the single mother to glamour, great boots, and something other than pathos.
Of course, a great actress also needs great writing. Lorelai Gilmore is the creation of Amy Sherman Palladino and Dan Palladino and the article traces the roots of this new TV mom to their stint writing for the show Roseanne. Roseanne Conner was a revolutionary character–a mother who could be sweet but also abrasive, sarcastic, overbearing and hilarious. She was allowed her own internal life with her own hopes and dreams that didn’t necessarily involve her kids or husband. Lili adds:
But Roseanne was married, and Lorelai Gilmore wasn’t. Funny single mothers in fiction are few, and it’s a testament to Lauren Graham’s raw comedic talent that she managed to convey the struggles without collapsing them into the typical vocabularies of pathos and heroism.
Although, to be fair, Murphy Brown blazed that trail almost a decade before as a single mother on TV, being so apparently transgressive that she was actually denounced by then Vice President Dan Quayle who seemed to think Murphy Brown was a real person and could single-handedly end civilization as it was known.
I would add that Lauren provided something new–sex. Although she was devoted to being a mother, it didn’t mean she couldn’t be stylish and “Juicy” nor that she couldn’t flirt with and date men. Now, that was unusual for a TV mom.