Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Music Monday: The Immersive Power of the 'La-las'

Stars Hollow is Your Town

Nothing transports the audience to the middle of Stars Hollow quite like the welcoming 'la-las' of the score. The comfort these familiar 'la-las' bring has inspired the first of my weekly Music Monday posts. In these posts, I'll be discussing the impact of a piece of music used in an episode(s) of Gilmore Girls, and future uploads will be on Mondays.

The 'la-las' are so immersive because of their elements of familiarity. As a frequent babysitter for my 15-month-old niece, the familiarity of the instrumental rendition of "Down by the Bay" played by her favorite toy is more annoying than comforting. How do the iconic 'la las' give us a feeling of comfort instead of annoyance, even as we repeatedly stream episodes back-to-back?

A lighted carousel against a dark sky
Image Credit: Mihai Vlasceanu:

I think the use of the 'la-las' in moments where characters are doing everyday things makes the characters instantly feel relatable. In the second episode of season one, Lorelai struggles to hold both her dry cleaning and her coffee as she runs inside to answer the phone. We see the chaotic nature of the humble life Lorelai has built for herself, and we appreciate Lorelai's endearing strive for independence as one of her defining characteristics.

We learn to associate the 'la-las' Stars Hollow as they are continuously used in shots of the town. The 'la-las' make us believe that Stars Hollow has always existed, and these characters have lived intertwined lives long before we got to meet them. This is impressive when Stars Hollow is so obviously just the back lot of the Warner Brothers studio.

The 'la-las' aren't exclusionary, and they help initiate new characters into the worlds of Rory and Lorelai. The very first use of the 'la-las' comes in the seventh episode of season one when Rory is showing Dean, who has just moved from Chicago, around Stars Hollow. The 'la-las' sweetly play as Rory welcomes Dean into her beloved hometown.

The 'la-las' have great power in portraying Luke as familiar facet to the Gilmore girls' world as well. Luke Danes wasn't originally going to be a main, reoccurring character when the pilot episode was filmed. The song playing as Lorelai and Luke interact in their first scene together in the pilot episode is not a rendition of the 'la-las' but "There She Goes" by the band The La's.

(I have no proof, but I think using a song by The La's must have been a joke on the show's composer, Sam Phillips.)

The song's lyrics, "there she goes again," tell us that this is not the first time Lorelai and Luke have met like this, with her desperately begging Luke for a cup of coffee. Yet, as a character, Luke has not yet earned his 'la-las.'

After the on-screen chemistry of Luke and Lorelai's respective actors shone through the pilot episode, Luke became a main character. By the last episode of the show's original seven seasons, Luke and Lorelai have formed a complicated romantic past. Luke remained the main love interest for Lorelai throughout seven tumultuous seasons.

The 'la-las' open and close this episode. They also play during a scene in which Luke is secretly planning a going-away party for Rory. The 'la-las' bookend the episode with nostalgia, but they also symbolize Luke's inclusion as a stable facet of Rory's life. Even though he and Lorelai are broken up, he continues planning a grand gesture to celebrate Rory's success.

The 'la-las' convince us that new characters are familiar, and in this instance, they remind us that Luke and Lorelai are always going to be living interconnected lives. They hint that after everything their relationship has endured, they belong together in their shared world of Stars Hollow.

Interwoven textile with fabrics in multiple shades of blue
Image Credit:  Pixabay:

Lorelai and Rory share this world from the first episodes of the show. A slow, soothing version of the 'la-las' is used in the seventh episode of season one as Rory finally opens up to Lorelai about the kiss she shared with Dean. The entire episode Rory had been trying to keep it from her mother, but in this moment, Rory decides to share her journey of growing up with her mother, and their relationship becomes the center of the rest of the show. 

The 'la-las' allow us to live in this shared world ourselves. A quickened version of the 'la-las' in played as Rory runs across town in the seventh episode of season one. She had just had her first kiss with a boy in the supermarket (and accidentally shoplifted), and we feel the innocent flush of a first love in the quick instrumentals. 

When Lorelai enters the market later in the episode, we are met with an upbeat tune of 'bum-bums' rather than the familiar 'la-las.' The jaunty tune appropriately accompanies Lorelai's spying on the boy who kissed her only daughter. The 'bum-bums' fit the light humor of Luke coming behind Lorelai and startling her out of her focus. 

These moments grant us access to the inner workings of Lorelai and Rory's minds. Gilmore Girls composer Sam Phillips names this as the primary intention of the 'la-las' in one LA Times interview. The 'la-las' feel familiar because they represent Lorelai and Rory's innermost thoughts. The 'la-las' feel like the heart of Stars Hollow because Lorelai and Rory see Stars Hollow as their town. The 'la-las' make Stars Hollow feel like our town too.

Feeling Like Part of Stars Hollow Matters

Why do the sounds in a show that premiered in 2000 matter now? 

We have composers and music supervisors to thank for the immersive world-building they contribute to our favorite TV shows. These creatives aren't getting the appreciation they deserve for thoughtfully pulling us into the lives of our favorite characters. Writers' strikes are nothing new, and they continue to fill news headlines every few years as contracts are due for renewals and negotiations resume.

The 2023 Writers Guild of America strike officially ended September 27th, but in a quick-turnover, binge-watching culture, likely similar strikes will happen again. What we can do as viewers is educate ourselves on the struggles behind-the-scenes players like music supervisors and composers face.

According to Sam Phillips in that same LA Times article, Gilmore Girls is the only TV show she has ever composed for because she appreciated the collaboration and creative freedom welcomed by series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. Supporting the creative freedom of artists means supporting the process that produces great entertainment for us as an audience. 

We can engage with other forms of media that support the independence and creativity of artists. One recommendation I'll give is Penelope Trunk's blog, where she frequently uploads posts about corporate America and working as a female writer.  

Now go pull on your favorite cozy sweater, find a video of the 'la-las' playing on a loop, and consider the hard work talented individuals like Sam Phillips put into making immersive television for us all. Then leave two comments down below: one about how you like to support independent creators and one about what iconic song from Gilmore Girls you'd like to see covered next Monday!

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Why Rory Gilmore?

My mom introduced me to Gilmore Girls when I was in junior high. This would have been around 2013. To give you a picture of my instant dedication to the show, I will remind you that we had not yet been spoiled by the show’s presence on Netflix. After school, I would walk to the library, dollar bill in hand, to borrow the next season’s box set.

Image Credit: Cameron Bunney: Unsplash

Gilmore Girls has experienced a resurgence, first from its addition to Netflix, and then from its miniseries revival (albeit with mixed reviews). In the early 2010s, I was stuck between an older generation who remembered the first season’s episodes playing on The WB in 2000, and my friends who had never even heard of this show I so loved. In 2023, Gilmore Girls is being discovered by new fans and rediscovered by old ones.

Something about Gilmore Girls, with its references to Lip Smackers and the Bangles, is inherently early 2000s. Yet something about the relationships Lorelai and Rory have with the people in their lives remains relevant to audiences through generations. Actors from the show have even stated that the show is more successful now than ever. 

Image Credit: Ketut Subiyanto: Pexels

In this blog, I will delve into different episodes from different seasons of the show that I think best capture Rory Gilmore’s characterization. I will be discussing different choices Rory makes throughout each episode. I will often reference other episodes I have already covered to show how Rory changes throughout the 7 total seasons.

I chose Rory Gilmore as the focus of this blog because I think she has the most interesting characterization. Her choices are some of the most heavily debated among fans, and they have been so for years. Her character arc is often regarded as more of a downfall, with both claims that she was doomed from the start and that her identity changed at some point in the series.

If we pinpoint choices that served as turning points for Rory's life course, we may be able to relate these to moments in our own lives. As I have grown older, I have grown to see Rory's decisions from a more mature perspective. I hope to introduce my niece once she gets a bit older, just as my mom once did for me. I want to be able to discuss serious decisions the characters make in a fun, truthful way. 

I chose the “how to (maybe not) embody Rory Gilmore” format because I think Gilmore Girls fans appreciate the quirkiness of the show. Gilmore Girls is fun. Even as the show tackles heavy family trauma, it does not take itself too seriously. The characters are goofy and endearing even as they face challenges. I figured that an audience that loves Gilmore Girls would appreciate a cheeky approach.

Image Credit: Pexels: Pixabay 

As my fellow Gilmore Girls fans, please share your opinions. If you disagree with something I write, please feel free to share your own take. If you just want to talk about what you love about the show—or about Rory Gilmore herself—please share your thoughts on those topics as well.  I would love to interact with you in the comments, and Gilmore Girls is a show that can really inspire connections.

Music Monday: The Immersive Power of the 'La-las'

Stars Hollow is Your Town Nothing transports the audience to the middle of Stars Hollow quite like the welcoming 'la-las' of the sc...