Brave Men and a Woman of Questionable Morals: Elitism and the Battle of Stars Hollow

Stars Hollow is a town that hopes to attract visitors through its various historical and heritage-based tourism initiatives, yet it is also extremely insular, with a select group of individuals wielding disproportionate influence. The historicity and elitism of the town combine in the annual reenactment of the “Battle of Stars Hollow.”

We are introduced to the reenactment in “Love and War and Snow,” episode 8 of season 1. At the town meeting, Mayor Harry Porter announces the upcoming reenactment. While he asks for volunteers, it is not clear that interlopers are welcome. The knowing nod that grocer Taylor Doose gives the man sitting beside him suggests that the reenactors among the crowd are already known to each other. Furthermore, the reenactment calls for a limited cast. As local restaurateur Luke Danes puts it “Twelve guys stood in a row, all night, waiting for an enemy that never showed; they got stood up, they should’ve been wearing prom dresses […] have any of you ever considered the fact that you’re glorifying a war we fought so we could keep land that we stole?” Yet Danes would have a fast-tracked path to joining the commemoration: his father was a reenactor, as he is reminded many times throughout the episode. Though he criticizes the history-making he sees before him, Danes would still be welcomed into their club by virtue of his father’s legacy.

Beyond the social dynamics that may limit fresh blood entering the reenactor corps, there are economic barriers. As Danes recalls that his father participated in the annual reenactment, he remembers that he “even had his own musket—never had to rent it.” When the cost of a costume (even in a town with the incredibly efficient and generous volunteer seamstressing of inn operator Lorelai Gilmore) is considered, the total expense of participating the annual event may be prohibitive. The militia certainly seems to attract the town’s upper crust. “There goes the fire chief, the police chief, and the one paramedic with a valid license. I feel safe, don’t you,” Gilmore observes as they take their positions in the town square.

As with “playing soldier” reenactments elsewhere, the Battle of Stars Hollow reenactors operate in a gendered space. The event traditionally involves only the twelve militiamen, but in an effort to broaden the narrative, the performance in 2005 (5:11) includes the story of a “woman of questionable morals,” who purportedly waylaid a British general with her feminine “wiles.”

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While hardly a flattering role, the inclusion of the WoQM could have been a moment of empowerment, both by broadening the narrative to include women and by engaging at least one person outside of the reenactment clique in history making. However, the process of staging this new interpretation begins with five white guys (including the town reverend and town selector) sitting in Luke’s Diner debating how this woman should look, leering at Gilmore as she passes through, and debating what term to use for their historical prostitute. From there is gets marginally better as the town’s resident thespian Patricia LaCosta is brought in to run the auditions, but when Doose and jack-of-all-trades Kirk Gleason take over, all hope of a fully-developed character is lost. After the winner of the role, Gleason’s companion Lulu Kuschner, is taken sick, the individual who ends up portraying the WoQM is Gleason himself, not only a man, but also a member of the Stars Hollow militia during the snowy reenactment of 2000.

In one regard, the 2005 reenactment regressed from its 2000 edition. While the earlier militia included two of Stars Hollow’s black residents, the latter included only one person of color. While this is a small sample size to reach any conclusions about the racial demographics of Stars Hollow, the role of these black actors as set dressing rather than fully formed characters is depressingly typical of the show in general. For ample evidence of this fact from “A Year in the Life,” check out gilmoreblacks.tumblr.com.

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All is not (entirely) dire for Stars Hollow cadre of Revolutionary War aficionados, however. The 2005 reenactment made two significant improvements on its predecessor. It included children, for one, who performed as narrators for the tableau. One would hope that they were included for a better reason than the simple chuckle elicited when a boy of eight years reads the word “boudoir” (perhaps they were seeking grant funding), but in any case it involved multiple age groups.

The more theatrical 2005 production also had an audience, unlike the 2000 iteration. While a significant portion was made up of Stars Hollow’s meager press corps (who had no doubt been strong-armed by Doose into covering the event), the small crowd would have brought a smile to many a curator of a local historical site or museum educator. It was decent turnout given the inclement weather and they seemed engaged.

Still, from the general sense of entitlement evinced by the reenactors later when Danes offered them coffee in the midst of a blizzard (Gleason asks for herbal tea instead) to the economic barriers to entry, the recreation of the Battle of Stars Hollow is essentially an insiders’ event. Betraying the same lack of diversity and oligarchic organizational ethos as many of Stars Hollow’s other events, the reenactment adds a tinge of nepotism to the town’s general clique as reenactment is seen as an inherited trait. While new initiatives inspired by tourism windfalls have made the event more inclusive, the Reenactment Committee has a long way to go to shed the trappings of elitism.

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Sources:

Weiss, Joan Binder. “Love and War and Snow.” Gilmore Girls (1:8) December 14, 2000.

Palladino, Daniel. “Women of Questionable Morals.” Gilmore Girls (5:11) January 25, 2005.

GIFs copyright WB/CW via GIPHY

“Public History/Humanities Moments in Gilmore Girls”: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1aPfbxxc6mxczb8PJ10E8ea1OlFKvrn46r3FabT9UPMM/edit#gid=2105862968

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