“I love these women”

[Lorelai and Rory are on the couch watching television]

RORY: I like these women.

LORELAI: I love these women.

During the cold open, Lorelai and Rory watch Grey Gardens, a 1975 documentary by Albert and David Maysles. The film depicts the everyday lives of two reclusive, upper-class women, a mother and daughter both named Edith Beale, who lived in poverty at Grey Gardens, a derelict mansion in the wealthy Georgica Pond neighbourhood of East Hampton, New York.

Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (1895–1977), known as “Big Edie”, and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale (1917–2002), known as “Little Edie”, were the aunt and the first cousin, respectively, of former US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The two women lived together at the Grey Gardens estate for more than fifty years with limited funds in increasing squalor and isolation.

Throughout the fall of 1971 and into 1972, their living conditions—their house was infested by fleas, inhabited by numerous cats and raccoons, deprived of running water, and filled with garbage and decay—were exposed as the result of an article in the National Enquirer and a cover story in New York Magazine after a series of inspections by the Health Department.

With the Beale women facing eviction and the razing of their house, in the summer of 1972 Jacqueline Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill provided the necessary funds to stabilize and repair the dilapidated house so that it would meet village codes.

Albert and David Maysles became interested in their story and received permission to film a documentary about the women, which was released in 1976 to wide critical acclaim. Their direct cinema technique left the women to tell their own stories.

The film was controversial from the start, with some feeling that the Beales were being exploited, and that because they were paid for taking part, the documentary was ethically compromised.

“Big Edie” died in 1977 and “Little Edie” sold the house in 1979, dying in Florida in 2002. The fashion designer Liz Lange now owns the house, which has been extensively remodelled and landscaped.

Lorelai and Rory both enjoy eccentric biographies, and stories about mother-daughter relationships, so this film is a natural fit for them. It’s clear they can see a little of themselves in “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” – like the Beales, the Gilmores share the same name. Other similarities are that their home is similarly described as needing work (“The Crapshack”), and they live a life of of genteel squalor, doing exactly as they please. Most importantly, like the Beales, the Gilmore girls are intensely codependent.

It’s hard not to think that Gilmore Girls was influenced to some extent by Grey Gardens – their names even have the same initials!

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