Do Not Believe Everything You Hear on TV

Do not believe everything you hear on TV: that probably goes without saying, right? And there are a lot of intelligent shows out there, so it’s annoying when those shows get their facts incorrect. As much as it pains me to criticize my absolute favorite show in existence – Gilmore Girls – I have to. (If you are not a fan of Gilmore Girls, sorry! Please pardon my obsession.)

Quick background: the show centers on the relationship of mother and daughter, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, with a colorful cast of characters in the fictional, idealistic small town of Stars Hollow, CT. Lorelai is a single mother who had Rory when she was 16, and has since worked her way up to managing a historic inn in the town. Come Season 4, Lorelai and her business partner, Sookie, are working towards opening their own inn, which will be a renovation of another historic inn, The Dragonfly. The characters are portrayed as intelligent and witty (as well as entertaining). A fun bit of trivia: much of Gilmore Girls is filmed on the Hollywood back lot called “Midwest Street”, built in the mid 1940s for movies such as Saratoga Trunk. (That fact explains the look of the streetscape and even the interiors of the houses.)

My criticism for Gilmore Girls occurs in Season 4, Episode 4, “Chicken or Beef?”.  In this episode, Lorelai is planning to start construction on The Dragonfly the following Monday, until she receives a letter from Taylor Doose (who is pretty much every official in town, but in particular, he is involved with the Stars Hollow Historical Preservation Society). A “cease and desist” letter orders Lorelai and Sookie to stop work on The Dragonfly, a historic building in town, until the proper permits have been followed. It read as:

“Dear Lorelai Gilmore, it has come to the attention of the Stars Hollow Historical Preservation Society that you and Miss Sookie St. James intend to commence construction on the Dragonfly Inn. Any proposed renovations must be submitted, discussed, and approved by the Stars Hollow Historical Preservation Society. We must therefore ask that all work halt until such time that this procedure has been followed. Thank you, and have a historical day.” [Lorelai:] Is he kidding?

That part makes sense, of course. However, the exchange between Lorelai and Taylor makes a mockery out of proper procedures.

LORELAI: Listen, Taylor, while I have you here, um, I received this letter in the mail, and I’m having kind of a blond day, and I wonder if you could explain this to me.
TAYLOR: Well, it says you have to get approval before you can start construction on the inn.
LORELAI: That’s what I thought it said. Well, I have to tell you, Taylor, I’m a little concerned because we have a construction crew coming Monday, so. . .yikes.
TAYLOR: Well, the Dragonfly is a historical building, Lorelai.
LORELAI: Yeah, but the whole town is a historical building, Taylor. I mean, George Washington ate, slept, or blew his nose all over the damn place.
TAYLOR: He only blew his nose in the park. You’ve read the sign.
LORELAI: Taylor, that inn needs love. It’s falling down. Sookie and I have no intention of ruining its historical aspect. We’d just like some running water.
TAYLOR: Running water was not always historical.
LORELAI: You’re not seriously telling me I can’t put in running water?
TAYLOR: I’m just telling you, there are rules and they have to be followed.
LORELAI: Fine. What do I have to do to get the Historical Preservation Society’s stamp of approval?
TAYLOR: Well, a formal presentation is necessary.
LORELAI: Uh-huh. When?
TAYLOR: Uh, any town function or gathering is open to a presentation, Lorelai.
LORELAI: Okay, so, like, the town meeting tonight?
TAYLOR: If you like.
LORELAI: The town meeting it is.

I find it hard to believe that a well regarded businesswoman who is highly involved in town affairs and has already operated a historic inn would not know the proper procedures to follow. As if getting permits for a historic building is something extra and annoying. I’m sure I’ve seen this episode more times than you care to know, but it didn’t really bother me until just the other day. And then this part, when the Preservation Society was taking their walk-through of the property really made preservation look ridiculous:

TAYLOR: Lorelai, consultation, please.
TAYLOR: This porch is falling apart.
LORELAI: I know.
TAYLOR: It’s got live termites.
LORELAI: Big, fat ones.
TAYLOR: It’s a safety hazard.
LORELAI: It’s the first thing to go.
TAYLOR: To go? This porch can’t go.
LORELAI: I’m sorry, Taylor. You just said it’s falling apart.
TAYLOR: I didn’t tell you to tear it down. It’s historical. It has to stay.
LORELAI: No, no, the porch is not historical, Taylor. It was added in 1980.
LORELAI: So it’s a 23-year-old porch. Unless you think Kate Hudson is historical, it’s not historical.
TAYLOR: Not now, but how do you think we get historical 200-year-old structures if we tear ’em down when they’re just 23?
LORELAI: Uh, it’s rotting away.
TAYLOR: Which just means that your guests can’t walk on it.
LORELAI: So they should hover over it?
TAYLOR: No, you could build a bridge over it, using appropriate materials, of course.
LORELAI: A bridge?
TAYLOR: Or you could build a transparent Lucite porch over this porch, so people could walk on the Lucite porch and see the old porch underneath the new porch.
LORELAI: Build a clear plastic porch over the rotting wood porch?
TAYLOR: With the proper permits, of course, and those are hard to come by.

Seriously? Let’s just spread the false idea that nothing can ever be demolished and that we save absolutely everything, historic or not, safe or not.

Historic preservation gets a bad enough reputation as it is; we don’t need false information being spewed to the millions of people watching television because the show writers were too lazy to get their facts straight. Granted, TV is always exaggerated and this conversation could have happened between some people, but, still. I found it disheartening that my favorite show bashed historic preservation.

What do you think?

Trivia: The Dragonfly Inn, the building, was used in the 1970s as the Waltons’ home. Note: You can find the transcript and these pulled quotes here. See images of the set of The Dragonfly.

Do any of your favorite shows bash historic preservation? I imagine medical professionals must be infuriated by all of the misinformation given to the audiences, especially to those of us whose only basis for medical knowledge is excessive watching of Scrubs. But, see my point? It would be nice if media meant for the masses could be accurate.

I have this mug. See? I told you I was obsessed. It can't be helped.