I was absolutely devastated to hear this week that the world lost the great Edward Herrmann to brain cancer. While he was an accomplished actor on many fronts (including film and Broadway roles), I will always remember him best as Richard Gilmore, the firm but kind-hearted patriarch on our beloved Gilmore Girls. After years spent watching the series (seven seasons over and over and over again,) the Gilmores have started to feel like de facto family members, whose voices I hear bantering wittily as the show plays in the background of my everyday life.
Richard Gilmore always feels like the voice of reason that permeates the often, bizarre world of Stars Hollow, and there is plenty to be learned from this fictional patriarch. Here’s to a great actor, who depicted a character we will cherish always. Thank you for these life lessons, Richard Gilmore and rest in peace Edward Herrmann.
It’s OK to be brutally honest.
One of the greatest things about Richard Gilmore is that he tells it how it is, and he doesn’t really care if his feelings on any particular subject matter are considered socially acceptable (often causing him to be scolded by his wife and earn a laugh from his granddaughter). Some of his greatest moments on the show are born out of this disregard for the harshness of his own honesty. And these moments make me realize just how much I filter my own words on a daily basis.
Revenge is best served as a thoughtful prank.
In the season 5 episode, “But Not as Cute as Pushkin” Logan embarrasses Rory in class by staging a disruptive and elaborate stunt to get her attention. As payback, Richard steps in to pull a prank on Logan, and trick him into believing that his performance and foolish declaration of affection for Rory would result in a much more serious relationship than he bargained for. In one of the greatest Rory/Richard moments of the whole series (their memorable golfing trip is a close second), Logan is left stunned and speechless, while the pair shares a laugh at his expense. They’re pretty great partners in crime.
It’s just fine to get a little crazy during your college years.
When Richard and Emily attended the Yale-Harvard football game with Rory and Lorelai, we get a little insight into Richard’s own college years at Yale. As it turns out in addition to being part of the Whiffenpoof a cappella group (pretty tame), Richard was also naked for an entire month his sophomore year (a tad bit shocking). So, it just goes to show that even the most upstanding and successful members of society have had their wild times. AKA there’s no real reason to keep worrying about that time you had one too many drinks and busted out a choreographed dance routine at a college party. It will be a great story to tell your grandkids one day.
Family relationships don’t always have to be perfect
Gilmore Girls is a show that hinges on the complicated dynamics between family members, and how they can develop and change over time. At the beginning of the series, Lorelai’s relationship with Richard was strained at best. While it was clear from the get-go that he loves his daughter, he had placed expectations on her that she had no desire to fulfill. Over the course of the series (and too many wonderfully witty Friday night dinners to count), Richard experiences ups and downs in his relationships with his daughter and granddaughter. However, it is the flawed existence of this dynamic that makes Richard a relatable and compelling character.
It’s just fine to admit you were wrong.
Season 6 is a tough one for Gilmore fans, because the first half finds Rory and Lorelai in their longest and most complicated fight, one that keeps them from speaking. After Lorelai refuses to support Rory’s decision to take a year off from Yale, she’s devastated to realize that Richard and Emily have gone behind her back, agreeing to let Rory move in with them during her break from school. At the beginning of the episode “Twenty-One is the Loneliest Number,” Richard shows up on Lorelai’s doorstep to admit that his part in the decision to contradict her authority was the wrong one. Richard’s concession is an important turning point in both his relationship with Lorelai and with Rory, because he swallowed his pride in order to do what was best for his granddaughter and her future.
We should all be so lucky to have a Richard Gilmore in our lives.