By Hannah Rajalingam
If you know, you know. That seems to be a theme in Gilmore Girls, the constant inside jokes and multitudes of literary and media references. To anyone watching, it might seem fascinating for these two pretty women to go through life with such knowledge and confidence. Viewers can easily say “I love this show!” The very title of it preludes some feminist themes: a single mother working hard so that she and her teenage daughter can achieve their dreams. But that’s not quite what happens, so I’m going to be the one to say: I have serious problems with this show.
Before you jump to any conclusions, I too was once a lover of this show. Lorelai and Rory’s witty banter intrigued me, alongside the reader in me that wanted to inherit Rory’s book collection. And so I (binge-) watched the show through the first times with tears and laughter and frustration (#teamJess). One week or so later, I began my rewatch– still with the same enraptured gaze, but starting to recognize harmful messages in the show. Finally, on a second rewatch, I began angrily talking back to the TV . Time and time again, Rory and Lorelai preached about not being the girl to fall apart if they break up with their boyfriend or to go running back to them despite how they’ve hurt her. Yet nearly every time Rory has a boyfriend, viewers see her do that exact same thing. The trend of not being able to keep her head in any of her relationships gives the impression that it’s not quite possible to be in a relationship without that happening; some might take it as a warning against dating at a young age. The point is the very stereotype they were determined to “break,” was the one they fell into time and time again. I put break in quotation marks for a reason: the girl falling apart over her boyfriend is a stereotyped, sexist portrayal of problems in a relationship. I would always get frustrated when they wouldn’t want to be “that kind of girl.” What kind of person doesn’t hurt emotionally after a breakup? It’s natural to feel heartbreak, and though it is seemingly more accepted for women to cry over this than guys, the underlying idea that a woman crying over a guy devalues them is horribly anti-feminist.
On the track of the feminism we see in this show, a light should be shed on the lack of intersectionality. The stereotypical portrayal of Lane’s life left her out of this “you can do it” narrative. Lane, like many minority best friend characters in TV shows, is seen as a sidekick, which might be partly why she isn’t seen on the same level. But throughout her later years: joining a band, when she got pregnant at 22 right after getting married, etc., viewers don’t see the same narrative. Almost everything she initially desired ends up not coming to fruition. Arguably it’s a message on the unexpected ups and downs of life, but it also shows this lack of possibility. The only main minority female character is also the only one main female to never truly accomplish her heart’s desires.
Additionally, body image arises as a popular theme in this show. Throughout, nearly all women, especially Lorelai and Rory, are given this hourglass, dainty image. Yet we see them constantly consuming junk food, and proudly boasting about it. Many other characters joke that they should be experimented on or studied. Others admire them for it saying things like “I wish I had your figure.” It’s mildly amusing the first time you watch the show. But on the second and third times, it’s only maddening. This ridiculous idea they portray of two women who can eat whatever they want (mainly junk food) and still stay thin is a recipe for disaster for younger female-bodied people watching the show. This lack of discussion around it assumes that their body issues, or evident lack of, isn’t important in their day to day lives. But again, to any young female-bodied person watching, that’s simply inaccurate. The way you portray and think about your own body affects many aspects of your mentality, whether they be positive or negative. And the message about that that Gilmore Girls continuously drills in is always negative. Despite all this, if you haven’t watched Gilmore Girls, I still suggest you do. There is something to learn despite all of its flaws. This show emphasizes the importance of leaning on those you care about and doing the same in turn despite what life may throw at you.