I have watched every episode of Gilmore Girls many times — I’m definitely in the double-digit count of viewings. Granted, I’m not always paying attention; Gilmore Girls is one of those feel-good shows that I like to have going in the background when I’m home alone or working on something. But, full attention or not, I’ve watched it a lot. (Not A Year in the Life, though. I’ve only watched that twice: once in a state of complete disappointment and once to try again. I haven’t collected my revival thoughts yet.)
My sister mentioned that I must really love the show and that got me thinking: Do I love Gilmore Girls that much? I don’t think so, but I do think I like it because the show is loaded with things to think about. Mother-daughter relationships, privilege, pop culture, and more!
The fun thing about having seen a show a bajillion times is that, after the first few viewings, you can watch critically. You’re not learning about the characters anymore or trying to keep up with the story; you can think about every little thing that made it into the show. It might seem a little silly to think so hard about a show like Gilmore Girls, but it’s an influential, loved show that has impacted lots and lots of people. So I will continue to watch and think and if you’re the same way, there are a few not-so-great things I’d love to chat about …
Can we talk about how rude Lorelai is to anyone and everyone when she is in a bad mood? While it seems like something that’s written into her character to make her “real”, but also as a comical aspect of her personality, it really just makes her seem immature and inconsiderate. It’s not your mother’s fault that you exploded at Sookie, Lorelai. And maybe, instead of pouting every time you’re upset, you could work on your communication skills.
Can we talk about how the Gilmores did the same thing to Dean when Rory brought him to dinner that the Huntzbergers did to Rory when she started dating Logan? Lorelai gives Richard a pretty easy pass when he has his hissy fit, but that courtesy doesn’t extend to the Huntzbergers. I would argue that, while both incidents were terrible and unnecessary and melodramatic, the Huntzbergers had a better case! Rory wasn’t likely to end up with her high school boyfriend, but it is significantly more reasonable to think that Logan, a college guy bringing his girlfriend home to meet his family, might end up with her. The Huntzbergers’ concerns might have been unfair and antiquated, but they were a little bit more realistic.
Can we talk about the way non-circle female characters have to turn into monsters in order for their story lines to move forward? Gilmore Girls is about a lot of things, but the relationships of women to other women are central. It’s interesting to me that there is this girl power, tribe mentality that exists in Lorelai’s circle, but it only applies to the women who are already included. Sure, we see Rory supported unconditionally, we see Sookie initiate her relationship with Jackson, we see Lane pushing boundaries, we see Paris being a boss, and we see Emily put her foot down and demand respect from her powerful husband (in what seems, otherwise, to be like a very “traditional gender roles” kind of relationship). They’re in the circle. But outside of the circle, we see Sherry abandon her daughter and relationship because she’s resentful of Christopher, we see Rachel as someone who always leaves and breaks hearts in the process, we see Nicole ask Luke to stick it out in their relationship only to betray his trust, and we even see April as a romantic problem instead of a person. If you ask me, that’s unnecessary.
Can we talk about the enormous amount of food waste featured in this show? From Sookie’s excessive kitchen pantry and switching of menus to the endless ordering of food that is never eaten, food waste is everywhere! I suppose it’s part of the charm of the Gilmore ladies that they can just order endlessly, take a bite here and there, and exist with a week’s worth of leftovers in the refrigerator always, but that’s not cute. It’s careless. Everyone always wants to know how Lorelai and Rory can eat like that and look the way they do. It’s easy because they actually eat like this: tons of food please, one bite, gotta go. The best diet? Food waste.
Can we talk about the enormous privilege the Gilmores (all of them!) have, but which Rory and Lorelai like to pretend doesn’t extend to them? I get that there were rough times we didn’t see — I understand that Lorelai and Rory lived without the (material) benefit of Gilmore privilege for a while. But we meet Rory when she’s around 15-ish years old, making Lorelai 31-ish. They’re living in a two-story house, ordering takeout non-stop, and wearing clothes from their seemingly bottomless closets, so even at the beginning of the show they can’t possibly be always scraping the bottom of the barrel. And then they reunite with Richard and Emily, which is a privileged move in and of itself. So most of Rory’s high school years, all of college, and her adult life are spent with the cushion provided by her grandparents. She gets to go to a prep school that’s out of her mom’s budget, to attend Yale despite the fact that she doesn’t receive financial aid, to leave school unexpectedly and without a plan, etc. And Lorelai gets to have her dream inn, to make career connections, to save her termite-infested house — without ever having to choose or to prioritize. The reality is that the elder Gilmores’ pockets, and the world they provide, are just an extension of Lorelai’s and Rory’s, but not if you ask them.
Let’s talk about something I love: Paris! I realize there is plenty to critique about her character, but I just love her. She’s over the top, harsh, and her personal brand of messed up, but she owns all of those things. She’s crazy-ambitious — in school, in career, in relationships — and I love how she never apologizes for that.
Can we talk about how Rory received none of the public shaming and ridicule that any other character would have received after cheating with Dean? Oh, and how she cheats at some point during each relationship she has? Please don’t think that I am arguing that public shaming is the way to go. I just think that, in a town that gossips the way we’re told Stars Hallow does, it’s ridiculous to believe that this wouldn’t be big news. Maybe this goes back to my issue with the girl tribe mentality that makes a villain of any other woman, but never the Gilmores. It seems unreasonable to me that the only time Rory is publicly confronted about her affair is by Lindsay’s mother in the square — Patty and Babette would be all over this.
Can we talk about how, thanks to A Year in the Life, we know that Mitchum Huntzberger was right about Rory not having what it takes to be a journalist? To be honest, we should have already known that — just go back and look at how terribly she handles her music downloading story just after officially joining the Yale Daily News. She doesn’t dig for information or work through creative lulls for a story. Instead, as with most things in her life, she excels when things are handed to her. Her Life and Death Brigade piece would never have happened if Logan hadn’t taken the bait and brought her along to the society’s event. And let’s be serious: Reviews can be rough. Mitchum was professional in his feedback; he didn’t annihilate her or even really belittle her like Lorelai says. He told her something she didn’t want to hear and, instead of channeling her disappointment into something productive, she had a meltdown.
A very similar thing happened when a professor suggested she was overloaded during her freshman year at Yale. Also when her trial pieces for the Yale Daily News were rejected. And a little bit when she was struggling at Chilton — let’s not forget her screaming classroom freak-out. So I guess you could call this her method of handling feedback.
Also, let’s not forget the way the Gilmores applaud Rory’s take-down of the Yale ballerina. A harsh article full of pretty personal attacks seems a like a significantly worse way to be told to abandon your dreams than a private performance review. Richard, who was horrified by Mitchum’s take on Rory’s journalistic aspirations, actually said: “Don’t feel badly about this, Rory. Sometimes people don’t know at a young age that they’re not good at doing something. Now that poor girl can go to business school.” Hmmmm.
Can we talk about the way that Lane settles? She settles for a sub-par life in the same place she’s always been, despite the fact that she always wanted more. That doesn’t make sense to me at all. In fact, it just makes me sad.
Let’s talk about another thing I love: all of Sookie’s nicknames for Rory! My favorites are “popcorn” and “egghead”.
Can we talk about how irritating it is that Rory likes to equate the occasional disagreements she has with her grandparents to Lorelai’s incredibly dysfunctional relationship with them? There’s a lot about Lorelai’s relationship with her parents that we don’t know. To be honest, aside from their just having differing opinions on how some things should be done (and that whole teen pregnancy thing), I never really understood why their relationship was so volatile. But, if we choose to just take the (Sherman-)Palladinos at their word, Lorelai and her parents have a long, dark history. Choosing to completely cut contact is a big deal, but apparently Rory is fuzzy on just how big.
Emily throws her a stupid birthday party, Rory freaks out, and then decides that she “officially know what’s it’s like to have grown up [there]”. No, girlfriend, not so much. When Emily and Richard arrange for a preacher to talk to Rory about sex, an outraged Rory asserts that they never even did that to Lorelai. (They did. Multiple times.) No, Rory, what they never did to Lorelai was let her ride out her quarter-life crisis in their fully-furnished pool house.
Oh, I’m just getting started. Come at me with your Gilmore Girls talk!
And if you’d like to read some critiques that aren’t mine, try these: “In Praise of Paris Geller and Her Anger”, “Dave Rygalski And The Tragedy Of Lane Van Gerbig”, “Gilmore Girls Is Great, But Lorelai and Rory Might Be Terrible”, and “The new Gilmore Girls is weirdly hostile toward fans, women, and storytelling in general”.