“Was Gilmore Girls Supposed to Make Women Look Awful?”

Um, no.

I don’t often get hits on my blog because someone searched for something strange (at least, nothing that I can see most of the time; does anyone else wonder about those search term hits that are always hidden when you look at your analytics?), so this was a kind of weird surprise.

Last week, a couple days after I posted some thoughts on Gilmore Girls after rewatching some of the series, I got a hit from someone who was searching for the question in my title line.  I’ve spent a couple days trying to figure out what’s meant by it, and I’m still not entirely sure what the person was hoping to find.

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The great thing about the internet is there really is a wiki for everything. (Image credit: Gilmorepedia)

I mean, is this a question about the appearance of women or the portrayal of women (that verb look is so tricky)?  If it’s the former, is this some kind of weird dig at the actresses on the show, or maybe some creepy guy’s judgment that all other women appear drastically inferior to the women of Gilmore Girls?  If it’s the latter, again, is this a dig at the characters on the show, or signs that someone needs step back from the misogynist websites and take a moment to re-evaluate their interactions with women?

Then there’s that “supposed” that brings in some interesting questions of intentionality on the part of the show.  If Gilmore Girls made women look awful, was it something the creators intended or was it an accident?

So many questions.

Despite the awkwardness of the wording, this search term did leave me wondering if there’s anything problematic with the way that Gilmore Girls portrays women.  It’s a notable show from its time simply because it offered so many different character types for women; Lorelai’s quirky, Rory’s precocious, Emily’s snobby, Sookie’s flighty, Lane’s sneaky, Paris is ambitious, and Mrs. Kim is strict.  All of these women have more complex personalities than simply being “the girl” in a cast of types, and that’s a very good thing.  At the same time, the show suffers from a lack of long term character development (keep in mind I’ve only viewed through the end of season 3 at this point, so maybe there’s more development in the future); Lorelai continues to be quirky, Rory continues to be precocious, Emily continues to be snobby, etc.  I suspect this lack of development stems from the fact that the show was conceived as a dramedy; it was just as likely to go for a laugh as to present a realistic character moment (in the earlier seasons particularly, it feels like the show more often than not goes for the laugh).  That blended format is difficult to inhabit, simply because the show’s constantly pulling back and forth between operating like a sitcom (where the characters are meant to be static, and the humor arises from seeing how they react to different situations) and building a serious ongoing narrative.

I think it’s because Gilmore Girls wants to be able to produce quick laughs that it doesn’t let its characters grow significantly (after all, characters who learn from past mistakes require new situations from which to derive humor, and that’s a much harder task for writers on long-running shows).

So is Gilmore Girls supposed to make women look awful?  No.  It did something really important for its time by presenting a cast of diverse personalities that were inhabited by women; it’s just not aged in the best way, since those women never really seem to grow and evolve as complex characters.

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One thought on ““Was Gilmore Girls Supposed to Make Women Look Awful?”

  1. I disagree with the thrust of your argument. Yes, Lorelai is quirky. She’s also the woman who feels constantly pressured to fight back against her mother, a control freak. The development you see over the course of the series is very much two steps forward, one step back. Lorelai and her mother learn to agree, then something – Lorelai’s pride or her mom’s controlling nature – interrupts the peace and causes a course correction. But the persevere, which is something that hadn’t done for the 30+ years leading up to the show. That’s some strong development. The relationship between Lane and Mrs. Kim is similar, although we get to see Mrs. Kim’s far more controlling position because Lane is young and still living at home. But Lane and Mrs. Kim periodically find those moments where Lane can lover her mom for being her mom because Mrs. Kim starts to embrace Lane as an adult. That acceptance, by both, is huge development. Rory is in a constant tug of war between her grandparents and mom. She likes the life her mom left behind often just as much as her life in Stars Hollow. Lorelai learning to accept that is a huge step. And I could write a thesis on the Luke-Lorelai relationship, but you get my point. I’d argue that, with the restrictions you’ve place on the characters in your piece, that what you’re really discussing is personality, not character development. Lorelai will always be quirky because that’s how she likes to live. Mrs. Kim will always be stiff because she has chosen a very narrow Christian path and knows no other way. Etc. Good post.

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