I love Gilmore Girls. I started watching it in 2000, when it first came out, and I was a devoted follower until the very end.
Ask my Dad. He always had to leave the room when it was on. He couldn’t stand their fast, “ditzy”, talk.
But, Dad, this blog post is going to prove you wrong. You’re going to like those Girls by the end of it.
The Gilmore Girls taught me about being a woman. More importantly, Gilmore Girls taught me that it was okay, nay critical, to be a smart, informed, opinionated woman with a high concept of her own worth. This was tough to find in the media. You had Buffy, Willow, Rory, Lane, Paris… And?
I think that seeing oneself reflected in the media is important as a girl. As a white, blonde girl I saw myself all the time. But I saw a brighter, shinier, zit-free, boy magnet, fashion plate version of myself. The version of myself who would rather read a book than go on a date (not that many were asking) wasn’t represented and even if she was she wasn’t often portrayed as okay.
It’s important to note here that Gilmore Girls has been criticised, and rightly so, for being oh-so-white and middle-(to-upper)-class. The show could have done so much more to be diverse, to be LGBTQ friendly. The show was smart enough that it could have done these things well… And they didn’t. And that is disappointing. This show has the feel of Friends in that it is about one particular type of person and pretends that no other exists.
That being said, and maybe you’ll move on here because you no longer have an interest in it, I’m going to tell you why Gilmore Girls was, and is, important to me.
Gilmore Girls was a show about a young girl and her Mother. Its setting was a town so vibrantly created that Stars Hollow was a main cast member itself. It had quirky characters, it showcased the importance of home, and the heartbreak of growing up and away from that home.
It showed two women looking for love in a way that was natural and necessary (finding someone to love is one of the most natural and universal experiences in life, is it not?). It never showed them as desperate for, manipulative of, or pandering to, men; as TV so often does.
The Gilmore Girls knew their worth and expected to be treated well by men. In the first episode Dean picks up Rory’s box of books and they wander down the street without any comment or offer by her to carry them herself. (This scene has always bothered me, I have a rather visceral reaction to it, a feeling that Rory should carry her own books. I need to learn to let men do for me). Dean is expected to do those “manly” tasks: to change the water bottle, kill the spiders, and help around the house. There is no small degree of irony in these expectation, southern bell impressions aren’t infrequent, but they don’t apologize for expecting this. They can do it themselves. Dean was going to do it for them.
These women know that they are the prize and that men should treat them as such. They expect anniversary dinners, doors to be opened, flowers to be given. They give back what they are given in full measure. The men are equal to the challenge. These men are smart, confident, strong. They stand up to the Gilmore Girls, they challenge them, they are equals. These men are interested in the Gilmore Girls because the girls are smart, because they are confident, because they are perfectly whole human beings, with or without a man.
Gilmore Girls taught me that it’s okay to be without a man.
Gilmore Girls taught me about family. That it’s okay to spend a night fighting with each other, room to room, arguing. That family f*cks up. That feelings change.
Watching Richard grow to love and respect Rory throughout that first season is such a wonderful experience. He goes from being a rather indifferent Grandfather to a man who worships this girl and sees all the potential in the world in her. We should all be so lucky to have a man like this, even if he comes into our lives at 16, or 40, rather than birth.
(Can we all just take a moment here to mourn the loss of Edward Herrmann?)
Gilmore Girls had women and men of all shapes and sizes on the show without comment. Without apology. Without making fun. Melissa McCarthy was in Gilmore Girls long before she was a Bridesmaid and she was pretty, she was well dressed, she was funny. She was able to do physical comedy without needing to be made ugly, without her weight being the point. She was just a woman doing her best. She was loveable regardless of extra pounds. I don’t remember even noticing her weight when I was first watching the show – I just loved Sookie.
Gilmore Girls taught me that life will change us. Through the story line surrounding Emily we saw a woman of a certain generation and class question her life and her contributions. We see her grow beyond what she always thought, and was told, she was, to be a more rounded person. She doesn’t grow as far as we might like. She encourages Rory to marry Logan, she can’t quite get past Luke being “just” a diner owner to see the gem of a man beneath his plaid shirted self. But she does grow. She does believe that Rory can do anything. She believes that a woman should be educated, smart and independent. She questions her life as “the woman behind that man” and that is enough.
Gilmore Girls taught me that my heart would be broken, that I would make mistakes. It told me that I would be okay.
Gilmore Girls didn’t do everything right.
But it really helped me to be okay with me.
And I’m grateful for that.