Gilmore Girls was an early 2000’s show about a wise-cracking mother and daughter duo facing life’s challenges and using hard work to achieve their goals. Right off the bat, sounds pretty feminist right? I mean a show with not one – but two female leads who have stories revolving around more than men (but trust me, there are men and love stories in the show too).
The show ended in 2007, but has remained popular with old and new fans alike. Netflix made all seasons available for streaming and is releasing a reboot in November, so more and more people are hopping on the train to Stars Hollow. Feminists have praised and criticized aspects of the show for years, but I imagine a lot of loyal viewers don’t really think about Gilmore Girls and feminism aside from the obvious strong female leads.
One of the most feminist aspects of Gilmore Girls was their portrayal of female sexuality. The show makes no effort to hide the fact that our main character, Lorelei Gilmore is single and has an active sex life with multiple partners. The premise of the show is her raising her daughter, whom she had at 16 years old.
She has multiple relationships and the sexual aspect is not removed or glossed over in them. She makes sexual comments and jokes, and is not ashamed of her sex life. Now sure, there are sitcoms with women who had more of a transparent approach to sex in this time period, but here’s the difference – Lorelei is a mom.
There are not many shows, particularly not in that time frame, that have a mother with a sex life outside of a marriage or relationship with her kid’s father. A major principle of feminism is the conditional sexualization/objectification of women. By conditional I mean women are expected to live up to sexual standards based on patriarchal views. Women are supposed to be okay with being objectified and sexualized by men whenever, but are not supposed to flaunt their own sexuality on their own terms. Also, once you become a “mother” or reach a certain age, you are stripped from any sexual connotation.
Lorelei refers to herself as a feminist on the show, and the fact that she’s a mom matters here too. More often than not, when people think of feminists they think of a woman who is bucking against all tradition and fits a very specific set of descriptions, and mom usually isn’t one of them. Lorelei was one of the first examples I ever saw of someone who had a child, and who was mothering in a consciously feminist way.
Perhaps the biggest take away is that there are several representations of women who are living different kinds of lives on the show, illustrating the feminist principle against societal gender roles and the idea that there’s no one right way to be a woman.
A major area of improvement for Gilmore Girls as a feminist show would have been furthering that representation though. There were less than five major characters who were not white. There was no real representation of anyone in the LGBT community, and the show’s society was very heteronormative. The fact is, Gilmore Girls is guilty of portraying white feminism.
The overall feminist impact of the show is major to female representation and character norms, but would be more inclusive and effective with some updates.