When Gilmore Girls first aired in 2000, a story about a single mother with an unnaturally close relationship with her daughter, it hopped along, perhaps unintentionally so, on the third wave of feminism. When Lorelai Gilmore was 16 years old, she gave birth to her daughter, also named Lorelai but better known as Rory. Set in a small fictional town of Stars Hollow, the story kicks off 16 years later and follows the duo through ups and downs, peppered with pop cultural references.
Apart from Lorelai and Rory setting the bar for mother – daughter relationships, Gilmore Girls also offered a plethora of female characters with an accuracy that is often unparalleled by the mainstream media, even today. As the name of the show suggests, it deals with the Gilmores and boy, does it deal with the Girls.
“Who cares if I’m pretty if I fail my finals?”
While Rory became the lead Gilmore Girl over the course of the seasons, she had been a good influence; thoughtful and inspiring from the get go. The list of her virtues is far too long and yet, neither she nor the show explicitly talked about women’s issues (bearing in mind the exception of ‘That Damn Donna Reed’). In fact the show revolved particularly around the romantic lives of the Gilmore Girls, thereby ensuring a place in the genre of ‘silly, drama shows’.
But despite it all, I will maintain that Gilmore Girls is a feminist show for it leads by example. It doesn’t talk about strong ladies but shows them, in Lorelai who built a life for herself from the scratch while looking after her infant daughter, in Sookie St. James who headed a kitchen and was irrefutably the best cook in the town, and among others, in Paris Geller who was ambitious and unafraid of respecting and consequentially taking out competition.
Instead of being content with one smart, bookish girl and allowing everyone else to fall flat, each character is fleshed out. The strength of these girls isn’t in how alike they are to Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow’s butt kicking self but in how real they are. You can’t place these characters within one box or pretend that each is just a distorted version of the other. Their stories, personal and professional aspirations and fears are diverse and complex, quite like the women I see in my life. Lane Kim, Rory’s best friend who was a first generation immigrant walked the tight rope between the American and Korean culture, struggling with her sense of identity and strict mother. While Emily Gilmore, Lorlai’s mother was a house wife and a controlling mother, she learnt responsibility from her husband and business from her daughter. They are fiercely independent in their existence as characters, instead of serving the purpose of furthering a male character's arc (aka the manic pixie dream girl) or requiring male characters to validate their existence. And, from Louise, who managed to maintain an excellent score in her school work and took off with strange boys at parties to Lorelai naming her daughter after herself; the show breaks stereotypes on all fronts.
The town of Stars Hollow, and the universe of Gilmore Girls is thus brimming with vibrant, rich female characters that are easy to envision and relate to. From women managers to female journalists, female drummers to women photographers, Gilmore Girls is a celebration of womanhood in all its forms and all its glory and at its core will always remain a feminist show.