Monday, 27 June 2016

Why Gilmore Girls is a Feminist Show

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. 

5 comments:

  1. "serving the purpose of furthering a male character's arc (aka the manic, pixie, dream girl) or requiring male characters to validate their existence."

    Women don't always have to exist just to serve the purpose of furthering story arcs for men. Men can't co-exist without women, and I have never seen a show where men had to "validate their existence" in any show or movie, ever.

    "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."

    Kind of. Gilmore Girls is a fictional, comedy-drama television series that does not envision real-life situations. It can certainly in a way reflect those scenarios, same with the hardships that these characters happened to go through. Their actions may reflect positively for women's liberation throughout actual history, but it's not exactly a show about feminism.

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  2. Allow me to explain myself better - There are plenty of female characters who exist solely to provide a romantic angle to the main male character. All the screen time provided to these female characters is about another male character (look up the bechdel test), hence 'requiring male characters to validate their existence'.

    Of course, this doesn't occur in real life. Women have existed and will continue to do so as individuals that aren't defined by the men in their life but it is very common in fictional settings - t.v shows, movies, books etc. And as you pointed out, Gilmore Girls is a fictional show. So as far as t.v. shows go, Gilmore Girls has done a very good job in terms of FAIR representation of female characters. Which leads me to believe that the writers of this show are indeed feminists.

    Feminism is after all about equal treatment for all, irrespective of gender and Gilmore Girls has delivered on this front by treating the female and male characters with equal respect.

    Hope that clears up what I am trying to say

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    1. I appreciate the mature response and I am sure that the creator and writers of this show are very intelligent and pursue equal representation for sexes, but what scares me is modern feminists today who watch this and see it as a "feminist show" might use this to push their insane feminist agenda using socialist ideology.

      In other words, fighting for equal rights and opportunities when they already have it. Now they resort to everything being sexist which is stupid.

      Thanks for the mention of the bechdel test. I had no idea it was part of a comic. It provided more insight on my perspective of genders in movies, shows, comics, and more. It's a shame that feminists today don't mention how great the Alien movies are. Well, just the first two at least. In Aliens, Ellen Ripley is a perfect example of a woman who is capable of doing anything to help the team, and she is seen as heroic and as a caring mother to the girl who she rescues from the Queen alien.

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    2. I appreciate the mature and civil response too, thanks for that. And I apologize for the late response, I didn't have an internet connection.

      I think that fundamentally our definitions of feminism and modern feminists are perhaps different. Maybe your opinion of feminism or 'modern feminists' as you call it is influenced by what we colloquially call 'feminazis' - that is people who call themselves feminists but are rather aggressive and extreme in their activism, which doesn't allow for learning and growth.

      And the kind of feminism I refer to is perhaps what you may call being a humanitarian or an egalitarian. I wrote a piece on it here - http://writer0895.blogspot.in/2015/10/the-f-word.html and if you read it, we can be on the same page.

      As for saying that women have equal rights and opportunities, I strongly disagree. From harassment at work, wage gap, slut shaming, victim blaming rape victims to unequal opportunities in education and work, there are so many sectors where things need to improve. Sure, we've come a long way as a society but not in every part of the world and we definitely have a much longer way to go.

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    3. As for alien, I haven't watched the movie so I'll take your word on that :)

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