Growing up, Gilmore Girls was the beam of light that suffocated me with feelings of hope and comfort and drowned me in an everlasting hug. Oftentimes when reflecting on my early youth I had many fond memories of the tv show that single-handedly raised me, but now it’s more or rather a disappointment. Over time the series’s characters have become less lovable and more unbelievably hurtful, the evolution of Gilmore Girls being what started as a hit success and turned into an utter mess.
Gilmore Girls is a TV series released in the year 2000 starring Alexis Bledel (Rory) and Lauren Graham (Lorelei) as a witty mother-daughter duo. The pair navigate their lives in the small town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, through high school, job ventures, and romance, as less of a mother and daughter and more of two best friends. Side characters include Sookie St. James, Lorelei’s best friend and incredibly talented chef, Lane Kim, Rory’s best friend, and music-obsessed drummer with a controlling catholic mother. Then there’s Emily and Richard Gilmore, Lorelei’s parents, Luke Danes who owns the local diner, self-titled ‘Luke’s’, where Lorelei and Rory spend the majority of their time, and Paris Geller who takes demand as a bully-turned-friend in Rory’s school life.
Rory herself, throughout the run of the show, becomes more and more unlikable. Her decisions will make you cringe and her lack of self-awareness frustrates you to the point where you simply can’t watch anymore. The writer of the show, Amy Sherman Palladino, disguises Rory’s fall from grace as a way to make her more relatable. Season 1-3 Rory was a straight-A student with enough determination and charm to lead an army. There was certainly a need to make her more relatable, however, this need was overcompensated as she went from that straight-A student with all of her determination and charm to engaging in an affair with a married man, a college dropout with community service and living out of her rich grandparents’ pool house.
Rory prides herself on being self-established, one of the select few students at Yale who doesn’t have a trust fund, however, she fails to recognize the ample amount of incredible opportunities she receives from her social status, such as Yale, Chilton (her private high school), and internships for world-renowned papers, all of which wouldn’t have been made possible if it wasn’t for her grandparents and their high financial status. In the 2016 reboot A Year in the Life there was an extreme amount of room for improvement in Rory’s development, but it lacked severely, as she ended up being even less self-aware as if that was even possible. Rory is unemployed and complaining about her struggling financial status as if she didn’t voluntarily take an unpaid position at a paper in Stars Hollow that hadn’t been read in years. An online magazine repeatedly reaches out to offer her a role, but she turns it down multiple times, only deciding to accept the option when she has completely failed in all other facets of her career. Showing up at the magazine, she expects the editor to hand her a job, and when she’s told she needs a resume, an interview, she becomes annoyed as if she expected the job to be handed to her, showing how privileged she is.
Gilmore Girls is a culprit of tokenization to both the plus-size, LGBTQ+, and Asian communities. Sookie St. James plays Lorelei’s best friend, a plus-size woman whose one passion in life is food. Not only does this achieve the fat best friend stereotype (Wizards of Waverly Place, Lady Bird, and many more) but characterizes a plus-size woman as a food-obsessed hooligan, who, while, yes, does have a passion, is enthralled in this world of food to the point where the only man she can love is her produce guy- Jackson. Additionally, the concierge of ‘The Independence Inn’ Lorelei runs, Michel, is tokenized as the only gay character, fulfilling the fashion-obsessed, dieting, feminine stereotype associated with most men on 90s and early 2000s television. Then there’s Lane Kim, who’s written solely for selective diversity. Her story line is hard as developed as other white side characters, her resolution is extremely unsatisfying, and her mother conforming to the traditionally strict, marry-your-cousin, mold that the media holds for the Korean community.
To move on to Lauren Graham’s character, Lorelei, Rory’s mother, she has heavily received the criticism that she’s a bad mother, and honestly, this is fair. On paper, she seems terrible, pizza for dinner every night, hardly any rules, and her relationship with Rory is less of a mother-daughter one, and more of two friends trading CDs and watching movies. Furthermore, Lorelei is immature, her teen pregnancy leaving her to grow up in her thirties to blame. Early in the first season, Lorelei makes the very questionable decision to date Rory’s high school teacher, confirming that this mother truly has no boundaries. If you thought Rory wasn’t self-aware, Lorelei is a whole other story. Her relationship with her parents, Emily and Richard- Rory’s grandparents- is flawed, to say the least. The damage was supposedly from their high hopes for their daughter paired with the ‘awful’ childhood she had, with all of the money and opportunities that she just had to escape for a life as a maid. This could be excused in her adolescence- she was sixteen, pregnant, a disappointment to her parents, and to put it in her words “I was very young, and I was very unhappy, and I needed to be someplace that wasn’t [her parent’s house.] Nonetheless, this childish behavior far exceeds childhood, appearing well into her 40s. While at times Emily and Richard are cruel, it’s no excuse for Lorelei’s behavior in response to their want for her best life and an ivy league education.
Additionally, the show is filled with microaggressions to the plus-size, LGBTQ+, and POC communities. To name a few, when Rory is assigned to write a review on a ballet for the Yale Daily News, she comments on the weight of the dancer, noticing her ‘back-fat, and calling her a hippopotamus. To make a guess, this girl would be a size 6. Other times, Lorelei and Luke use microaggressions like the word ‘fairy’ in derogatory ways and the blatant use of gay as an insult. Furthermore, when the best friend of Rory, Lane, gets pregnant, she makes a comment saying she regretted not marrying her cousin, implying that incestuous marriages are the norm in Korea. These few instances are more common than many fans would like to admit, and while it can be blamed on the fact that ‘it was a different time’, in the reboot, Palladino continues the body shaming and the stereotypes remain.
Overall, the show has a lack of diversity, finding a lot of its humor in homophobia, racism, and fatphobia, while developing unlikable characters and disguising them as relatable or good parents, and not selfish and to simply put it: bad people. A lot of people will still resonate with this show as it provides a sense of home and easy escape to the demographic who grew up with Rory and Lorelei, and as someone who did grow up with this show and it too provided a lost sense of comfort, it breaks my heart to gradually realize how bad of a show it is. Gilmore Girls evolved from a classic work of pop culture to one of the most offensive, out-of-touch disasters, from a hit success to utter mess.