Watching Gilmore Girls is the reason I’m as much of a feminist as I am today. I don’t think the show necessarily set out to be a landmark on the feminist landscape, but I do think it had a lasting impact on the young woman I’m still growing up to be.
My family moved around a little bit while I was growing up. We moved from Virginia to Georgia when I was in early elementary school; we moved from Georgia to Florida in the middle of my eighth grade. I can’t answer the “where are you from?”/”what’s your hometown?” sorts of questions, because I don’t have one. I was just a gentle, nerdy, extremely petite girl who loved reading Nancy Drew instead of playing outside.
I got incredibly lost on my first day of school in Florida, which made transitioning into this new phase of life all the more delightful. It was also the day I met one of my best friends, Melissa. She invited me to sit with her group of friends at lunch, something I was very grateful for.
Around that time, we started watching Gilmore Girls. Melissa and I, and her auxiliary friends whom I never really got to know that well, would sing the theme song in the hallways between class, and analyze episodes the day after they aired. This is probably one of the first times I can recall discussing pop culture with friends on a supremely personal level. Watching this particular show at that particular age partially rewired my brain, but in a good way.
Since most shows on TV don’t always mold you into the person you later become in life, thankfully Gilmore Girls was my gentle introduction into what being a feminist could be like. But this realization snuck up on me.
1. It allowed the “nerdy” girl to be the main character instead of the goofy sidekick.
Seeing Rory go to college for journalism was a big part of why I identified with the show, and even more so with her specifically. I did the same thing in my life, but, just, like, not at Yale. Plus, let us remember how the show ended: Rory was setting off to cover the 2008 presidential campaign of then-Sen. Obama. A pale, brunette, witty, nerdy, insufferable girl could grow into a daring, assertive, sensitive, insufferable journalist and cover a presidential campaign and save the whole world. What?! Yes we can!
It was like looking into a mirror, for me. Kind of. Like looking into a less shiny mirror. Do you understand how important that is? Do you know how rare that is?? Like, imagine if Scooby Doo had been told from Velma’s point of view.
I am the pale, brunette nerd who was always the “smart” one in the friend (or mystery-solving) group; growing up as one, however, made it difficult to latch onto any other role models in media. Getting to see Rory succeed on my screen really pointed me in a positive direction.
2. It showed a young, single mother just, like, doin’ the damn thing.
“Doin’ the damn thing” is one of my favorite motivational phrases because it simultaneously means almost nothing AND it’s very emotive. You don’t get to see a lot of it on today’s networks of ~*families*~ and ~*traditional values*~ and the simple opportunity to see one woman running a family, while working a job and handling her tough parents, was refreshing.
To me, the heart of the show is how the characters were always dreaming and always trying to make a better life for themselves and then going out and achieving that dream.
In a lot of ways, Lorelai was the role model she never set out to be, but I thank her for that too. She was independent and brave; she was a go-getter and a ballbuster, and I loved her for it. We watched her deal with stupid relationship after stupid relationship, and she helped me learn how to handle breakups. (Lots of crying, moping, and eating junk food in bed, but she always bounced back.) She was crazy in the best way.
Young girls, at least many that I knew, can do this thing where they absorb the qualities of the characters they’re reading in books or watching on screen. It’s almost inevitable that we slightly change our internal attitudes or external behaviors based on the characters we come to love, and it’s not a bad thing either — especially when those characters are worth learning from.
Luckily, Lorelai was more than enough of a badass to inspire me to carry myself with plenty of pluck and drive as I learned how to make my way through life.
3. To me, as a middle-schooler, a cast that employed anybody other than very average-sized white adults was diverse as hell. Plus, they didn’t even talk about what made the cast diverse.
There were never any winks to the camera about Sookie’s weight or Michel’s sexuality (I still have no idea if he was gay or just French. Was that just me or is that offensive? I literally have no idea, sorry). Sure, a sprinkling of minor plotlines leaned heavily on Lane’s Korean family, but the diversity wasn’t ever pointed out or used to pat themselves on the back, which I appreciate.
You get what you can from a show set in Connecticut. It at least starred kickass women, so I’ll take it.
The ensemble was also as diverse as I could have hoped for back then, which was an awesome thing for everyone; a recent study proved that TV viewers are “more likely to watch shows that employ racially diverse casts and writers.”
4. Yeah, fine, the show focused a lot on the romantic lives of Lorelai and Rory, but that’s OK because it also showed how awesome they were on their own.
One day there will be a show where it doesn’t matter at all if or when the main lady characters date, because that isn’t the be-all, end-all of what defines a person.
That’s beside the point. You do you.
The fact that Gilmore Girls spent time showing us the good and the bad of the guys in their lives was made more bearable because they showed us how to overcome when guys are giant buttholes. It also helped us to remember that we’re all awesome on our own.
Neither of them actually needed a guy in her life to be the best version of herself. Thanks to each other, as an awesome mother-daughter team, they were able to continue shining despite being single numerous times. (SHOCKING, I KNOW, that a lady may not always need a man in order to be happy.)
Watching these ladies handle the peaks and pitfalls of navigating the world of dating helped prepare me for those eventual and inevitable moments in my life. No, the show isn’t an exact plan of what to do, but it helped me see how strong I’d have to be in order to take care of myself.
5. It did so much without ever beating us over the head with anything.
Here’s a thing I don’t like: when young women today say things like:
“Not that I’m a feminist, but…”
“I’m not, like, one of those feminists or anything, but…”
“Feminists can be scary, haha, but…”
No. No no no. Let’s not do that.
“Feminist” is not a bad word or a terrible set of ideals. Feminists are not all scary militant people with torches and pitchforks who hate everybody and want the world to fall into anarchy.
If saying the word “feminist” is what turns you off toward outwardly displaying your support of ladies, then fine, no judgment here. Do what’s comfortable. I understand the value of an implied justice as much as the next girl.
That’s the glory of Gilmore Girls. It didn’t have to say explicitly that it was basically all about fabulous women doing fabulous things to better their lives; it simply practiced what it silently preached. This show was just really important for a girl like me to see during my formative youth-ing years. It was one of those relatable programs that attached and connected to me in a highly personal way.
The premise of it isn’t complex: A bookish girl goes through high school and then college with her young, independent mother, each as the other’s right-hand woman. That’s why I’m glad I put Gilmore Girls in front of my face so much.
If I’m going to be consuming something from the media’s buffet, it should be something good for me: strong women, pop culture references, lots of coffee, being fabulous, making mistakes and getting through them, ladies supporting ladies. Gilmore Girls was key in my development into who I am today, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
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