In case you hadn’t noticed, women aren’t having such a great time at the moment. Just when we thought we had enough to deal with (gender inequality, economic disparity, rape culture), Donald Trump comes out with his abhorrent sexual assault remarks and we’re faced with the horrifying prospect of a United States President who says things like “grab ‘em by the pussy”.
In short, the world sucks. The U.S. election in November has been something to be feared. However, November is not lost, and there’s a warm, fuzzy optimistic glow on the autumnal horizon. Where you lead… I will follow… anywhere… that you tell me to…
If you didn’t start humming along to that, I’m honestly really sad for you. Gilmore Girls is being revived on Netflix, with a four-part series being released on November 25th. Gilmore Girls was a seminal show in the early 2000s and is still hugely important for its pop culture references, lightning-fast dialogue, quirky small-town characters and its empowering and realistic portrayal of strong female characters. Lead characters, no less.
Gilmore Girls ran from 2000 to 2007 and was one of the few shows back then to be created by a woman (who also wrote and produced on the show) and starring women in the lead roles. Sadly, it’s still pretty rare for a popular TV show to be so female-driven both in-front of and behind the camera. Of course, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s show was much more than a show about women – it was a genuinely funny comedy that had major plotlines in family, education, love, life, sex, religion and, of course, coffee.
Time listed it as one of the ‘All-TIME 100 TV Shows’; Entertainment Weekly called it a “new TV classic” and have it at 45 in their list of the ‘100 greatest movies, TV shows and more’. Michelle Obama teamed up with Alexis Bledel – aka Rory Gilmore – to promote her Let Girls Learn initiative. Melissa McCarthy was a regular cast member, and there were a myriad of famous names in guest roles – from Seth McFarlane, Jon Hamm and Christiane Amanpour to Rami Malek, Carole King and the Sonic Youth.
And yes, the zany characters, memorable one-liners and a billion obscure pop-culture references were part of the charm of this show. But Gilmore Girls was and is an important show for its portrayal of women. Lauren Graham and Bledel star as mother-daughter duo Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, a dangerously quick-witted and smart-mouthed pair with an inhumanly fast metabolism and a severe caffeine addiction.These are fiercely independent women, smart and strong. These are women who support themselves, and each other, and are able to succeed.
Lorelai got pregnant as a teenager, dropped out of high school, ran away from home and raised Rory on her own. She worked her way up from maid to manager, and eventually bought and ran her own inn. As time goes by, it’d be nice to think that society gets more progressive and TV gets more inclusive, but I’m struggling to think of tons of recent shows that have successful single mothers as lead characters. Lorelai is many things: a mother, a daughter, a friend, a girlfriend, a wife, a businesswoman, a student, a graduate, a person. Although the show is, at its crux, about her relationship with her daughter, Lorelai is never confined to being a mother alone. The normalcy with which her working, dating and eating life was covered is just one of the ways Gilmore Girls celebrates women.
Much like her mother, Rory is a multi-faceted character that busts television stereotypes in that cutesy Gilmore way. The show largely tracks Rory’s academic life: from her acceptance to a prestigious private school, through her Ivy League college career and ends with her graduation. Rory’s studiousness isn’t treated as a gag, or a character quirk; in addition to being an excellent student, Rory is shown to have friends, boyfriends, parties, car accidents and even the occasional brush with the law. Gilmore Girls emphasises that Rory knew she could do anything and was able to balance studying and being responsible with having fun, and living life. In our world of “locker room banter” and slut-shaming, where women in the media are more often than not reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes, it’s nice to have Rory Gilmore as an example of a woman who’s smart, funny and successful, all the while being clumsy and stubborn and constantly making mistakes in her personal life. In other words, a realistic portrayal of a woman.
Gilmore Girls is a family-friendly show and is easy to dismiss as cutesy, quirky fluff. But in addition to being funny, honestly touching and at times tear-jerking, it’s a show about female empowerment. It’s a show about real women and their friends and relationships. It’s a show about how women can be clever and funny and successful. And in this day and age, we can never be reminded of that too often.
Gilmore Girls returns to Netflix on 25th November