If you're a fan of Gilmore Girls, chances are you've been waiting with bated breath for the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix, anxiously counting down the days before Lorelai, Rory, and all the beloved personalities of Stars Hollow return. There are plenty of reasons so many of us love the show, but what always stuck out for me was the fact that Gilmore Girls' take on body image was surprisingly progressive. At least for the times.
In lieu of the reboot, I've been binge-watching all the seasons over and over again. Lorelai and Rory fill their lives with coffee, Pop Tarts, and copious amounts of junk food (because, in their eyes, being happy and enjoying life matters more than worrying about what you eat). The series is filled with beloved, plus size characters like Sookie St. James (whose weight was never a factor for living a life filled with love, marriage, family, and admirers) and Miss Patty (who had many husbands, admirers, and whose unapologetic sexuality was almost palpable throughout).
However, as I watch the series again as a body and fat positive adult, I've been noticing a few instances in which Gilmore Girls unfortunately missed the mark when it came to actually being body positive (i.e. inclusive and respectful of all bodies). There are a few occasions when comments were made that, to me, seemed very out of character for the Gilmores. I can only hope that the revival is more progressive, so here are nine ways that the new Gilmore Girls could be more body positive.
1. Less Jokes At The Expense Of Others' Bodies
For the first three seasons, Gilmore Girls did a really great job at being clever, witty, and funny without jokes being uttered at the expense of people's looks. However, in the Season 3 finale, "Those Are Strings, Pinocchio," Lorelai made a rather rude comment regarding one of the other students graduating alongside Rory. When Sookie looked for Rory among the crowd of seated graduates, Lorelai pointed her out and said, "First row, right in front of the kid with the humongous (touches her ear)... uh, the really cute kid."
In this instance, Lorelai sort of caught herself before making a rude comment and stopped mid-way (possibly realizing that the kid's parents could be nearby). Ultimately, adults making fun of kids' appearances is never OK. Lorelai knew it then, and I hope she still knows it now.
2. Adios Hippo Comparisons
In the Season 4 episode "Die, Jerk," Rory had to write a review of a ballet show for her school newspaper. Having been told that her previous work was a "yawn," she was encouraged to write what she felt. Deciding to bring along Lorelai, the two immediately began to comment on how terrible the show was, laying the brunt of the blame on the lead ballerina and her "weight." In her review, Rory compared the ballerina to a "hippo," and commented on the "roll of fat around her bra strap." The ballerina, feeling understandably hurt and angry, confronted Rory about her review, shedding light on how the comments Rory made negatively affected her.
None of the traits Rory mentioned had anything to do with the dancing or the ballet itself, of course. Although Rory believed she was being rather witty, the comments felt mean-spirited and unnecessary. I found this to be exceptionally out of character for Rory, who was generally kind, thoughtful, and sweet-natured. Rory ends up feeling guilty about the things she wrote in her review, and attempts to right her wrong by suggesting she produce a "follow-up piece" on the ballerina to make up for it (something ultimately denied by her editor).
At the end of the day, Rory learned that, as a journalist, she was likely bound to upset some people with her writing at times. I just hope she also learned a lesson when it came to writing unnecessarily cruel things about other people's appearances.
3. No More Blatant Fat Shaming, Period
In the Season 4 episode "Afterboom," Rory grew concerned that she was given a good grade on one of her class papers because her best friend, Paris, was sleeping with her professor. Earlier in the episode, Paris expressed jealous worry over the red-headed student who fawned over her lover (Professor Asher Fleming) at his book signing. Later, when Rory confronted Asher about her grade after class, he affirmed that her grade was fully deserved, and that he would never mark students based on anything other than earned merit. Satisfied with this, Rory left the classroom right after saying, "And the redhead has fat thighs!"
This comment actually made me gasp aloud, as Rory blatantly fat-shamed a character as a way to deter her from a man. Coming from Rory, who had grown up eating nothing but junk food constantly, and considering Sookie's role in her life, it was shocking to hear this come out of her mouth. Here's hoping that as a bonafide adult, she knows better now.
4. Cutting Back On Suggestive Remarks
In the Season 5 episode "The Party's Over," Emily was preparing her house for a party she'd be throwing in order to introduce Rory to all the eligible young gentleman in town. As she instructed "the help" on where to place the chairs, she said, "Just move them so people can navigate around them comfortably. Not that far apart, not that far apart! Good lord, if someone needs that much room to get around a chair, they shouldn't be at a party. They should be on a treadmill."
Suggesting that people who are fat (and thus need more room) shouldn't be at parties, but rather trying their best not to be fat, was absolutely uncalled for. Although one might have expected such a comment coming from Emily Gilmore, the show itself should still have to take responsibility for spreading such messages. Suggesting that it's comical to make fun of fat people, and perpetuating the notion that all fat people "need" to lose weight, is never going to be body positive.
5. Remembering That Words Matter
In the Season 5 episode "But Not As Cute As Pushkin," Lorelai discovered that Rory had a "new friend" at Yale, Logan Huntzberger. She asked Rory if she thought him cute, to which Rory said, "It doesn't matter if I think he's cute." Lorelai responded, "Uh, it matters to me. I don't want ugly grandchildren."
While this was completely said in jest (as were most things Lorelai said), it's important to acknowledge that such jokes — if not spoken in undeniably comedic tones — can sometimes breed the perpetuation of the idea that conventional attractiveness is of utmost priority in this life. The comment unfortunately echoed the tune of Lorelai's incredibly judgmental mother, Emily. Guess you wouldn't want your future grandchild to have, let's say, big ears or anything so horrible, right?
6. Eradicating Humor From Eating Disorder Talk
When Rory went out for dinner with Logan and several of his wealthy friends, she met a girl named Juliet, who had an eating disorder. When food was brought to the table, Juliet turned to Rory and said, "Oh my god, the smell of this food is making me ill. How can you eat like that?" One of Juliet's friends at the table explained to Rory that "Juliet hasn't eaten a meal since 1994," to which Juliet said, "My metabolism simply doesn't accept food."
When Logan finally asked Juliet to eat something, she retorted with, "No! I am not eating until I get married to some gorgeous but very poor man who will sign an ironclad prenup, and then I will get very, very fat, but he won't ever leave me because he would be cut off without a penny and die in a trailer park." Everyone at the table then giggled.
There are so many things wrong with this scenario. To make light of such a serious illness was completely inappropriate, particularly considering how many young women would have been watching at home. The scene further implied that a woman must be thin in order to attract a partner, and that the only way to keep said partner if ever you got fat would be to blackmail him with money. Although this was entirely ridiculous, it spoke volumes about the everyday pressures and expectations put on women.
Luckily, the show was able to counter-balance the lightheartedness surrounding eating disorders with a comment made by one of other women at the table. At the end of Juliet's explanation for her diet, the other woman said simply, "That is sick." Having the scene end with those three words spoke volumes about the nature of Juliet's situation.
7. Forgetting The "Thin Means Gorgeous" Trope
In the Season 5 episode "Pulp Friction," Michel returned to the Dragonfly after a trip to Los Angeles, commenting, "I belong out there. Everybody is thin and gorgeous."
When it comes to Michel, Gilmore Girls fans are likely well aware that he is a completely shallow human. Also, he consistently watches his weight. Michel noted many times that he "doesn't eat carbs," indulging himself only on special occasions with some chocolate cake (or on even rarer occasions, a burger). There was also that one time when he realized that he was accidentally using two percent milk in his coffee and spent the rest of the episode running around to burn off the extra calories.
Michel was undoubtedly extreme and ridiculous when it comes to his obsession with thinness, but such messaging still sets up the construct that in order to be considered gorgeous, one has to be thin. This will always be problematic.
That said, Michel's character — while very much adored by many — should be taken with a grain of salt (much like Emily Gilmore, who, interestingly enough, got along beautifully with Michel). He's always pictured as rather selfish and hollow: Someone who follows all the trends.
Michel's obsession with thinness, while being very obvious, is also quite satirical. Lorelai and Sookie always seem to have a little eye-roll attitude with him when he makes shallow comments, ultimately balancing out the absurdity of his character. In the revival, I just hope that someone's still around to counter his more shame-y remarks.
8. Curbing The Offensive Name Calling
In the Season 5 episode "Blame Booze And Melville," both Lorelai and Rory were having dessert with Emily at the dinner table, discussing Emily's new project: Sponsoring a ballet dancer. Emily asked the ladies to help her look through the photos in order to choose a dancer to sponsor, and the comments that followed were more than a little mean.
Emily noted that she would like to choose a "cute and petite" girl, to which Rory said, "They're all petite!" Lorelai then interjected with, "But not all are cute. This one should fwet-tay on over to the dermatologist." Emily then noted, "Oh yes, I'd rather not look at that."
Later on, Lorelai referred to the same dancer as "sandpaper face." To suggest that someone is inherently unattractive or undesirable because they are struggling with acne or any kind of skin condition is not only insulting and insensitive, but extremely untrue. These comments echoed of high school bullies, rather than from the Lorelai Gilmore we all know and love. Not cool.
9. Enough With The Skeleton Thing
In the Season 6 episode "Bridesmaids Revisited," Rory attended Honor's (Logan's sister) wedding and spent some time hanging out with the bride and company before the ceremony. When Honor was finally in her wedding dress, she asked her bridesmaids, "OK, so I don't look obese?" In reply, her bridesmaids exclaimed, "You look like a skeleton! A beautiful, blushing skeleton."
Once again, we encountered the fear of looking or being fat, for which comfort and compliments then came in the form of comparing women to skeletons. Telling Honor that she looked like a skeleton was their way of saying, "Don't worry, you are gorgeous because you are so thin!"
What's remarkable is that in this same show, we have a character like Sookie St. James. When she got married, we saw her in a wedding dress. She wasn't thin. In fact, she was plus size. She looked nothing like a skeleton, yet she was absolutely beautiful. There was no doubt about it. There was no talk of weight; no insecurities coming from Sookie about how she looked. How wonderful would it be if the show could stick with that attitude, rather than the one that focused on thinness above all?
One of the things this show does well, however, is balance out the non-ideal with the ideal. Life isn't perfect, and neither are the lives of the Gilmore's or the people of Stars Hollow. We, as viewers, are shown situations that mimic (and sometimes poke fun at) real-life attitudes and situations, ultimately giving us the freedom to make up our own minds about it all. Characters are going to say the wrong things and naturally make mistakes, as any human IRL would, and it's up to us to understand the intention behind it and take the good from the bad.
All this being said, I still have mad love for Gilmore Girls, and the show holds a special place in my heart. However, I think it's important to remember while watching that it was written and filmed before body politics were as widely discussed as they are today. Jokes, comments, suggestions, and assumptions made about people's appearance and weight were arguably considered far more acceptable before 2007 than they are in 2016.
We've come a long way, though. Now we just have to wait and see if the Gilmore Girls revival has progressed along with us.
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