Lorelai & Rory's "Back Fat Pat" Body-Shaming Jokes On 'Gilmore Girls' Were Incredibly Disappointing
There's no place like home — especially when your hometown happens to be Stars Hollow. When the Gilmore Girls revival episode "Summer" kicks off, Rory's back in town indefinitely and enjoying the lazy, hazy days of summer by spending some quality time lounging with Lorelai at the Stars Hollow swimming pool. Per usual, mother and daughter engage in some hilarious banter, much of which is inspired by Game of Thrones. Proving that the show would be better off sticking to pop culture jokes, Lorelai then makes an off-handed "belly alert!" comment as an overweight man walks by. Not cool. But wait, there's more — Rory and Lorelai's body shaming on Gilmore Girls didn't stop with one remark and it was both problematic and disappointing to see these two beloved characters use someone else's weight as fodder for their jokes, regardless of who they were mocking.
Rory dubs her neighbor "Back Fat Pat" and if that's not bad enough, when he says hi and welcomes her back to town, she responds by accidentally calling him "fat," before correcting herself to say his name, Pat. Her slip-up was obviously meant to be amusing to be viewers, but there's absolutely nothing funny about calling anyone "fat" — even if you're Rory Gilmore. Of course, both women are meant to be imperfect characters and the way Gilmore Girls frequently depicts their realistic flaws and mistakes is just one of the reasons why it's so beloved and regarded as an example of a feminist TV series — but this scene was presented as a joke rather than an example of Lorelai and Rory engaging in problematic behavior. And, inexplicably, Rory doesn't seem to feel remotely remorseful or embarrassed after calling someone fat to his face.
For a show that's known for it's rapid-fire, clever dialogue, it's hard to understand how a cheap joke about a person's weight made its way into the script — and, unfortunately, it illustrates that many people don't understand the dangers of body-shaming. It's impossible to know why the series' writers included this scene, but it makes me wonder if some people think body-shaming only applies to women. In reality, men are not immune to the effects of these comments and they, too, struggle with body image. Regardless of our weight or gender, many of us have experienced insecurity when we put on a bathing suit and go to a public beach or swimming pool — so it's really tasteless to reinforce the idea that a man or woman whose body doesn't fit the idealized image perpetuated by media will be mocked for showing skin in public on a hot day.
Although I definitely give Gilmore Girls credit for portraying a wider range of body types than most TV shows, this isn't the first time Rory has body-shamed someone. In a Season 4 episode, she described a ballerina as "hippo-like" in a Yale Daily News article — it was a cringeworthy moment because it's common knowledge that dancers are under constant pressure to maintain a low weight. However, after the dancer confronted her, Rory seemed to genuinely feel contrite about her words and even asked her editor if she could rectify the situation by writing a positive article highlighting the ballerina's accomplishments. So, it's super disappointing that she didn't learn her lesson and still thinks it's OK and even hilarious to body shame people.
One of Lorelai and Rory's favorite activities is downing massive amounts of food — and I love seeing women, both on TV and in real life, be unapologetic about their food choices. So, scenes like this send a mixed message — it's endearing when women with fast metabolisms eat massive amounts of takeout, but people who don't burn off calories at the same rate as Lorelai and Rory can't wear a bathing suit in public without being shamed.
Viewers don't need Lorelai and Rory to be perfect and, in fact, some of their best scenes come from their mistakes. But, for a show that has excelled in so many other areas, it's really disappointing that Lorelai and Rory's body-shaming jokes were depicted as an example of duo's wit rather than what they truly were — a troubling example of judgmental comments that need to be eliminated from our culture. Body-shaming has damaging ramifications and it's not a laughing matter.
Images: Saeed Adyani/Netflix (3)