I read an article today about the Gilmore Girls revival Netflix is planning, and I took some issue with it. The author, Darlena Cunha, argues that society has changed in the past decade and our favorite Connecticut ladies might not fit in a 2015 world. Cunha admitted she didn’t finish the series; she also mentioned that it started while she was in college so she “grew out of it.” But her belief is that to succeed in today’s entertainment scene, Lorelai and Rory “would have to branch out from their small-scale feminism and represent a broader worldview.”
I’ve never seen Lorelai and Rory as feminist icons. In fact, the more I watch the series, the more I see the flaws in their feminism. Is this bad? No. It’s human nature. Even feminists can have terrible boyfriends walk all over them—lord knows I have. For me, and for many others, the show is about growing pains, family relationships and a quirky small town. The most political moments were probably Paris and Rory trying to get people to sign a petition for political prisoners in Burma and Rory dreaming that Madeline Albright was her mom. Sure, Rory had the same Planned Parenthood sign hanging in her dorm room that I did, but abortion was never actually discussed.
There are several reasons fans of the show are excited about the potential reboot. First, Amy Sherman-Palladino left after season six and many of us like to pretend that season seven didn’t actually exist. The final season tied up some loose ends, and Rory went off to a job following Obama on the campaign trail—which turned out to be a good choice in May 2007. But some of the main relationships were never fully resolved, and Cunha is not necessarily interested in this closure.
Cunha states that she would watch the show for different reasons than most of the fanbase. Operating on the belief that Lorelai’s growth from maid to owner of the Dragonfly is some sort of early aughts feminist journey, she expresses concerns that Gilmore Girls will not be able to stand up to the cultural changes we’ve seen in the past eight years. Cunha says she wants the girls’ struggles to be more realistic; that she wants “to watch Lorelai and Rory take on the world as full-fledged adults who have sorted out their issues.”
Asking for a change in the core of the show and saying it’s in the name of feminism is misleading. If we’re limited to four 90-minute episodes, confronting stark issues is not an option and the absence of trying will not affect the show’s relevance to its fanbase. It is not more or less feminist if the show fails to tackle real issues or acknowledge cultural hot topics. If Rory was still in college, could we examine rape culture? Possibly. However, shoehorning issues that don’t touch the Stars Hollow bubble into six hours of show would be a disservice.
What’s more, Lorelai and Rory are never going to be full-fledged adults. That’s one of the reasons we love them. Who ever truly grows up and feels they’ve got a handle on the world? When I rewatch Gilmore Girls on Netflix now, I see beautiful disasters. I recognize the self-sabotage in relationships. I notice the confidence issues that real women have to overcome. I’m disgusted by how terrible all of the men actually are when I think about it. Lorelai and Rory are just living their lives and dealing with the challenges they’re handed. If it wasn’t for the fabulous writing and the quirky story, their stories could be incredibly mundane.
Gilmore Girls worked because it existed as the story of a family and a town living in the world but not necessarily dealing with the world’s problems. Feminism was present in the broadest sense, represented by independent women but not exemplified by actions. References to George W. Bush where limited to Lorelai saying, “He’s stupid and his face is too tiny for his head and I just want to toss him out.” Money was never an issue because the grandparents had unlimited funds. This fictional world allows Lorelai and Rory to struggle with smaller, personal issues—straying from that model would make the show different and shatter the illusion. What use is relevance if it destroys the heart?