For those of you playing along, I’m still binge-watching Gilmore Girls, and still noticing things about it that make my younger self weep. This time, it’s the subtle yet crushing awfulness of the sexual politics on this show, and I don’t just mean the scourge that is Lorelai sometimes being naked after sex (Max, Luke) and sometimes not (Jason). The basis of this show is that Lorelai was a teen parent, which probably had something to do with Emily and/or Richard and/or Strobe and/or Francine never talking to her or Christopher about sex or contraception. And yet, direct conversation about sex between Rory and Lorelai is basically a non-thing, and that might not even be the worst of it. And for the record, yes, I am aware that the show ended almost 10 years ago, and that much has changed politically since then. Here’s to doing better in the revival and proving that you can discuss important topics while making good TV.
1. Rory talking about not getting pregnant
In the early days of the show, we saw Rory affirming that she wasn’t going to get pregnant at least twice: once after she and Dean accidentally spent the night together, and another time after she brought Dean to dinner at Richard and Emily’s, and Richard had a total meltdown about it. It’s the omission that’s upsetting here, the lack of honest discussion of any options beyond just not getting pregnant, the assumed inevitability of having to stay pregnant, give birth and parent, as opposed to the other choices that would be available to her if she did get pregnant.
2. Never mentioning the word “sex”
Spoiler alert: Rory doesn’t have sex until the end of season 4, although she does entertain the possibility in season 3, when she’s dating Jess. At first, she tells Lorelai she’s not thinking about it but then she changes her mind, and mother and daughter have an amazingly stilted and awkward conversation in which Rory says “it” might happen. That’s right — the word “sex” isn’t used, even when referring to possibly having it. You could make an argument that this is part of Rory’s withholding, squeamish nature, but if ever there were a time to encourage her to bust of out her shell, it would have been then.
5. Lorelai’s pregnancy scare
Somewhere in season 7, Lorelai sleeps with Luke, apparently without any birth control, starts craving fruit and fears she might be pregnant (she’s not). While she’s freaking out, though, she calls Rory to discuss the potential issue, and they talk around again, most awkwardly, Rory’s own birth control methods, which they never actually clarify, except that she’s using something. Is this the first time they’ve talked about this, or does it just seem that way? I can’t believe that they haven’t talked about it before, given that Lorelai was a mom at 16 and there’s so much hand-wringing about the possibility of Rory getting pregnant and being just like Lorelai. You can take a second and write something into the script like, ‘Mom, it’s OK, I’m on the pill,” or because it’s this show, make reference to a GYN appointment in which Lorelai asked a funny question. The point is, you can do it, and to avoid it when writing a show that’s about a unique mother-daughter relationship is to waste an important opportunity.
4. Lane, Lane, Lane
There is a part of me, which is getting larger as I type this, that will never, ever forgive the Gilmore Girls writers for what they did to Lane. Not the getting married part but the bad first-time sex resulting in being pregnant with twins. It’s the “pregnancy as inevitability” that really gets me, the way Lane is resigned to her fate, the “Well, I guess I’m just dealing with this,” the exact opposite of the Lane Kim we’ve known throughout the series. She parents on her own terms ultimately, but why does she have to get pregnant the first time she has sex and give up the band and stay in Stars Hollow? Are we shaming Lane for something? It sure seems like it.
6. Jackson and Sookie
I’m not ranking these, but if I were, what happens between Sookie and Jackson in regard to pregnancy and babies would be among the worst things… ever. First, there’s the troubling fact that they got married without apparently ever having discussed how many kids they wanted, and on what timeline, resulting in Jackson telling Sookie he wants four kids in four years. Caught off guard, she agrees. I can’t even emphasize how much this not a guide to effective communication in your relationship. Allegedly, they work out the kids issue, but wait! Not really, because after Sookie gives birth to their second child, she orders Jackson to get a vasectomy, which he doesn’t do, resulting in a third pregnancy. I have no sense of humor about this situation, because it’s not funny, it’s some straight-up reproductive coercion.The storyline that followed it should have been Sookie and Jackson getting divorced.
What do you think about the way sex is talked about (and not talked about) on Gilmore Girls? Tell us in the comments!
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