Gilmore Girls Plays It Safe

Warning: Spoilers ahead. Steer clear unless you really don’t care.

The Gilmore Girls revival was an entertaining way to spend 6 hours of my life. It nestled itself right into the tail end of the worst month of 2016 and watching it felt like being wrapped in a warm blanket and drinking hot cocoa. Safe. Familiar. Cozy.

I love Gilmore Girls. I watched it as a freshman in college, just separated from my mother, who I’m close to like Lorelai and Rory are close. It’s a funny, sweet, self-aware show that you can watch without having to think about it too much. And so I did – all seven seasons flew by and when I was done, I was able to shrug it off and move on to Lost. (A total 180.)

It was a brave move, then, to pick up Stars Hollow exactly as it was in the show (read: super white, affluent, and grotesquely heterosexual) and set it down amidst the flaming, screaming pile of shit that is this year.

To be fair, they did some good stuff. They made Michel clearly gay (so he’s not just European after all), which is cool. Awhile back, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino said of Michel, “We all know men who seem creative, who have wives and children. So we never actually pursue it one way or the other and sort of let it lie.” Is creative a new synonym for gay? Can we make that a thing? Please? “I’m going to a creative wedding!” “I just think Supergirl is creative.” “She’s cute and she’s creative!”

Side note: Sookie was supposed to be gay. Sorry, but that would have made my life 150% better. It didn’t get past the network, which isn’t super surprising, but the knowledge that this is the true path we were supposed to be on fills me with joy.

They also tried to create diversity by peppering scenes with token Black people. Rahawa Haile, writer and hero to us all, created a tumblr, The tagline: “The black actors of Gilmore Girls rarely get to speak. Except here.” Scrolling through, it becomes clear quickly that very few of the Black people in Stars Hollow are allowed to, you know, speak. There are six black actors with speaking roles.

Call me a fragile millennial but I feel like people of color are people, not set dressing pieces.

Still, there are some main characters who happen to be people of color: Lane and Michel. And uh…Cesar? Gypsy?! This is all a little cringe-y. Come on, Gilmore Girls, you couldn’t have tried a little harder? Couldn’t you have brought in people of color without giving them stereotypical storylines or jobs?

Instead, they actually introduced a new character who doubled as a running joke: Emily’s maid. She brought with her a family who multiplied every time we saw them, and spoke a language no one understood. No one even knew what language it was. Ha ha ha!

If you know people who laughed at this, I’d love for you to go up to them and ask them to explain to you why this is funny. Watch them fluster. It’ll be more funny than the original joke, I promise.

Getting back to the hetero-issue, the Internet has a thousand ideas about who could have been queer in the revival. Michel was one of them, to be fair, but there were some more, uh, creative ideas thrown out there. Mallory Ortberg wrote in the Toast (RIP) last year an article titled “All I Want For The New Gilmore Girls Revival Is For Emily Gilmore To Become A Late-In-Life lesbian.” I’ve never clicked on an article faster in my life. Ortberg made some really solid points and had spot-on dialogue all prepared (“It’s called late-in-life lesbianism, Lorelai…and I certainly would have thought you of all people had heard of it.”)

Let’s not forget the most obvious choice for “revival lesbian” – Paris Geller. There’s a whole trove of Rory/Paris fanfiction, probably set off by either 1) the on-screen kiss they shared on spring break, or 2) the fact that a Paris Geller who exists completely separately of men is iconic. When she first appeared in the revival in a pantsuit and a new haircut, I had really high hopes. She was super boss girl, she had a clipboard, it was beautiful… And she spent the rest of the revival bemoaning her divorce from Boyle. Which was not canonically due to lesbianism.

At one of the town meetings Taylor Doose, who could be a gay icon in his own annoying rite, bemoans that “There just aren’t enough gays in Stars Hollow.” He’s just had to cancel the pride parade because of a lack of available participants. No one in the room sees fit to mention that straight people can and do march in pride parades too. Maybe no one in the writers room was aware of this (which is a good argument for why we should have more diverse writers, so we can have more diverse media that actually knows what it’s doing).

Gilmore Girls had a chance to redeem themselves. They could have updated for the market today, which is producing more diverse television than ever. They should have seen the criticism coming, considering that ever since the revival was announced, people have been writing article after article about why it’s super straight and white. Had they taken the temperature of the room and acted accordingly, we could have ended up with a charming and diverse revival that challenged how we saw what was previously straight and white. It could have been a chance to reflect on how the landscape of television has changed in the near-decade since the show ended. Instead, we get to reflect on whether Rory has been knocked up by a wookie or by Logan Huntsberger. Great.

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