While Lorelai raises Rory as a single working mother, the 2000’s sitcom ensures a modified nuclear family unit, with the addition of much of Stars Hollow’s society contributing to Rory’s child-raising. Luke Danes of Stars Hollow’s Luke’s Diner plays a particularly significant role. Over the series he operates as a father figure to Rory, as well as a friend, ‘Mr Fix-It’, and on-off love interest for Lorelai. Rory’s biological father, Christopher Hayden, simultaneously fulfils the father role periodically. In this sense, Gilmore Girls maintains the heteronormative nuclear family ideal. Additionally, resulting from the heterosexual love triangle between Luke and her conflicting on-off relationship with Christopher, Lorelai is seemingly unable to sustain relationships with other male characters. This has several implications about both the availability and independence of single women.

Conservative ideals are additionally enforced by the heteronormative sexual experiences, exhibited in numerous instances. In the middle of Season 3, Rory’s school friend Paris Gellar is rejected from her deeply sought after Ivy league admission, at the same time as losing virginity. She and the audience experience the two as related. Rory as her counterpart has not yet had sex for the first time, and she is concurrently accepted into three Ivy league universities. Furthermore Lorelai overhears Paris and Rory discussing this and hearing her daughter’s virginity confirmed, she declares “I have the good kid”. Later in Season 4, Rory consciously decides to lose her virginity to her married ex-boyfriend Dean, causing strong conflict and anger from her mother. Gilmore Girls idealized conservatism about the sacrilege of the ‘first time’ and the institution of marriage – no matter how flawed Dean’s was. This was prioritised over shaming the diversity and imperfections of teenager’s sexual choices. Then in Season 5, Lane and Rory problematize that Lane’s upbringing demands she won’t have sex with her boyfriend until they’re married. Lane says “You’ve already had sex with two different guys. All within a one year period.” Rory responds, “Okay, you’re making me sound a little slutty”; Lane does not disagree. The first time Lane has sex is on her honeymoon; and she finds the experience unpleasant, and immediately falls pregnant with twins. These pivotal interconnections with heterosexual experiences convey messages which deny sexual freedom, and reject the reality of non-normative, diverse sexual experiences.

The prominence of seemingly non-nuclear, but nevertheless conservative heterosexual relationships, is mirrored by a concurrent absence of homosexual representation. Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino never confirmed Lorelai’s employee Michel Gerard’s sexuality, but presented it as intentionally ambiguous throughout the series. This created prominent debate among fans about the character’s exact sexual orientations; casting unnecessary attention on external perception of individual’s sexual choices. The only other character of perceived non-heterosexual orientation is Lorelai’s night manager Tobin, although he only appears in a few episodes of the whole series. He is intended as the most overtly ‘feminine’ male character; exclusively through his taste, style and vocal expression. Incidentally, he shares a fiercely rival relationship with Michel. Michel fears “He weasels his way into every area of my life… He wants to replace me. – As what? – As everything. He wants to replace me in my entire life.” What “every area of my life” refers to is unspoken, but may be interpreted as the one ‘effeminate lead’ for Gilmore Girls.

Lastly, Sherman-Palladino has stated about Lorelai’s best friend, “Sookie was originally supposed to be gay”.[1] However, she pointed to network executives as not approving it. This is perhaps reflective of the context of the timing of the show’s release. She has suggested: “By the time ‘Gilmore’ had been on a year or two, that shit was starting to drop right and left… You know, today everyone would be gay”. Sherman-Palladino referred to increased homosexual representation in mainstream media by the mid-2000s, after the show’s release. However regardless of any genuineness intended by this statement, Gilmore Girls has failed to represent any spectrum of sexualities beyond its perpetuation of heteronormativity.

References:

[1] Duca, L. (2015, June 6). ‘Gilmore Girls’ Michel Wasn’t Necessarily Gay, But Sookie Was Supposed To Be. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Stern, D. M. (2012). It Takes a Classless, Heteronormative Utopian Village: Gilmore Girls and the Problem of Postfeminism. The Communication Review, 15(3)

Advertisements