Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity – Review

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Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity edited by Ritch Calvin
Age: Adult
Genre: Non-fiction/Essays
McFarland, 2008
ISBN 9780786437276
221 pages

Back cover synopsis:

This work examines Gilmore Girls from a post-feminist perspective, evaluating how the show’s main female characters and supporting cast fit inot the classic portrayal of feminine identity on popular television.

As an avid Gilmore Girls fan, I recently splurged and bought all 7 seasons of the show because of the massive sale on Amazon. As it is I watch the show on a regular basi on the WB.com, but I love the special features, behind the scenes and the little booklets that come with DVD set acting as an encyclopedia for all the political, musical, pop culture and literary references distributed through the fast-paced dialogue.

This book I found particularly interesting because of the post-feminist slant and the thorough examination of the characters and plotlines. Topics ranged the Utopia that is Stars Hollow, to the faux-feminism represented by Rory Gilmore’s relationships, the mother-daughter relationships, the role of food, the role of music and the theme of single motherhood as portrayed on TV.

Gilmore girls and the politics of identity : essays on family and feminism in the television seriesEach essay was well researched (although a few could have used extra editing as some sentences did not make much sense.) Since I have been voraciously watching the show, I recognized every single episode and scene referenced throughout the book, although at times the facts as written in the essay were different than what I had witnessed on the show. Although the book was engaging, having read it all once made the essays repetitive. Most of the essayist used the same scenes and the same quotes in their examples. There wasn’t much variation in theme or points of view. It is pretty unanimous that Lorelei is the masculine, feminist who scares away the men in her life and paved the way for overly feminine Rory to demur from responsibility and instead hide behind the men in her life.

Having read this collection, I doubt I’ll be able to watch the show with the same naive enjoyment as I have in the past. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Amy Shermin-Palladino is an incredibly smart and creative lady. She knew exactly what she was doing by creating a TV series based on an unwed mother who had a child at the age of 16, a much underrepresented segment of American life and society.

Although there is some talk of social class and the lack of racial diversity on the show, the main focus of the essays remained on Lorelei and Rory, their relationship, their intellect and personalities. The essay that spoke to me the most was titled “Drats! Foiled Again: A Contrast in Definitions” by Anne K. Burke Erikson. Erikson’s theme of the essay was that was the show speaks as the truth is vastly different from the actions and interactions between the characters. Lorelei claims that she and Rory never fight and are the best of friends. Yet throughout the show they are constantly bickering or not speaking to each other after a spat. Also that Rory is the “good girl” even though she is willing to drop Chilton because of Dean, she drops out of Yale, she steals a boat, she flirts with Jess while still in a relationship with Dean, etc. Rory is by no means an angel, but in comparison to her peers, she stands out as exceptional. In comparison to the other characters and other relationships on the show, Lorelei and Rory are isolated on a Utopian island of filial perfection.

Although there was an essay for Paris, for Lane and for Sookie, I still felt as if these characters were not well discussed throughout the course of the essays except to point out the perfection found in Lorelei and Rory. Very little is said of Lorelei’s relationship with Jason (Digger) and it seems as if every essayist was rooting for the Rory and Jess relationship.

When read in portions, this collection of essays is insightful, introspective and offers Gilmore Girl fans another way to attach themselves to the show and become better acquainted with the two quick-witted women that have been the foundation of a TV series that is still garnering fans and popularity no less than 5 years after the series finale.

Book 28 of 2011

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3 responses to “Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity – Review

  1. I have seen a few episodes of the show and I did enjoy them, but I never took the time to watch them all. It’s always interesting to me, and I think a little suspect, when academics write about pop-culture like this. You mentioned that there were a few errors and that many of them mentioned the same episodes again and again. Do you think the people writing the essays have seen the entire program the way you have? Just curious.

  2. I’ve never heard of post-feminist. What does that mean? A return to traditional values?

  3. @Gently Mad – I think by a post-feminist is referring to someone in my & Rory’s Generation. Those of us that were born after the major feminist movement of the 60s and 70s.

    @CBJames – Many of the essayists began their chapters by discussing how and why they came to watch the show and become fans, scenes were mentioned from all 7 seasons, but I’m doubtful if every single episode was watched. There were so many other scenes and instances that could have been used instead of the same big 5 over and over again. Many of the errors were grammatical, most of the facts about the show and characters were accurate (from what I know and have watched). The show itself is full of contradictions, as if the writers never referred back to older episodes for certain details.

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