A Queer Eye on Gilmore Girls: Part Two

So, Michel is now gay. Hallelujah.

Is it that ten years after the show went off the air it became acceptable to have a gay character? Are we as watchers supposed to assume his bisexuality throughout the series, despite a lack of evidence that he was ever attracted to men? It is certainly possible that we can look at Michel’s character as emblematic of the many queer people that came out later in life, but as a queer woman myself, it leaves me aching a bit for the always openly gay character.

Regardless, we have a gay character on Gilmore Girls, and for that it is assumed that we should be grateful. However, Michel’s portrayal in the revival leaves something to be desired and only partially because his partner, Frederic, is only referenced in conversation and never seen on the screen. In finally portraying an openly gay character, Gilmore Girls once again embraces a stereotype, albeit a newer one: the couple who, once indifferent to parenthood, changes their minds immediately following marriage.

According to Michel, “before we got married, Frederic was more indifferent to children than I am […] Twenty minutes after I do he lost his mind. Now all he talks about is, ‘Guess who’s pregnant?’ or ‘What school district is it in? You have to live in a good school district.’”

Is this added for the humor of Michel rearing children? Possibly, but I find it entirely unnecessary. For one, many gay couple chose to never have children. However, one finds that in television portrayals, they almost always chose to procreate. Perhaps gay men are less “dangerous” when they assume the role of father and husband, fulfilling heteronormative ideas of relationships. And of course, that leaves out the problematic reversal assumed of child-free people, gay and straight: they will eventually change their minds and come to understand that being a parent is the best thing they will ever do!

The only example of a prominent child-free couple in Gilmore Girls is Babette and Morey, and their child-free status is turned into a running joke about their relationships with their cats and gnomes. Even Paris and Doyle have children in the revival, and who would have seen that one coming! (Don’t even get me started on Rory’s big reveal at the end). I suppose I digress a bit, but still…

Why can’t Michel and his partner Frederic (who, to borrow a line from Rory herself, may be Michel’s Snuffleupagus), challenge the heteronormative relationship structure that has been placed on even queer couples in television? Can’t we have a strong couple that chooses to remain child-free? Or am I asking too much of even a ground-breaking show like Gilmore Girls? Perhaps I am: just look at the conversations regarding a Taylor’s sexuality…

The Prostitute in the Story: Part One

My colleague previously examined the addition of a prostitute to the story of the Battle of Stars Hollow in the Season 5 episode “Woman of Questionable Morals,” wherein he made some brilliant points about elitism. But, what else does this episode tell us? Today particularly I am wondering about what his character means as far as women’s history.

It is telling that when evidence of the participation of women is uncovered, it is in the role of sexual objects. The prostitute herself is defined specifically by her gender and sexuality, as is shown by the reenactors’ reference to her “feminine wiles.” As this “woman of questionable morals” is the only female character in the Battle of Stars Hollow, she is our only example of a woman in history. While I am quite happy to argue that her participation may have been vital to this fictional battle, and her story is one of strength and courage, she is still defined by her sexuality. In tying a historical female character’s directly to her sexuality, “Woman of Questionable Morals” serves to emphasize a woman’s worth as that of a sexual object. The gendering of such an approach should be apparent: could you imagine the same role existing for a man?

As far as the plot goes, I couldn’t imagine the episode suffering from the addition of a different female character, maybe a “Molly Pitcher” of sorts. Don’t tell me that Taylor and Kirk couldn’t manage to make that just as weird and wonderful. Such a character would exist independently of her sexuality – a right afforded to all of the male historical figures. Then again, perhaps it is fitting, considering the long and tangled history between the military and prostitution…

A Queer Eye on Gilmore Girls: Part One

As a young woman in my mid to late 20s, it seems almost natural that I grew up watching Gilmore Girls. In a household where I was allowed only two hours of television a week until I graduated high school, I spent one of those hours with Lorelai and Rory in Stars Hollow. Like many of my peers, I wished I could be a part of that strange little community that resided entirely in Amy Sherman-Palladino’s head. But if I had, I would have been the only queer resident of Stars Hollow.

Looking back on it today, it is easy to understand the lack of LGBT residents as a function of the time: after all, when Gilmore Girls aired (2000-2007), the only television show geared towards teens that had a queer character was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In later interviews, Sherman-Palladino explicitly stated that the character of Sookie was originally a lesbian, at least until the networks heard the idea. So, as was common in the 2000s, instead of a strong queer character, the community was left with Michel: a seemingly stereotypically gay man who resided firmly in the closet. Not exactly the role model we were looking for.

In the years after a television show with the kind of following of Gilmore Girls has gone off the air, people have a tendency to look back on it as representative of the time period in which it aired. Popular culture is used as historical evidence of a time in distant memory. What impression will Gilmore Girls give of our time with queerness written out of the story?