Let me start by saying that I loved the bits that didn’t make me uncomfortable, (they were funny and brought back every character I could think of from the originals) but there were too many uncomfortable parts for me to rewatch it. I’m considering rewatching the original series to see whether they were as problematic and I was just oblivious when I was younger. In fact, this series was so problematic, I’m going to need subtitles.
The most obvious problem, that anyone could spot, was the fat-shaming. The summer episode has a few scenes at the pool. Lorelai and Rory are making comments about disliking the pool (because kids pee in it). When fat people walk past in swimsuits, one of them says ‘belly alert’ and they look away. At another point, pat stops to talk to them and Rory accidentally calls him ‘fat’ instead of ‘pat’. They are further dehumanised by having the heads of the fat people off screen, so you can only see their bodies- even when pat is talking to them. The scene is completely unnecessary and has no effect on the storyline at all, so it’s even more surprising that no one said anything about the fat shaming and got the scene cut.
Also during the pool scene, and a few other scenes, Lorelai and Rory have two children waiting on them. Now if the children had been shown going up to them and asking if they could do anything for some money, and then getting paid a decent amount of money, then it might be okay. But the kids are clearly unhappy about the work they’re doing (they walk past children playing and one of them says ‘that looks fun’ sounding quite downbeat). They’re also made to carry a lot of stuff that looks heavy, while Lorelai and Rory carry nothing. And Lorelai and Rory mostly ignore them. Child labour? I’m not sure.
Now there’s two gay characters in the show, which is improvement on the original series if I remember correctly. Michel that works at the dragonfly inn, and one man that lives in the town and is at town meetings. During a scene discussing the possibility of a pride parade, they talk about there not being enough gay people in the village and wanting to borrow gays from other villages. I have two problems with this- they’re talking about gay people as if they are some kind of commodity, and they completely ignore the other letters in LGBTQIA+. I also think showing Michel as gay just reinforces stereotypes of gay people because he is the perfect gay stereotype. But having a black, gay character is some kind of progress I guess…
Most of the characters are white, which is a problem itself. For speaking characters there’s Michel, Lane and her mother, Gypsy and Berta and a few minor roles who are people of colour. There’s an okayish amount of non-speaking parts played by people of colour. One problem that stands out is that there’s a lot of people of colour in servitude roles. From Emily’s maid and her family, to the headmaster at chiltern’s secretary, to Paris’ secretary, to Emily’s driver. Emily’s gardener and pool boy are also mentioned as translating languages for Emily so we assume they are also people of colour (or maybe they just care about people other than themselves unlike anyone else on the show so have learnt second languages).
Looking at the more prominent roles, Mrs Kim is still a stereotypical first generation Asian immigrant. Lane doesn’t have much of a role but it seems she has become Americanised as she always wanted in the original series. Gypsy has a name that is a racial slur, but doesn’t have much of a role in the show. Berta is laughed at. It seems like it’s her problem to get past the language barrier, when it should equally be up to Emily. Berta has a huge family, and Emily doesn’t bother to learn the names of the family calling some of them ‘the cousins’. The jokes at the expense of Berta and the language barrier are in very bad taste.
And then there’s Michel. His accent is laughed at when another character complains they’re unable to understand him. He’s not the stereotypical black person, but he is the stereotypical French person (sticking to stereotypes is a recurring theme in this show). He has a proper storyline- he might be leaving the dragonfly inn, unless Lorelai expands the business, which she eventually does. But we never find out for definite whether that means he’s staying afterall. It was a bit like ‘he has a storyline but we aren’t going to finish his story because he’s not actually that important’. I’ve read that there was an ending to his storyline but it got cut because the show was too long. I don’t understand why that got cut and the fat shaming scene didn’t.
I think Emily does a good portrayal of grief. But the therapy sessions are ridiculous. The therapist doesn’t seem to do anything. She doesn’t ask any questions to prompt discussions. She just takes notes. I’ve had therapy and that wasn’t anything like my experience. Lorelai’s attitude towards therapy isn’t great at first, but that seems to change. But then she ditches her therapist, all because her therapist auditions for the town musical, as if therapists can’t have a life outside of their job. No mention of actual mental health problems are made. None of the characters have mental health problems it seems. Sookie is ridiculed for taking some time for self care. And the worst part is a joke about a woman with bipolar disorder.
Classism and financial privilege
Lorelai and Rory have always been portrayed as if they are working class and not wanting to accept money off Emily (and previously Richard). But they are at least upper middle class if they can afford to spend so much in coffee shops. The price of flights between America and London is never addressed. Where is Rory getting the money? And one of Rory’s rich friends buying an entire bar and a car while drunk is treated as a cute quirk, not as a disregard for the value of money. Emily buys a house that isn’t for sale by making an offer the owners couldn’t refuse. And a loan for thousands of pounds isn’t treated as a big deal. But what really got to me was the 30-somethings group. A group of friends who are all living back with their parents because they are unemployed. The fact that so many people are unable to find work and afford to live on their own isn’t addressed as a very sad part of the society we live in. No. They are laughed at. As are their parents trying to help them find work. Moving back in with your parents in your 30s because you can’t afford to live independently is reality for a lot of people, and they use it as a joke.
One good point is that there’s only one bit of ableism in the show- the joke about the bipolar woman already mentioned. There’s no other ableism. Now of course, this might be because there are no disabled characters. There’s also no transgender characters or bisexual characters or asexual characters or Jewish characters or Muslim characters. In fact religion isn’t mentioned at all apart from lorelai and Luke having a priest perform their wedding. There’s a lot of society’s diversity that is completely invisible in the series.
Treatment of surrogacy
The way they looked at surrogacy was obviously going to be a little ridiculous just because they’re dealing with Paris but they went too far. Again, money comes up. Or rather it should do. Getting a surrogate is expensive but it’s treated like something anyone can have, rather than addressing the fact that it’s actually expensive- and how are Luke and Lorelai going to afford it? And Paris refers to the surrogates as breeders, and ranks some of them as being better than others. I don’t know how to put into words the problems of this. I was shocked.
My other gripes with the show are more about the storylines not being what I expected. Lorelai and Rory have always been self centred but Rory is a a horrible person in this series- she’s cheating on her boyfriend who she keeps forgetting to break up with and she’s also a mistress to someone who’s engaged. And then she seems hurt by the fact that Logan still wants to marry his fiancé. She also has a really bad work ethic and expects to get places just on talent and intelligence.
The Wild storyline just didn’t make sense to me. Lorelai isn’t an outdoor person. If she needed alone time to think, I would expect her to go to a spa, not on a hike.
Lorelai and Luke getting married was also a bit like ‘what the hell?’ for me. They were having issues in their relationship and not communicating. Yet they suddenly get married and that’s supposed to fix everything. Marriage does not fix relationships.
And my final problem that has already been mentioned is that there’s no end to some storylines, particularly Michel story that I’ve already mentioned but also the letter that Lorelai supposedly wrote to Emily, which seemed like a big deal in that scene but then was never spoken about again.
This is one of those series, that if I was the writer, I would have scrapped most of the script.