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the Complete Review
the complete review - anthology / television

     

Gilmore Girls
and the Politics of Identity


edited by
Ritch Calvin


general information | our review | links

To purchase Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity



Title: Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity
Author: various
Genre: Anthology
Written: 2008
Length: 202 pages
Availability: Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity - US
Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity - UK
Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity - Canada
Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity - India
Gilmore Girls on DVD: Gilmore Girls - Seasons 1-6 - US
  • Edited by Ritch Calvin
  • Essays on Family and Feminism in the Television Series
  • Includes the essays:
    • Welcome to Stars Hollow: Gilmore Girls, Utopia, and the Hyperreal by Erin K. Johns and Kristin L. Smith
    • Rory Gilmore and Faux Feminism: An Ivy League Education and Intellectual Banter Does Not a Feminist Make by Molly McCaffrey
    • Reinventing the Bitch: The Dynamicism of Paris Geller by Angela Ridinger-Dotterman
    • Drats! Foiled Again: A Contrast in Definitions by Anne K. Burke Erickson
    • Good Girls, Bad Girls, and Motorcycles: Negotiating Feminism by Alicia Skipper
    • Got MILF? Losing Lorelai in Season Seven by Tiffany Aldrich MacBain and Mita Mahato
    • Wheat Balls, Gravlax, Pop Tarts: Mothering and Power by Melanie Haupt
    • Generation Gap? Mothers, Daughters, and Music by Faye Woods
    • Like Mother-Daughter, Like Daughter-Mother: Constructs of Motherhood in Three Generations by Stacia M. Fleegal
    • Gender Lies in Stars Hollow by Brenda Boyle and Olivia Combe
    • Food Fights: Food and Its Consumption as a Narrative Device by Lindsay Coleman
    • Still More Gilmore: How Internet Fan Communities Remediate Gilmore Girls by Daniel Smith-Rowsey

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Our Assessment:

B : feminist focus makes for a slightly one-note collection, but a reasonable amount that is of interest

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       The modestly popular -- rarely even in the four-million-viewer range -- but critically acclaimed Gilmore Girls which ran on American television from 2000 to 2007 was the rare (in recent times) show in which female characters dominated; as (too) many of the pieces in this collection point out, there have been essentially none in recent seasons (The New Adventures of Old Christine is the one widely cited exception). The show had an unusual premise: sixteen-year-old Lorelai Gilmore got pregnant but didn't go the traditional route of marrying the (semi-willing) father and continuing to live with her upper class parents and instead raised the kid -- also named, in best patriarchal tradition, Lorelai (but known as Rory) -- by herself. The series began when Rory reached the age her mother was when she had her. Mother-daughter issues dominate, as these two have a very different relationship than Lorelai had (and continues to have) with her mother, Emily -- with the maturing Rory also torn between her mother's independent streak and the upper class comforts of her grandparents' lives.
       Obviously, there is a load of material here to consider, especially the women-roles. Lorelai is fairly a safely feminist icon -- she does it all, and she does it pretty much without relying on anyone else (until it's time to pay for Rory's expensive private-schooling ...) -- except that she does have trouble establishing a relationship with a man -- or rather, sticking one out, as all her romances go pretty much nowhere pretty fast (or, in the case of the long-simmering relationship with likeliest fit Luke, extremely slowly). Rory (and Emily) are more complex figures from a feminist perspective, especially since Rory would seem to have all the basics -- the smarts, the upbringing, etc. -- but reverts to very old-fashioned feminine roles (as discussed at length in Molly McCaffrey's Rory Gilmore and Faux Feminism: An Ivy League Education and Intellectual Banter Does Not a Feminist Make) -- her turn as Donna Reed in an early episode, and her willingness to play along in grandma's D.A.R. are much-cited in these essays.
       The essays in this collection do cover a variety of issues, though it's hard to avoid a sense of similar points being made repeatedly. There's: Lorelai as the feminist near-ideal, Rory as a repeated disappointment (though with potential), both of their fundamental relationship-with-men-issues -- and some disappointment with the awkward turns of the abbreviated final season (especially Lorelai's marriage to Rory's father). Among the more interesting pieces are those that look further, including Angela Ridinger-Dotterman on Reinventing the Bitch: The Dynamicism of Paris Geller.
       The pieces tend towards the more academic (or at least strain to sound academic, not always to best effect), with passages such as:

     Procurement of food and commensality are a defining feature of the Gilmore Girls' narrative (and the titular Girls' relationship). Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) directs her maternal love through consumption of processed (mass-produced, disposable) food, which serves to shift the image of the ideal mother as producer to mother as consumer.
       This is actually a fairly interesting point (in Melanie Haupt's Wheat Balls, Gravlax, Pop Tarts: Mothering and Power), but the way it (and the rest of the arguments here and in some of the other contributions) are put may feel a bit daunting to some fans.
       Elsewhere, more (show-)specificity might have helped, especially in Daniel Smith-Rowsey's Still More Gilmore: How Internet Fan Communities Remediate Gilmore Girls. Satisfied with trying to make a basic point ("while fanfic sites tend to reinforce a show's ideology, the discussion sites, perhaps counter-intuitively, tend to be more subversive"), it's a paper that could have used considerably more space in fleshing that out. (It also doesn't quite fit with the rest of the contributions -- but the variety is welcome.)
       Coffee at Luke's, with its lighter tone and greater reach, is a more approachable Gilmore Girls-collection, but there are a number of interesting points raised and discussed in Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity . With a somewhat narrow ambit -- strongly centered around the roles of the women on the TV show, and especially the main characters -- and with considerable overlap, it does feel somewhat limited -- but certainly covers the 'family and feminism' angle fairly thoroughly.

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© 2008-2011 the complete review

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