Over the last month or so, I watched the first four seasons of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, on account of my being the most metal person you have ever met. I’d watched the last three seasons when it aired because someone else in the house insisted on watching it, and once it went up on Netflix back in December, I felt a need to watch all those episodes I missed in which the characters hadn’t already been writer-assassinated and the plots hadn’t delved deeply into the top ten lists of stupid television cliches.
But I’m not here to review the show (though I’ll toss out the obligatory flashing of Gilmore gang tattoos by declaring that I’m 100% Team Jess), I just wanted to throw out an oddity I noticed. That show has at least every couple of episodes a throwaway gay joke that is just flat uncomfortable. None of them are particularly offensive, in fact all of them are basically the same joke: guys without girlfriends are obviously closeted gays. Joke that Luke has a date after years of not, well good for him, people were starting to talk, HAHAHAHA. Town dysfunctional Kurt manages to get a girlfriend, nice, because you know what people were starting to think, HAHAHAHA.
I’m certainly not trying to slam the show as homophobic, but it’s a fascinating example of how that slow movement of what is culturally acceptable happens without us even noticing. It’s one thing to point out that James Bond was a misogynistic douche in movies made fifty years ago. That seems enough time for us to recognize that times and culture change. But Gilmore Girls is barely a decade old, so being able to pick up on the way that shift has slowly happened is intriguing.
There’s the famous Seinfeld episode from the nineties, in which people keep thinking George and Jerry are gay, and the signature line keeps getting repeated after every mounting denial: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” That’s a landmark in a certain sense, but it was also a single episode set aside to have that be the point. But what’s interesting about noticing it in the annals of Stars Hollow is that it’s not special, it’s just the passing and casual jokes.
I remember it being that way, and most of you probably do, too. At one point, those jokes were funny. Now they’re not. They’re uncomfortable because you realize they’re hurtful, even if people then didn’t find them that way.
Change in culture is sometimes a landslide, sometimes a revolution, but even when those things happen most of the day to day progress is like a lobster slowly boiling. It happens without us even noticing.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.