3 times Gilmore Girls tackled real-world issues flawlessly (and 2 times it didn’t)

GILMORE GIRLS - Credit: Robert Voets/Netflix
GILMORE GIRLS - Credit: Robert Voets/Netflix /

As much as everyone loves Gilmore Girls, the beloved mother-daughter dramedy has also inspired some heated debates in its two decades as a pop culture staple. Forget if Dean, Jess, or Logan was the better endgame option for Rory, viewers discuss the real-world issues.

While some might write it off as just another show about a quirky small town with tangled personal relationships, the series managed to weave in heavier thematic elements into the stories it told. Lorelai loves a good joke, but even she isn’t immune to the lows of post-breakup wallowing.

From family to mental health to money and class, some of these issues were handled much more gracefully than others. The series surely hit on many more, but we’re digging into three of the biggest themes Gilmore Girls touched on with ease and two more that weren’t as smooth.

Gilmore Girls
370100 08: Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham star in Warner Bros. TV series “The Gilmore Girls.” (Photo by Warner Bros./Delivered by Online USA) /

Lorelai’s teen pregnancy

Did! There might be some viewers who disagree, but the series managed to not glorify or romanticize Lorelai’s teen pregnancy. Yes, the basis of the series revolves around the close mother-daughter bond between Lorelai and Rory, and a lot of their closeness has to do with their relatively small 16-year age gap. But the series was always careful with the language Lorelai used to talk about her relationship with her daughter.

In season 3 episode 4, “One’s Got Class and the Other One Dyes,” Luke and Lorelai speak to the students at Stars Hollow High School as local business leaders, but the students ask about Lorelai getting pregnant with Rory as a teenager. She explains that although she wouldn’t recommend teen pregnancy, she’s grateful to have gotten Rory out of the deal. The parents weren’t happy.

However, that’s always how Lorelai talks about her pregnancy at such a young age. She doesn’t regret it because she doesn’t regret having Rory. She’s thankful for how things worked out, given the circumstances. The show definitely tackled the intricacies of teen pregnancy without putting a complete gloss or rose-colored lens over the matter.

Mental health

Didn’t! Throughout the series, Lorelai and Rory (specifically as the leading characters) both struggled with situations related to mental health, whether it was anxiety over school or work or situational depression in the wake of a major breakup. But the series didn’t often take these struggles as seriously as they could have been taken.

Since it’s partially a comedy, the show sometimes used situations of heightened emotions for laughs. Rory once went to a therapy session, and crying through her problems was more humorous than realistic, as was Lorelai speaking to a therapist from the back of a car outside her parents’ house.

A Year in the Life did a better job of accurately representing mental health, likely because in the time since the original series left the air, these conversations have become more normalized. Gilmore Girls didn’t need to go down a super-serious road, but in hindsight, adding a bit more care into these scenes and storylines could have made them even better.

Complex family relationships

Did! Obviously, family was one of the dominant themes of the series, and that’s not limited to the Gilmore family dynamic. From Luke and Jess to Lane and her mother to even Michel and his mom, all of the characters had precarious predicaments to deal with in the family space. While Lorelai’s uniquely prickly relationship with Emily pulled a lot of focus, all instances of complex family relationships were well-rounded and relatable.

For the older characters, the tense familial scenarios were passed down by generations. I mean, look at how Emily reacts to Richard’s mother. As for Rory, she navigated her own complex family relationship unlike any of the others, having been raised by a young, single mother and having a father that came in and out of her life. She also later dealt with the changed dynamics of stepparents and a half-sibling, which as an only child, was an adjustment.

Gilmore Girls
Gilmore Girls /

White privilege

Didn’t! When A Year in the Life premiered, the characters and the series were each reexamined by fans and critics in various ways, though privilege was a major contention for a lot of people. Particularly in the revival but also in the original seven seasons, viewers claim that Lorelai and Rory often didn’t recognize the privilege they were born into, having come from a white, upperclass (see: old money) family.

As a teenager, Lorelai rejected her family’s financial help to build her own life in Stars Hollow and maintains that independence until she asks for them to assist with Rory’s Chilton tuition. Viewers have felt that Lorelai was hypocritical in her disowning of her parents, only to later ask for their help and complain about having to attend Friday night dinners. Rory, too, later felt entitled to jobs or opportunities based on not only her talent as a writer but sometimes her name. (“But I’m a Gilmore!”)

For the most part, your perspective on Lorelai and Rory’s response to their circumstances and place in the world will likely vary. Although, it’s fair to say that as a whole, the show didn’t handle the topic of white privilege as well as it would today. It’s just not something that was spoken about back in the early 2000s. Considering Lorelai and Rory had the privilege of being white and having a wealth safety net, maybe it’s something that should have come up.

Financial insecurity and class

Did! Speaking of money, Lorelai didn’t have very much of it, and that was always one of the most relatable and realistic aspects of the show. Yes, she came into some money from her father later on in the series, but before then, she never liked to borrow money from her parents unless it was for Rory’s schooling. When her house had termites, she went to the bank for a loan (though Emily has to step in to provide help with landing said loan).

Sure, the show’s handling of financial insecurity and class divisions could have been stronger, but as a comedy-drama series that tended to keep things light, that theme was always right there on the surface and one of the better real-world issues confronted. Between Luke and the Gilmores. Between Lorelai and Digger. Between Rory and Logan, Rory and her Chilton classmates. Money tended to become an issue in various relationships and sparked insightful storylines.

All seven seasons and the miniseries revival of Gilmore Girls are available on Netflix!

dark. Next. 10 unsolved Gilmore Girls mysteries we still think about