Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.
Gilmore Girls is beloved for a reason: men aren’t doing all the talking, for a change
I’m watching for validation.
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When Gilmore Girls premiered 16 years ago, it was unique — a female-centric show that stayed focused on women — but the data shows that with its return to Netflix, it is still an anomaly.
Gilmore Girls can do no wrong. In my heart, it already has five stars (I rate on a four star system.) It would be like Netflix putting out a show called Your Mom, featuring only video clips of my mother. Even when she’s not perfect, she’s perfect to me.
So instead of quality or plot, I’m watching for validation.
Exhibit A: In a Season 1 episode, Rory (Alexis Bledel) returns home in the early morning after a date. On finding out, Lauren Graham’s Lorelai veers from panicking to castigating her mother to fighting with her daughter. Within a five-minute span, she hits every single note perfectly.
Notably, that scene like countless others in the Gilmore Girls’ canon, is focused on women’s relationships with each other. This was a show entirely about women’s lives apart from men. (Occasionally, the plot centres on a man but, despite our best efforts, that happens in women’s lives too.)
In writing women’s lives, film and television consistently fail. Take the Disney princess films. You’d think that women clearly dominate the dialogue in movies about them. Turns out that even in fictional cartoon worlds, men routinely talk over women. Researchers found that in the original three princess films — Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella — female characters speak as much or more than male characters but that in the films of the 1990s, male voices dominate the dialogue: they speak 76 per cent of the time in Pocahontas, 68 per cent in The Little Mermaid, and 71 per cent in Beauty and the Beast.
In the newer films like Tangled, Brave and Frozen, males still get the majority of talk time.An exhaustive study from Polygraph confirmed the trend. Looking at screenplays for 2000 films, the team found that men over-indexed in speaking roles across every genre of film and age of actor. Even romantic comedy had men speaking 58 per cent of the lines. Polygraph also found that women actors over 42 experienced a sudden drop in assigned dialogue and that by age 65, they were virtually mute. Conversely, as men aged, they were given more speaking roles.
From a bird’s-eye view then, it’s easy to see why the revival has caught the attention of so many women. We’re starving to hear women’s voices, even if they’re the same ones we’ve heard before.
So not only is it great to hear the Gilmore women talk again but in the dim landscape of television and film, it’s nice to hear any women talk at all.