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Gilmore Girls gay jokes


I've been slightly distressed over one particular tiny aspect of Gilmore Girls as I've been watching the show on DVD:

They do a fair number of gay jokes (probably an average of one every couple of episodes), and most of those jokes in the first five seasons center around either the idea that being gay is bad in some way, or the idea that one of the more macho characters is put off by the idea of gayness or being gay.

Which in a gay-friendly show would be fine with me. But all through the first five seasons, there isn't (as far as I've noticed and remember) a single clearly gay character.

There's a metrosexual major character who looks, sounds, and acts stereotypically gay in many ways, but there've been explicit references to him being interested in women, and none to him being interested in men. But Googling suggests that a lot of viewers considered him to be gay, so maybe he partly counts.

There are two recurring minorish male characters who are occasionally a little femme, but one of them eventually gets a girlfriend, and I don't know that we've ever seen the other one express romantic interest in anyone.

And there's a female mechanic who I don't think has ever expressed interest in anyone.

So there are characters who could be read as gay-but-closeted or gay-but-we-never-see-their-partners, but in a show that's so heavily focused on relationships, I've been disappointed not to see any explicitly out gay characters.

And I've been feeling that the show was making too many kinda edgy jokes that veer a little too close to homophobic jokes for my tastes, without having the kind of gay cred that might make those jokes more palatable to me.

But now I'm in season six (almost done with season six, actually), and I've been really pleased that they seem to finally have learned how to do gay jokes right—that is, without suggesting that there's anything wrong with being gay.

There's even been a clearly gay character. He was an extremely minor character; he had only a couple of lines, and I'm not sure he had a name. And the way you could tell he was gay was that he had swishy intonation and a very very limp wrist. Still, I'd say that's at least slightly better than nothing.

And by halfway through season six, there started to be regular jokes in which straight characters briefly indicated that they were gay, for comic effect and without even a hint of denigration.

I was going to paste a transcript of one such joke here, but I suspect it wouldn't work as well without the context and delivery. Suffice it to say that it was genuinely funny, and didn't make me wince even a little bit, and that it involved two recurring minor male characters taking each other's hands and talking about getting married to each other. (This aired in 2006, so it was after Massachusetts started recognizing same-sex marriage, but before Connecticut (where the show is set) did.)

I should note that this aspect of the show has never really upset me. It's made me wince a little now and then (in earlier seasons), but I've been willing to give it a pass because there's so much else to like about the show. But I'm glad they finally did figure out how to do gay jokes right, even if only in the final couple years of the show.

PS: Unrelatedly, the writers also seem to have started embracing their inner geeks this season; in particular, there've been a couple of references to BSG, and one major character even said "frakking."


Huh, is "frakking" a geek thing? I'm not sure I'd have even known it was spelled that way; I think of "fracking" as interchangeable with "fricking" and "freaking" as euphemisms for "fucking".

Certainly plenty of people use it as a minced oath without reference to anything in particular; but in the past couple years it's been widely used by BSG fans.

If not for the earlier Gilmore Girls reference to Cylons (several episodes earlier) and the timing (right around when BSG was getting really popular), I might have thought this was just the ordinary usage. But given that background (and the fact that the character in question had never said that word before, in nearly six seasons of the show), I'm pretty sure the writers intended this instance as a BSG reference.

Didn't frakking come from the original BSG? I remember getting scolded by my mother for using it after I picked it up from friends ~1979, because--euphemism or no euphemism--it was obvious what it referred to.

Aha! Yes; and it was originally "frack".

I actually never thought of the show as homophobic. There was a reference in season one, I think like the first episode, where lorelai said "well, then he's gay" while she is talking with Rory and another instance in season 4 where Luke's sister was getting married and Lorelai was helping her fix her dress. Luke's sister asked Lorelai if she wants to get married and Lorelai responds that this was not the best time to propose. There was one more where Jason said something about being gay around this time. something about having a characteristic of it or something. Being gay myself and loving the show, i didn't take any offense to any of these jokes. It's a tone thing, I guess. It's kinda hard to explain in a comment. Anyway, that is my 2 cents.

Anonymous: Fair enough.

I tended to bristle at the gay jokes before season 6 because (a) they tended, imo, to imply negative connotations to being gay (in particular, Luke—one of my favorite characters otherwise—tended to look mildly unhappy or disgusted whenever there was a joke that connected him to same-sex interactions), and (b) there wasn't anything unequivocally gay-positive to balance that out.

But I'm glad to hear that you didn't have a problem with it. It's entirely possible that I was overreacting.

Still, I'm glad that late in the series they started to do more and (imo) better gay jokes.

I just googled gilmore girls homophobic and found this. I loooooove GG, but have had trouble with the gay jokes in the show since I was in high school. Some are harmless, but many are totally strange coming from a show that has rory with a "stop the war on choice" poster in her dorm room, along with other things that would imply the show would be gay friendly. I agree that if there was just one gay character in the show during its run, the jokes would seem less problematic, but there aren't. I had a lot of trouble with one episode in season 5 where rory is a best man, and wears a "suit" (although it is totally in a femme style, with heels and everything), and the "ew how strange!!!" jokes are all over the episode, while I've seen women wear ties to events many times, and nobody ever cares. of course, as is the curse of gilmore girls, this is one of my favorite episodes. I just try and tune out the homophobia :)

Kathy: Thanks for the comment, and sorry that it went into the moderation queue and I didn't see it to rescue it until now.

Addendum to your comment: And I thought that suit was totally fabulous on Rory.

...Oh, but actually, there was one good joke about that. Logan and Rory kiss, and then he says "I feel like I'm kissing a guy," and she kisses him again, and he adds, "And apparently I had no idea what I was missing." I thought that was a good line.

i also like the gilmore girls
and find the relationship between rory and lorelie pretty awesome
well that's it's the main relationship in the show
not some boring i'm straight your straight let's get together main relationship
and the social/money class issues brought up frequently between lorelie and her parents are inspirational
but the show definitely has very homophobic moments
i just keep thinking god it seems so liberal
where did that come from
i am still in season 3 so it's good to here there is hope somewhere down the line
chalk it up to straight privileged writers i guess
they don't seem out of malice, but somebody just doesn't get that it's not ok to use gay for the punchline or to show disgust at queerness as a punchline
i also find the clearly gay but not out characters to be confusing
if it quacks like a duck just say it's a duck
i did just watch an episode in season 3 (3x18) where lorelie makes a pretty funny lesbian joke
and i have only noticed a couple "that's so gay" comments so that's a plus
and i agree if there had been any out characters on the show it would not have bugged so much
but probably only if they were the one making the gay jokes

I'm rewatching some of the early episodes, and I was pleased to see that in episode 8 of season 1, there was a fairly well-done gay joke; it almost veers into mean-spiritedness, but saves itself at the last moment. It requires some setup, though:

Richard [discussing Emily's wedding plans as a girl]: You also knew that you wanted to marry Errol Flynn.

Rory: Oh, really? Grandma had a thing for the pirate guy?

Emily: I did not have a thing for the pirate guy.

Richard: She was mad about him. She even tried to get me to grow one of those little mustaches.

Rory: You're kidding.

Emily: Richard, stop.

Richard: She wanted me to swing from a chandelier.

Emily: Oh, now you're just being silly.

Richard: Luckily, I was on the fencing team at college, or I would have married Lucinda Lester by now.

Emily: Actually, Lucinda Lester looked a lot like Errol Flynn.

Richard: [laughs, gestures mustaches]

Emily: I should've married her. It would have been very modern of me.

Thank god I'm not the only one who's noticed this. I searched "gilmore girls homophobic" to get here as well and it's always slighty, and I mean very slightly, bothered me whenever there was a reference to homosexuality before (since the tone always seemed "gay = negative"), but the episode I just watched (I'm only in season 3) just had a character describe something as "gay" in a negative way with no contest and it just hit me as so absurd in such a seemingly left-leaning show. Its a minor character so whatever and I suppose you could chalk it up to being part of their personality or whatever, but added to everything already mentioned here, it did significantly bother me.

Thanks for the comment, gabrielcruz.online, and sorry not to have noticed until now that it fell into the moderation queue.

One interesting side note: I too think of the show as essentially left-leaning, but there are some ways in which I think it isn't. In particular, I've been noticing that no one on the show ever considers or even mentions abortion; it's as though in the world of the show, abortion doesn't exist. (Except that apparently Chris's parents did obliquely suggest it to Lorelai in a flashback, and apparently Rory has a pro-choice poster in her dorm room.) I don't blame the writers for sidestepping such a contentious issue; but it does make me wonder if I've been projecting some of my own politics on the show. The show is definitely feminist; but is it liberal per se? I'll have to think about that some more.

While I'm here, I may as well add a few more notes from my rewatching.

First, an exchange from season 1, episode 17, that I thought worked pretty well:

Lorelai: Sweater's brand new.

Rory: Well, he saw me in it yesterday and he liked it.

Lorelai: Well, then, he's got good taste.

Rory: He said it brought out the blue in my eyes.

Lorelai: Well, then he's gay.

Plays on a stereotype, but in a funny way, and without (imo) being derogatory.

Next, my response to people who say Michel is intended to be gay, from season 2, episode 3:

Michel: So is there no dancing here? I was hoping there'd be dancing.

Sookie: You need to strut, Tony Manero?

Michel: It is the weekend, and on the weekends I like to move. And the ladies, they like it too.

Of course, the characters do shift a little later in the series; it's possible that they later decided he really is gay. But I think there are also later references to Michel being interested in women.

An interesting one from season 3:

Jackson: I like ruffles.

Sookie: How can you like ruffles?

Jackson: Because I'm very very gay.

I guess this is essentially the same as that first-season one I quoted above, but maybe it didn't work quite as well for me because by season 3, it's clear that there are no explicitly gay characters.

And then there's this:

Max: [...] it wasn't until today I realized it must be really hard to be a girl.

Lorelai: And with the invention of Sephora, really expensive, too.

Max: I'm very sorry.

Lorelai: Oh, don't be. Least we get to wear skirts without being Scottish or riding a float in the gay pride parade.

Max: That'll change someday, my friend, and when it does, I still won't wear a skirt. But I'll applaud those that do. And then cross the street so nobody sees I'm with them.

Y'know, that might be funny in a show that had ever, say, had a gay or trans character on it. As it is, all I see is Max being homophobic and trying to make a joke out of it. But my reaction may stem partly from just not liking Max.

Addendum a couple of years later: While I was rewatching the series (which I just finished doing tonight), I took notes on all of the jokes I noticed that seemed to have anything to do with gayness. At some point, I'll write them up, but for now I'll just note that quite a few jokes where my first reaction was “Oh, that's a joke about homosexuality” were actually jokes about cross-dressing. There are a lot of jokes about cross-dressing in this series, mostly about men wearing feminine clothing. Some of them equate transvestism with homosexuality, but some of them just seem to be about messing with gender, or (often) about some of the characters being uncomfortable with messing with gender.

There are also a fair number of gay jokes, too. But I was surprised at how many of the ones I initially thought of as gay jokes were really clothing-and-gender jokes.

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