Browsing Tag

Gilmore Girls


poptarts taste like freedom

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’ve been watching through Gilmore Girls for the first time, although Handsome and I have been distracted by listening to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time on audiobook. One of the episodes we watched recently, included Lorelai having a bit of an epiphany about her likes and dislikes. In a conversation with Sookie, she says that the first time she ever had a PopTart, “it tasted like freedom.” She wonders if perhaps some of her favorite things are simply a result of wanting them because her mother said she couldn’t have them.

As I watched, I told Handsome “oh, I hope they deal with this more because I think this is something Lorelai really needs to work out.” So far, they haven’t addressed it again, but it got me to thinking some about the choices I’ve made in my life. I’ve enjoyed some of the things that I’ve done because fundamentalism told me I shouldn’t.

Take Star Wars for example.

I saw the original trilogy when I was about seven, and I remember having a dramatic emotional response. When we got to the scene at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, I turned to my father, sobbing, and declared “he just can’t be his daddy! He can’t be!” I was somewhat traumatized by this revelation, and was grief-stricken all the way through Return of the Jedi.

I sort of forgot about it, though, because we watched Jurassic Park the next day and I had nightmares about goats for a while. When I was eleven, though, The Phantom Menace came out, and Dad– who’d grown up with Star Wars— decided that we were going to break the “no good Christian ever goes to a movie theater ever for any reason ever” rule. It was made very clear to me and my sister that we were not to bring it up with anyone at church. In fact, just to be safe, don’t talk about it with anyone.

As I sat there and slowly fell in love with Obi-Wan Kenobi (I have a crush on Ewan McGregor to this day, it’s why I like gingers so much), I could feel myself becoming enchanted. I was hooked, obsessed. I found out about the Jedi Apprentice series and read them a few pages at a time whenever we were in a book store. I checked out Star Wars-related encyclopedias from the library and memorized ever factoid. When we got the internet, I discovered and and became heavily involved in the fan community, especially fan fiction. I read every single thing ever posted on and the Jedi Apprentice Fan Dimsension (one story in particular, “Sabre Dance,” ended up being my introduction to smut– I enjoyed the story on JAFD and found the not-safe-for-children sequel the author had written).

But now, as an adult, while I still love the films and will definitely be fangirling out my ass in December when I go see The Force Awakens, that obsession has … abated. Perhaps a part of it is that I’m no longer a teenager, but a part of me is sure that I’m not as obsessed with it because there’s no one in my life telling me I’m not allowed to be.


When I was in graduate school, I started experimenting. For people who had a “typical” American childhood, you probably went through something similar when you were in high school. I started flexing my decision-making muscles, testing limits, all of that. I made some bad decisions, did some things that weren’t good for me– nothing too bad, but things that in retrospect make me grimace a little bit in either embarrassment or regret. I think that was a healthy thing for me to go through, as I didn’t know anything about myself, really. A bit like Kimmy Schmidt, I’d been trapped in an invisible box all my life and I wanted to experience life.

However, some of the choices I made were a literal middle finger to fundamentalism and pretty much nothing more than that. I tried to be ok with movies (like Planet Terror) that made me uncomfortable because of their overt sexualization of women. I did the bump-and-grind with a few guys even though they sort of creeped me out, and I dismissed those feelings because I chalked them up to my fundamentalist programming. I did that a lot, actually– if I had a negative reaction to something, I’d tell myself get over it, Sam, it’s nothing– this is fine. Just because your Sunday school teacher would be horrified doesn’t mean this is bad.

That was an important thing to learn to differentiate. Some things I react to because fundamentalist!brain goes into overdrive and teams up with JerkBrain to make me feel like shit for having fun. Other times I’m reacting because there’s legitimately something wrong. That show is portraying abuse. This comedian is sexist. That article minimizes the harmful effects of destructive theology.

A few weekends ago I went to a club for the first time in my life, and I had a blast. It was a local event mainly for lesbian and bisexual women, and it was awesome to be in a safe space like that. The DJ played a few songs I like (dancing to Icona Pop’s “I Love It” is fun), I got a little tipsy (don’t do Kahlua as a shot. Just … don’t), I danced with a few of my girlfriends, and had a pretty fantastic night.

It was also simultaneously miserable. I’m an introvert, so being in a crowded club filled with strangers? AHHHH. Loud, base-throbbing music sends my anxiety through the roof? AHHHHHHH. Flashing lights induce a headache? AHHHHHHHHHHHH. Dancing in heels? Who the hell thought that was a good idea? Oh, right, me. Should’ve known a club full of queer people would have involved Converse for most and my attempt to “fit in” just made me head-and-shoulders taller than basically everyone (at 5’8″ I already stand out in a room full of women).

But I’d figured out that my “oh, ok, I’m done, I want to go home now” feelings weren’t because fundamentalist!brain was telling me to. I wanted to go home and go to bed because I know myself. I know that loud noises and flashing lights and lots of people just aren’t my cup of tea for extended periods.

This is something fundamentalism robs us of. Being able to make decisions based on who you are and what you like doesn’t even begin to enter the picture. You do things because God (coughpastorcough) tells you to. You don’t do things because God (coughbullshitcough) tells you not to. That’s the only thing involved in making decisions, and while I understand how easy and comfortable and safe that can make us feel, it’s also the everyday equivalent of being trapped in an underground bunker.

Photo by Kaylan Chakravarthy
Social Issues

"Gilmore Girls" and child abuse

Two of the many things I missed out on during my we-didn’t-have-TV childhood were Friends and Gilmore Girls. I’m in the process of rectifying it– thank you very much Netflix– and so far it’s been pretty fun. I really enjoy the way the characters interact with each other, especially how much Lorelai really is almost exactly like her mother … if her mother had pink-furry-telephone taste. I’m also enjoying Rachel’s sudden introduction to paying taxes.

Every single time I see Mrs. Kim in an episode of Gilmore Girls, though, my stomach sinks. There’s the obvious negative stereotypes about Asian “tiger mothers,” and the way it’s obviously meant to play off as humorous reads as racist to me, mostly because her character is incredibly flat (at least so far, but after reading quite a bit of material about her, I don’t think they develop her into a truly nuanced, complex character).

However, that’s not my biggest problem with Mrs. Kim. My biggest problem is that she’s an abusive mother– and that her abuse is accepted as normal, as her “right” to behave as Lane’s parent. In an early episode, Lorelai approaches Mrs. Kim to give her some advice about not smothering Lane, but she premises it with the idea that Mrs. Kim has every right as Lane’s mother to parent her in whatever way she sees fit.

And it’s not just the characters in the show that think what Mrs. Kim does is ok:

It’s also important to note that Mrs. Kim’s choices as a parent were never shamed or undermined … Lane was largely respectful of her mother’s decisions and rules for her life—and so, too, was the narrative of the show.

I want to be very clear that I think it is entirely possible for parents to be very ambitious for their children, to set very high goals for their children, and to do and say many of the things that Mrs. Kim says and does to Lane, and not be abusive.

However, what Mrs. Kim does crosses the line from “ambitious” to controlling, manipulative, coercive, and abusive. Every single last second in her daughter’s life is under the iron fist of her mother, and Lane is given no space to be her own person. I look at the life that Lane is living and in it, I see reflections of the expectations I lived under in a fundamentalist cult. Somehow Lane goes to public school and manages to hide rock music and rouge under the floor boards of her bedroom, but she is terrified of her mother ever finding out about who she actually is.

This is one of the things that fundamentalist parenting techniques don’t explain: there is a whole-wide-world of difference between love and acceptance. Mrs. Kim might love Lane, but she does not accept Lane. If she knew anything about who Lane wanted to be or the things that Lane loves, she would flip out and ground her for weeks on end– and frequently does.

The thing that finally got me was the episode when Lane finally tells her mother about Henry Cho, the conservative-Christian-wants-to-be-a-doctor-Korean-boy. At the end of the episode, Lane calls Rory on a pay phone and tells her that her mother has convinced her teachers that she will be “homeschooled” for two weeks. In reality, she’s not being homeschooled, she’s being punished.

Mrs. Kim uses lax homeschooling regulations in order to isolate her daughter.

There are plenty of amazing reasons to homeschool; because you don’t think they’ll receive a good enough education, because they’re being bullied … however, “homeschooling” is not something you can take advantage of as a punitive measure in order to dominate and control your children. Homeschooling is not there to be used by parents who don’t like something their child has done and wants to take ‘grounding’ to terrifying levels.

That the show laughs at all of this is nauseating. I wish I could explain all the millions of tiny little things that make my hair stand on end; but any women who grew up in Christian fundamentalism, with marriage being the only end goal allowed and parents that scream at you every time you do something that shows how you are a person different from them … we know.

We see Lane and we see flickers of ourselves.

Photo belongs to Warner Bros.