Home > Gilmore Girls Revisited > ‘Gilmore Girls’ Revisited Vol. 7: The Lorelais and Junk Food

‘Gilmore Girls’ Revisited Vol. 7: The Lorelais and Junk Food

Arieanna over at GilmoreNews.com has posted an interesting discussion question based on a line from The Gilmore Girls Companion: Are you mad about the amount of junk food the girls eat without suffering adverse reactions?

Even more interesting than the question is the answers she’s received so far: everyone seems to take this as just one more interesting quirk about Lorelai and Rory, which really surprised me. Yet, this quickly got me to thinking about the context of the question. My guess is that most of the people replying are either from outside the US or under the age of 30, or both. As American culture is the only one I’m intimately familiar with, I must focus on that.

(At this point I should say that if I could get to the heart of, and solve, this problem, I would not be writing books about popular culture.)

America’s Body Image Problems

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard from people, either in person or through various newspaper and magazine articles, that Hollywood’s overabundance of impossibly skinny actresses and magazine cover models has damaged the self-image, and in many cases the health, of thousands of young women throughout the U.S.

Now as problems go, my knee jerk reaction is to say this is pretty low on the list of irritants that life can throw at you, especially when you stop to consider that people in many countries barely have enough to eat, and the predominant problem in this country is obesity, not its opposite. There is the tremendous urge to say don’t worry about what other people are doing, stop eating crap and get some exercise. And if that doesn’t work, accept the fact that we all get dealt a bad hand genetically in some way; there are worse defects to be hit with.

However, there’s also something to be said for all problems being relative. If the challenge of physical survival has been taken off the table, as it has been for most in the U.S., we’re left with second-tier challenges, within which the problem of body image neatly falls. And if you’re a young girl growing up in a society that worships slender women, your vision of your own body could well be negative if you don’t measure up. And to the little girl throwing up during gym class to meet an unobtainable ideal, her problem to her is as real (and potentially life destroying) as any other.

Yet the problem isn’t necessarily the thin actresses or the magazine covers or even the “worship” of slender women — there’s an argument to be made that the real problem is other young girls.

The Problem: Point by Point

Before we get to the root of the problem, it might be a good idea to take a look at how we got here.

Worship of Slender Women: We should probably say from the outset that this “worship” has been created and perpetuated by the media for the better part of 50 years or so. Many point to “Twiggy,” thought by many to be the West’s first “supermodel,” as the starting point for this obsession.

Yet few ask why print and film have tended to go after thin models and actresses to begin with. After all, you don’t have to go back too far in history to see that more realistic body shapes were all the rage for painters and sculptors back in the day. What happened?

In a word, technology. Painters and sculptors were in absolute control of what their models looked like. However, with the introduction of photography and filmography, the medium itself dictated what they would look like.

We’ve all heard that “the camera adds 10 pounds” or more; thanks to the mechanics of the equipment involved, that’s about right. As a result, women of so-called “normal proportions” tended to look huge on screens big and small, as well as on magazine covers. Since there was no way to tinker with this in the early days of the technology, the Powers That Be tended to look for uber skinny women to photograph. After years of getting used to a certain body type, those who make the images found themselves instinctively searching for women who fit that mold.

Young Girls and Young Boys: Naturally the elephant in the room here is that we’re talking about women and girls — what about the guys? Why don’t they have a body image problem?

The short answer is they do. While young girls are comparing themselves to the latest roster of thin-as-a-rail CW beauties and the latest Cosmo girl, young boys are trying to live up to the pumped-up dude on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, the latest wrestling star, or Twilight hunk. While girls are constantly hit over the head with diet ads in magazines and on TV,  boys are likewise inundated with Bo-Flex commercials, sports stars telling them what they need to do to be sports stars, superheroes with impossibly muscular builds, and buff action movie stars. (Back in the day, it was Charles Atlas ads in the backs of comic books and even a musclebound superhero toy called He-Man.) Quite simply, both sexes are equally inundated with impossible images.

Young Girls and Body Image: The problem may not be that girls are singled out by media with impossible body images, but that girls are more likely to verbally compare each other to them than boys. While few members of either sex tend to get through school without taking a few beatings, it’s fairly clear after decades of sociological research that American girls are more likely to verbally and emotionally abuse each other than resort to physical punishment.

Boys take their fair share of ridicule (I could tell you stories), but are also more likely to ramp up to out and out violence (I could tell you stories). Girls are more likely to play the humiliation card, be it spreading vicious rumors or name calling, which is where the body image problems come in. If you’re the tiniest bit larger than the rest, you’re screwed. Then again, if you’re not as well endowed as the rest, you’re screwed, too. In other words, you can’t win.

None of this really means much. As rough as things get, this is all part of growing up. The real problems begin if the young girl, pushed to her limits by the dove mentality (real doves, as in dove behavior, not the misbegotten notion of “peace doves”), slips into health-threatening, and in some cases life-threatening, eating disorders to try to change her circumstances.

As in many other cases, it strikes many as being far easier to blame Gilmore Girls and its junk food obsession, and the media as a whole, for causing what is a very complex problem. Nothing is resolved but a scapegoat is found, and increasingly scapegoats are all anybody is really looking for anymore.

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  1. Lori
    April 4, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Very interesting points you make Aaron, but I’d like to comment on a few. I totally agree with you on the points you make about body image and how the media perpetuates the unrealistic body images that young girls and boys aspire too. As a proponent of holistic health, I’d like to point out the REAL problem. While the media tries to portray everyone as beautiful, thin, and perfect, the very backbone of the shows we watch, mainly the advertisers, bombard us with ads for all those wonderful junk foods that Lorelai and Rory thrive on. These processed snacks, cereals loaded with sugar, fast foods, and high fructose corn syrup laden sodas have caused the most unhealthy diets ever! The junk that Lorelai and Rory (and most of the U.S.) consumes is so addictive that obesity is just one of the effects of eating like a Gilmore Girl! I think most people are amazed that Lorelai and Rory AREN’T obese (which would certainly be the case in reality) and it makes it seem okay to consume such unhealthy foods. With Diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and a host of conditions caused by poor nutrition rampant, the issue isn’t just the “perfect” body proportions that are causing body image problems, but the degradation of our health by the same media that sets these unrealistic body images. Those processed, sugar laden, convenience foods and snacks bring in billions of dollars to the food industries at the expense of our health! Luckily, I watch Gilmore girls to escape reality for a bit, because if Lorelai and Rory were real they’d be obese, very unhealthy, and it would be Lorelai lying in a hospital bed after a heart attack, not Richard. So while I’m all too versed on the real life effects of the junk food diet, I like to sit back and watch our Girls eat artery clogging junk that doesn’t affect their perfect bodies or health. As long as they keep up the witty banter, I’m good. Okay, Luke sized rant over. Lol!

    P.S. I just ordered The Gilmore Girls Companion. I can’t wait til it arrives!

  2. April 4, 2011 at 5:45 am

    Some really good points, Lori. I think the only one I would question slightly is the addictive aspect of the junk foods, and that’s only because I don’t know enough about the subject – I would defer to your experience on this one. It seems more like a vicious cycle than an addiction: People are so busy (whew, especially Lorelai and Rory) that they seldom have time to prepare good food, so they buy the prepackaged junk food, which gradually slows them down, forces them to gain weight, making it harder for them to summon the energy to make good food, so they buy more junk, and downward spiral here we come. Kirk sized rant over 😉

    And thank you for ordering the book — hope you enjoy it!

  3. Lori
    April 4, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Trust me, Aaron, junk foods, processed convenience foods, sodas and fast foods are very addictive! They are loaded with sugar and refined flours (which convert into sugar in the body), not to mention all the artificial chemicals to enhance flavor and palatability. Eating these tasty on the go foods causes your blood sugar to spike, raising insulin levels are giving that quick energy fix. It actually overrides a hormone in the body called Leptin, which signals the sensation of fullness, hence the tendency to overeat. Once that quick energy high is depleted, we crave more simple carbs and sugars to keep from crashing. The hormone Grehlin kicks in signally “I’m starving! Feed me now!” And the vicious cycle begins. The food companies know just how addicting sugar is and purposely put additives into their products to make you crave more. After all, according to the Lays potato chip ads…Betcha can’t eat just one! All the excess sugar consumed is stored as fat in the body. Lorelai and Rory are seriously addicted to junk food! Believe me, I know how hard it is to kick a food addiction. When I eliminated all processed junk foods, sugars, and fast food and began eating healthy, I literally had withdrawal symptoms! I’m talking a week with constant headaches, fatigue, and just feeling horrible until my body came down off the sugar! I could go on and on about this subject (Luke would be so proud!), but I’ll just end with this. I WISH I could eat like Lorelai and Rory and look like them! Instead I have to work at my health every day, because when I DO eat junk food I feel like crap on toast! Lol! And now Luke rant #2 is over. Lol. I can’t wait to read your book when it arrives. Have a great day, Aaron.

  4. April 5, 2011 at 5:57 am

    Wow, no wonder everyone eats so poorly. Just as we’ve finally gotten the tobacco companies under control, it sounds like they just switched professions. You know, I remember Luke being a big “eat healthy” nut in the very beginning, or at least putting down the garbage the girls ate, but I don’t actually remember him ever eating anything himself. Hmmmmm…..

  5. Lori
    April 5, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    How do we know that it wasn’t conditions related to poor eating habits that took the lives of Luke’s parents? Something obviously got Luke hooked on eating healthy and the horrible effects the standard American diet has on health. At least that’s my thoughts. Have you seen the movie “Super Size Me”? Filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock researches the American obesity epidemic through interviews and by subjecting himself to a diet of nothing but McDonalds for thirty straight days. You get to see what a diet of fast food does to destroy his body in a short time. It’s very eye opening, to say the least. And while Richard may have hated it, we should give Emily credit for trying to get him to eat lots of fish after his heart attack. The omega 3 fatty acids in Salmon and small fish like sardines and mackerels are great for the heart and brain too. At least Emily was trying to do something for Richard’s health. Although I don’t think Lorelai or Rory would eat sardines even if they were ground up, formed into patties, smothered in cheese and put on a bun! Lol! Actually, that does sound gross! Lol! Salmon burgers, on the other hand, are quite tasty, when you make them yourself that is.

  6. April 6, 2011 at 5:51 am

    Perhaps it’s Luke’s disgust for his fellow Stars Hollow residents that drove him to open a diner in the first place — he’s slowly poisoning them with bad diner food 🙂

  7. zoran
    April 6, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Wow, Aaron you’re evil! 🙂

    • April 6, 2011 at 7:04 am

      I’M evil? Wouldn’t that make LUKE evil?

  8. zoran
    April 6, 2011 at 7:44 am

    I think he would actually need a permit from Taylor for the “poisoning” part.

    • April 6, 2011 at 8:29 am

      I would’ve thought Taylor would’ve been the first one poisoned.

  9. Lori
    April 6, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Bwuahaha!You guys crack me up! Luke is kind of a curmudgeon. I guess he wouldn’t care about the health of his fellow townies (except Lorelai and Rory of course), but he was a good businessman. After all, he knew just where the profits would be. Who in Stars Hollow would actually eat at a salad bar? It would be much more profitable to cater to the horrible dietary preferences of his fellow townies, even though he knew how unhealthy those famous burgers and fries of his were.

  10. April 7, 2011 at 4:06 am

    Poor Luke. Shouldn’t we at least suggest to him that he get a lawyer or something?

  11. zoran
    April 7, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Luke? Lawyer? 😮

  12. Lori
    April 7, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Wait! He already HAD a lawyer! And didn’t she make him add some extra salads to the menu? Oooooh! Maybe she was onto him! Lol!

  13. April 8, 2011 at 5:44 am

    And we saw how well THAT relationship worked out.

  14. zoran
    April 19, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Hey, have you fallen off the face of the earth? Like Luke you have the hermit thing down to a T.

  15. April 19, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Sorry, Zoran. We’re getting ready to move across the country in a few weeks, so things are a bit hectic right now — think of a Stars Hollow event if it was planned by Kirk.

  16. zoran
    April 20, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Aaron, it looks like you got yourself some competition.

    http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/04/lauren_graham_is_publishing_a.html

  17. zoran
    April 20, 2011 at 1:23 am

    P.S. They started showing reruns of “Twin Peaks” (with Sherilynn Fenn and Mädchen Amick) yesterday. I’ve heard about it even before I became a fan of Gilmore Girls and thought it was time to give it a try. Wish me luck!

  18. April 20, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Wow, thanks for the Lauren novel link, Zoran. I wish she’d gone the straight autobiography route, but it will still be nice to see what she has to say. I’m guessing that the fiction aspect will allow her a freedom she wouldn’t otherwise have if she had to name names, etc.

    I’ll be curious to see how you like Twin Peaks — it’s supposed to be very “out there.” I noticed that Netflix has just added it to the movies/TV shows you can watch via your computer recently; I’ve always meant to check that out.

  1. July 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm

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