Why Can’t I Stop Watching White People Problems?

Akshaya Bhutkar explores her love for mediocre white people problem shows, and how she really can’t give it up.

In the same way that I really should start ignoring messages from fuck boys with bad habits, Gilmore Girls is one of those things that I just can’t seem to drop. Filled with cheesy jokes, sweet clichés that make your heart melt and promises of perfect fantasies coming true, I just can’t seem to stop coming back to the sweet comforts of the mother & daughter duo, taking on the world one espresso at a time.

I’m truly sorry — I know it hurts. I’m still struggling to come to terms with the fact that I’ve binge-watched the series not once or twice but four times. That’s more that 600 hours of the world of Stars Hollow I’ve lost myself in — the utopian Gilmore Girls town that the show is set, where your neighbours pop by to feed your dog and everyone gets married in the local town gazebo.  A macrocosm of what we all want a loving family to be.

It sounds sweet but Gilmore Girls really treats you like a fuck boy. Its appeal is the show’s ability to be a perfect mix of terrible and comforting; that’s something that’s difficult to do, so when it’s done right you can’t help but get hooked.

Coming in as a close second in my ‘Most Annoying Character’s List’ (Tara Webster in Dance Academy is definitely first), Rory’s bookish and innocent demeanour tricks you into skipping over the fact that she’s an infuriating character. I think it was halfway through my second viewing of the entire show when it hit how truly horrendous of a character Rory Gilmore is — she’s mediocre, ungrateful, and the poster-child for white privilege. She has such a limited understanding of the real world that she ruins relationships by being selfish and insensitive, while limiting her own growth as a person. 

In saying all of this, I cry every time I watch Rory graduate high school — she’s still the sweet friend my mother would’ve fawned over and a girl who’s a nerd and still gets to mess around with all the hot boys. A combination you can’t help get invested in and marvel over.

It’s been 17 years since the show debuted and it still continues to get reprimanded about its lack of diversity — a show with a cast that you definitely wouldn’t get away without any repercussions today.  Its minority characters are minimal and written to be caricatures in the show's background, rather than actual people, while the theme song is also dreadful. Laine’s mother, Mrs Kim, is shown as a Tiger Mother stereotype, along with other Koreans who were shown in Stars Hollow as blank stereotypes. Michel, Lorelai’s close Black friend and co-worker, is diminished as a caricature with his French accent. Having an accent in the perfect world of Stars Hollow pretty much means you’re not worthy of being a complex character.

Gilmore Girls is an escape, just like the form of nostalgia you have for sweet nothings from a deep voice in your ear — and the thing about nostalgia is that it’s great at romanticising the good – even mediocre – and washes out all the unpleasant that usually comes with it. As questionable as the show was, the escape into a perfect mother-daughter relationship and a knack for caffeine seemingly never hitting you, no matter what time of the day, Gilmore Girls is wholesome and idyllic, with the mediocre white people problems it represents providing me nothing but ease, comfort and familiarity.

Akshaya Bhutkar is an ex-comms, ex-Vertigo editor & current fashion student at UTS.