Mirror, Mirror: The Gilmore Girls, Knocked Up, and Criticism in the Internet Age


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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75 Responses

  1. Avatar Griff says:

    I thought this post was gender-focused in kind of a strange way, but then I (eventually) realized that, in Criticism #2, “Y is more important to men than X” might have been intended as “Y is more important to ME than X.” Or was it supposed to be “men” after all?Report

  2. Avatar Chris says:

    This post didn’t mention hog subsidies, so I disagree with everything it says.

    Also, a white man of your socioeconomic status in Portland getting sick in early November is highly implausible, so I’m not even sure I buy your reasons for watching GG in the first place.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

      I just couldn’t get into Moby-Dick. It wasn’t the length, or the prose, or the interminable discussions of 19th-century whaling minutiae.

      It was just that…come ON – do you have any idea how rare a WHITE WHALE is, in real life?

      I mean, what are the odds?

      Also, this post title gives me hope that there will eventually be some evil goateed Lorelai & Rory doppelgangers. Can you guys let me know when that episode comes up, because that sounds more my speed?Report

  3. Avatar j r says:

    Good post.

    Alyssa Rosenberg is a good example. If you want another good example, read Emily Nussbaum’s long, glowing review of Girls: http://nymag.com/arts/tv/features/girls-lena-dunham-2012-4/

    When a TV critic reports on a new show, it’s okay to say the series is promising, even the next big thing, but ideally, one shouldn’t go native. One should probably also talk in the third person. In this case, however, I’ll have to make an exception. Because from the moment I saw the pilot of Girls (which airs on April 15), I was a goner, a convert. In an office at HBO, my heart sped up. I laughed out loud; I “got” the characters—four friends, adrift in a modern New York of unpaid internships and bad sex on dirty sofas.

    And then read her dismissive article on True Detectve, entitled “Cool Story, Bro:”

    This aspect of “True Detective” (which is written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga) will be gratingly familiar to anyone who has ever watched a new cable drama get acclaimed as “a dark masterpiece”… But, after years of watching “Boardwalk Empire,” “Ray Donovan,” “House of Lies,” and so on, I’ve turned prickly, and tired of trying to be, in the novelist Gillian Flynn’s useful phrase, the Cool Girl: a good sport when something smells like macho nonsense. And, frankly, “True Detective” reeks of the stuff. The series, for all its good looks and its movie-star charisma, isn’t just using dorm-room deep talk as a come-on: it has fallen for its own sales pitch.

    The only term that I can think to describe this brand of writing is to call it criticism by solipsism.Report

  4. Avatar Plinko says:

    Some of this comes down to where you sit in the great war over whether or not art is objectively good or bad.

    If you buy into the objective camp – then I see your point. Someone like Alyssa (or Sam, for that matter) who is so brazenly forward with their subjectivity just seems to be Doing It Wrong.

    If you’re a member of team subjective-only then I’m not so sure it holds so well. After all, if art can only be experienced and appraised subjectively, then she ought to be forward about her perspectives. Attempting to obfuscate them and pretend they don’t exist is just a sham.
    By putting them right out there, then a context is created and that can be a starting point for a conversation about the work. If you do it well, it can work pretty well.

    Of course, there are plenty of folks out there that confuse the situation by insisting on both diversity of views and the absolute superiority of specific ones (that they coincidentally happen to share).
    There’s an art to owning your perspective without denying other views.Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    “A lot of her criticism for movies and TV shows (and occasionally books) is based on little more than what Alyssa would have made the story about if Alyssa was the author.”

    There is a theory that a lot of critics are frustrated artists and maybe for good reason. Harold Clurman was an important mid-century theatre director and founded of The Group Theatre. He was also the theatre critic for the Nation. The French New Wave filmmakers started as a film journalists and critics with the Cashiers Du Cinema (I have a collection of film criticism by Truffaut). Now I think it would be inconceivable for someone to act as both an artist and a critic. I think a lot of working artists would consider it an act of treachery if the New York Times hired an artist to also work as a critic. Interestingly the only area where it seems acceptable for someone to be both a practioner and a critic is in literature/books. The New York Times and the New Yorker and other publications usually have professional writers as their reviewers.

    “Along with my deep love of Buffy, my liking of Gilmore Girls kind of makes me wonder if I don’t have a late-Clinton/early-Bush era teenage girl living somewhere deep inside of me.”

    I’d check your lower Pancreas.

    I also feel the need to protest a bit because my main point about Knocked Up was that a lot of Female critics and media writers at the time like Dana Stevens (and I think everyone else at Slate) wondered why Katherine Hiegel’s character did not get an abortion. There were also a lot of female writers who were upset about the immaturity around the word abortion. Maybe this was because this was in the Bush II years and seen as social conservatism, I don’t know.


    From the article by Dana Stevens:

    “In last week’s review of Knocked Up, I made passing mention of the virtual nonexistence of abortion as a real option for Katherine Heigl’s character, Alison Scott, in the film. I speculated that the movie’s choice to tiptoe around this issue might have been a marketing decision. As if to prove my point that merely uttering the word abortion is a perilous move, that review provoked more blog posts, Fray discussion, and reader mail than anything I’ve written in a long time.”

    And I hope you meant Vanity Fair by Thackery instead of the modern glossy magazine! If not, pistols at dawn!!!Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    FWIW I usually have issues with the Alyssa Rosenberg “What X gets Wrong about Y” style of headline writing and her seeming insistence to do reverse-snobbery against anything that can be remotely called “high culture.”

    She is one of the popists who seems to insist that it is politically wrong to like difficult things and things meant for adults.Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Thanks for the shot out, I guess. For me its all about the willing suspension of disbelief. In realistic or at least semi-realistic works of fiction, I have a much lower tolerance of deviance from reality than I do for more speculative works. If something is going to be out of the ordinary from reality than the author has to provide at least some plausible reason for it besides its necessary for the plot. One of the biggest criticisms of Knocked Up was that it really made no sense for Katherine Higle’s character to keep the baby besides it was necessary for the plot.




    This might fall into sometimes a cigar is just a cigar territory but the criticism is valid from a literary and feminist stand point. We know that a real life woman in similar circumstances to Katherine Hiegle’s character would at least consider an abortion seriously even if she ultimately decides not to get one. Failure to even address this momentarily does kind of suspend the willing suspension of disbelief. There should be at least some justification why the baby gets kept besides plot necessity.

    The same is true for the Gilmore Girls. Lorelai Gilmore comes from the background that was more likely to have an abortion even before Roe v. Wade. Parents would send their daughters abroad to have abortions. Being a teenage girl who “intends to do it her way” is not enough justification to overcome the willing suspension of disbelief in a realistic work.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The problem with Gilmore Girls or Knocked Up isn’t necessarily the decision to keep the child, its the decision to keep the child without sufficient justification considering what would probably happen in reality. Even in a comedy, plot necessity is not sufficient justification.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Plots don’t need justification. What plots need is a sense that the characters’ actions have consequences. And since the whole plot of Gilmore Girls revolves around the mother’s estranged relationship from the grandparents, I’d say that there are consequences.

        Similarly, there are consequences in Knocked Up, even if those consequences are subsumed into a story about some man-boys character arc as he turns into a real live adult who has a job and an apartment and doesn’t fart into his roommates pillows.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:


        I’m not sure I completely agree. Ebert spent much of his career railing against what he called “idiot plotting” which he defined as the plot moving forward only because one or more of the characters was acting like a complete idiot.

        Now that is a different issue than GG but I find that movies and books and other narrative media become displeasing when it feels like the plot is moving forward only because of a complete contrivance.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Why does it need more justification than, “I’m pregnant?”

        More than half of pregnancies are unintended.

        And less than half of unintended pregnancies are aborted.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to LeeEsq says:


        We know that Lorelai moved out of her parents home when she had Rory. What more could you possibly need to recognize that for whatever reason, she was committed to keeping the child. The writers have taken the time to underpin the plot with subtle hints at her position.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The weird thing about rich people is that, for all their yachts and plastic surgery and 10,000 sq ft homes and fleets of European luxury and sports vehicles, they’re still people. And sometimes, off screen, people make decisions that some of us won’t understand. Particularly when, off screen, people are confronted with difficult decisions they didn’t expect to face.

        I and my son’s mother are fiercely pro-life (I used to volunteer at a clinic down the street from my old place). We had a son at a young age; not sixteen, but pretty young. Certainly younger and under vastly different circumstances than either of us expected. I remember thinking, “people like me don’t have kids this young,” which made the news that she was pregnant particularly shocking, because I was wholly unprepared for it. There are reasons why she chose to have him, good reasons (reasons I don’t need to share because I’m not a fictional character in a television show); suffice it to say, she was a person, and sometimes people make decisions you weren’t expecting for reasons you didn’t foresee.

        That “people like me don’t have kids at 16, she was a person like me, therefore her having a kid at 16 is so inconceivable that it makes a television show in which she is a main character unwatchable” is an idea that even entered your head means you haven’t gotten to know many people, or had to make many unexpected decisions. I find that kind of sad.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I and my son’s mother are fiercely pro-life (I used to volunteer at a clinic down the street from my old place)

        Do you mean “pro-choice”?

        (And yes, by making this comment, I’m going back on my prior intention not to read the GG threads.)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Yah, sorry. Pro-choice. Though I suppose I could have been volunteering to sit outside the clinic and pray at it. I still end up running into those people at least once a month.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Yes, plots do need justification. If Worf just shoots Commander Odo for no dang reason, and it’s never addressed again — despite the dead crewmember, that’s bad writing.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Gilmore Girl. The show about Lorelai. They don’t talk about why she drinks so much.Report

  8. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    OT Tod but I’m going to be in Portland next week for work. Do you want to meet up for supper on Thursday night?Report

  9. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    And the show’s opening credits are like something you’d see in a Wayne’s World movie parodying overly saccharine chick-show opening credits.

    This kind of thing seems to me to be a form of signalling – an over-the-top evocation of gendered tropes signals to the intended audience that “this is for you”, precisely because it is understood to be repellent to, say, white males.

    Now there are some women out there who are conscious enough to think, “hey, they are playing me”, and more power to them. The show might or might not still be interesting to them.

    And now that I’m mentioning signalling, I think 6-year-olds use a lot of gender signalling, too. Girls will wear pink and princess costumes and lots of glitter precisely because they know boys don’t like those things, and this is how the world will know they are girls. More mature humans will go on to decide for themselves whether they like pink (I do) in perhaps a less gendered way, but for a 6-year-old it’s really important to have the world acknowledge that you are a girl. Probably more important than for boys, since male is the default assumption.

    As to the (non) abortion back story, I think there might be a dramatic problem, rather than an ideological one. If the intended audience thinks one of the back-story decisions of a main character is odd or unusual, then it probably needs not so much to be changed as to have it acknowledged that it was an unusual decision. Just on short conversation would probably make it seem ok. Of course, that’s a short conversation that’s probably too controversial for TV.Report

  10. Avatar trizzlor says:

    I think you’re kinda framing Criticism #1 in terms that serve your argument. As Saul pointed out above, the criticism of movies like Knocked Up isn’t that the characters chose not to get an abortion, but that the possibility of an abortion isn’t handled in a realistic way (or at all).

    In a weird way, I think genre films are good examples of this. Consider a horror movie where the main character is deciding if he should poke around in the creepy shed before the impending storm sets in, or get in his warm car and head to back to his loving, disproportionately attractive family and come back tomorrow during the day. Obviously a movie where he unrealistically goes into the shed is going to be more compelling, but a movie where he realistically considers going home and then goes into the shed anyway will be even more compelling because it continues to hold real-world logic. Or, a real movie example: in one of the early Scream sequels, the main character (who has survived multiple attempts on her life) suddenly gets a threatening phone-call from the presumed killer; she freaks but then … she checks caller ID, realizes it’s a prank, chews out the guy using his real name, and reports him to the police. Now, it’s a minor scene and no one would’ve complained if the movie existed in a world without caller ID, but this one realistic detail actually gives us a lot of insight into the strength and resourcefulness of the main character and makes her more compelling. Plus, it grounds the movie in the real world and strengthens the suspension of disbelief that keeps us interested.

    Anyway, I think your conclusion is valid – the author’s goal is to create a compelling story, not a documentary about an average person. But I think it’s also fair to criticize the story when it cuts corners in a way that makes it less compelling. Not to minimize the social implications of GG in particular, but I think this argument dovetails nicely with Film Crit Hulk’s excellent essay against plot-holes, which threads the needle thusly (capitalization in the original):



    So …. I haven’t watched GG since it was on, is Lorelai’s decision consistent with what she would do?Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to trizzlor says:

      Given that there’s no way to upvote or +1 a comment, I’ll satisfy myself with this comment.


    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to trizzlor says:

      Yes. At least, 14 episodes into my run, yes. She hated her parents world, she almost entirely suspends her own social life to raise Rory, she puts everything her parents wanted for her aside to raise Rory. Every hint suggests that abortion was never a consideration for her. And, frankly, I’d be shocked if this exact issue isn’t raised later with further explanation given.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to trizzlor says:

      As Saul pointed out above, the criticism of movies like Knocked Up isn’t that the characters chose not to get an abortion, but that the possibility of an abortion isn’t handled in a realistic way (or at all).

      I didn’t catch Saul saying that upthread, but yes, I agree. And well said. Personally speaking, I hold the radical belief that women have a right to take pregnancies to term. (Shocking, I know, given that I’m a choicer and all!) What I do have a problem with is movies that give us no indication of why an individual is acting as they do, especially actions that are momentous. So I have no problem with Heigel’s character not having an abortion as far as it goes. I just wanna hear and see a little bit about her (the character) to make sense of her choices.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to trizzlor says:

      And this quote has been rattling around in my brain, but I’m on board with it a hunnert n ten percent:


    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to trizzlor says:

      @trizzlor “I think you’re kinda framing Criticism #1 in terms that serve your argument. As Saul pointed out above, the criticism of movies like Knocked Up isn’t that the characters chose not to get an abortion, but that the possibility of an abortion isn’t handled in a realistic way (or at all).”

      I’m happy to grant a reframing as suggested here, because I don’t know that it has an impact on my point.

      Knocked Up is not intended to be a story about wresting with the question of what to do with an unwanted pregnancy. It’s a story of someone having maturity thrust in their face without their choosing and what they do with that. Similarly, GG isn’t a story about people trying to determine what to do with a teenage surprise visit from the stork, it’s about the life of single mom and her daughter 16 year later. So why do these stories have to have big abortion themes in them? And I’m asking this not in a general sense, but very specifically to you or anyone else.

      I used Lolita in my OP and I’ll return to it now. Is Nabokov’s novel somehow less that he wrote a story that isn’t about what we all would think a story about a pedophile would be had we never read it? Can’t it be allowed to stand on its own merits, on the themes and messages the author intended? Or should we discard it because it’s picture of how a real-world pedophile operates is not realistic?

      With all of the silliness that happens (plot driven or character driven) in movies and TV shows that are praised endlessly here, I confess I’m finding it hard to believe that this is really about the art of script writing. What I think it’s about I’m not yet entirely sure. But I’m willing to listen and be proven wrong, and hence my question…

      Why does a story that an author does not intend in any way to be about abortion have to have abortion as a main theme in order to validate it?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I confess I’m finding it hard to believe that this is really about the art of script writing.

        This is the trap of thinking that ideological identification determines the way people think rather the other way around. I mean, I give you credit for saying you could have your mind changed about believing this, but the fact that the burden is on me to do that for (for example) strikes me as evidence of an ideologically closed mind. We’re all square, disagreeing with each other vehemently.

        Now what do we do?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Why does a story that an author does not intend in any way to be about abortion have to have abortion as a main theme in order to validate it?


        THe story obviously has nothing to do with abortion. What it has a lot do with is pregnancy and taking a baby to term and becoming dada. And mama, too. The whole story arc turns on the choice of the Heigel character. Rogen’s character is just in orbit around her, being pulled into a gravitational field resulting from her actions and choices. How is her decisionmaking process around that choice not relevant to the story?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “but the fact that the burden is on me to do that for (for example) strikes me as evidence of an ideologically closed mind.”

        No, that’s not the way I’m intending it. I’m seriously just looking to understand you you guys are coming from.

        Not everything is a battle.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “How is her decisionmaking process around that choice not relevant to the story?”

        I agree that it can be. I don’t agree that it has to be. Similarly, I would agree that the Heigel character seriously considering an abortion could easily be part of the story — but I would also agree that the character actually getting an abortion, lightly considering an abortion, or not considering an abortion at all are all things that a writer might (or might not) choose to do, since those are three ways people in real life really do react to pregnancy.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Thanks for reconsidering Tod, though I still think there’s a difference between handling abortion realistically and making it a main theme:

        Why does a story that an author does not intend in any way to be about abortion have to have abortion as a main theme in order to validate it?

        Because unexpected pregnancy and the possibility of abortion are so linked that it would be extremely unrealistic to not deal with that issue *at all* or to brush it under the rug. Not unrealistic in the sense that that the average person would consider it, but unrealistic in the sense that *nearly every single person* would consider it, and if they didn’t then there is some important character reason why they didn’t that needs to be addressed to make the character understandable. GG has a lot of content, so it’s difficult to discuss how they address the issue, but here’s how Knocked Up handled it:

        Joanna Kerns: Allison, just take care of it. Take care of it. Move on. What’s gonna happen with your career? How are you gonna tell them?

        Katherine Heigl: I’m not gonna tell them for a while. I have a while before I have to say anything.

        Kerns: How could you not tell them?

        Heigl: They’re not gonna know. I mean, I’m only gonna start to show when I’m like, I don’t know, six months or something. Seven months.

        Kerns: Three months.

        Heigl: No.

        Kerns: Three months. Fat in the face, jowls, fat #ss.

        Heigl: Debbie didn’t get fat.

        Kerns: Debbie is a freak of nature.

        Heigl: Mom, you know, it’s important to me that you be supportive.

        Kerns: I cannot be supportive of this. This is a mistake. This is a big, big mistake. Now, think about your stepsister. Now, you remember what happened with her? She had the same situation as you, and she had it taken care of. And you know what? Now she has a real baby. Honey, this is not the time.

        *** Later, on the phone to Rogen ***

        Katherine Heigl: You know, I was just calling to… To let you know that I’ve decided to keep the baby. I’m keeping it.

        So Heigl is initially against having an abortion because she thinks she can hide the pregnancy, and then later on is very very strongly for having the baby for unstated reasons, presumably because of how adamantly and cruelly her mother behaved. For a lot of people, that behavior is inconsistent with how Heigl would act based on what we know about her: she’s white and wealthy, she’s highly career driven, her friends and her sister have had an abortion, she expresses no moral opposition to it. Let’s say instead of reacting the way she did, Heigl said “I would but I don’t have time in my schedule”, or she said “What’s an abortion?” and never bothered to get an answer. Would there come a point where you would consider such a response as inconsistent enough with her character to detract from the story? I think for some people, that threshold is crossed when the main character doesn’t consider abortion seriously or articulate to the other characters why they’re against it.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Tod, I get that. Really, I do. Even tho you and I go rounds, it’s not about what you think it is. I’m not just disagreeing with you cuz I got nothin better to do. (Well….) I actually disagree (non-ideologically! is that possible anymore??) with the framing of your worries. Simply put, it’s this: criticizing people for holding ideological views won’t change a damn thing in this world. In fact, that’s just a form of ideological gamesmanship. And I know that’s not what you’re concerned about or interested in, so I know you’re gonna bristle at my having said that.

        To change people’s minds, you gotta go down to the specifics: be the policy, justification, consequentialism, apriority, purity, etc. So criticizing me (I take it I was one of the commenters who inspired this post, tho I realize that’s presumptuous of me) for basing my views of Knocked Up on ideological dysfunction isn’t gonna get me to agree with you or you to see that I haven’t done that.

        Or maybe not. Maybe you’re right about all this stuff. Bu challenging me to do the impossible – frame an argument for my views which isn’t consistent or even entailed by your view of me and my ideological thinking – is impossible.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        In other words, you can make a great movie about a character who has to drive across the country to meet some kind of existential deadline, but if you don’t at least address why she’s not flying, the audience is going to say “The behavior that got her into this makes so little sense that it’s hard for me to care how she gets out”.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        a character who has to drive across the country to meet some kind of existential deadline, but if you don’t at least address why she’s not flying, the audience is going to say “The behavior that got her into this makes so little sense that it’s hard for me to care how she gets out”.

        AKA, “Why didn’t Frodo pull a Steve Miller Band all the way to Mt. Doom?”Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @trizzlor, your getting right to the heart of Saul and my critic of Knocked Up and Gilmore Girls. Its not about abortion politics but about the willing suspension of disbelief. From what we know of Heigl’s character in Knocked Up, abortion would be something under serious consideration because not only is she career-driven, white, and wealthy but she knows people who had abortions and doesn’t seem to have opposition to them itself. The reasons for her not even considering it or keeping the kid are flimsy at best.

        Gilmore Girls gives a bit better justification for Lorelai’s decision not to have an abortion, she hates her parents upper class world and is a rebel that wants to do things her way. She wouldn’t be the first person to do something like this on rash impulse and rebellion in fiction or reality. It still rings a bit hollow as a reason for Lorelai to raise a kid on her own or for her parents not to help that much. At least she is physically close by.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        As much of trizz fanboy as I am (and I am!), for me the problem doesn’t arise because she’s white, career oriented and has friends who’ve had abortions. It’s that this is a momentous decision for anyone (even poor people who aren’t white) to undertake, and to think that taking the fetus to term wouldn’t be on that person’s mind strains credulity. I mean, from a narrative pov, even *not* addressing the possibility of having an abortion requires an account.

        And we didn’t get one, one way or the other.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @stillwater thanks dude, I think we’re on the same page here. I keep drafting these long ass-replies and then seeing your comments pop up that express them in two sentences 🙂Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        The possibility of having an abortion was addressed in the scene with the mother. Mom said to get rid of it, she didn’t seem interested.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        Thanks for that, but I think you gotta keep writin em out long-form since pretty often I don’t have any idea what-in-the-hell point I’m gettin at. Your long form versions make *your* point crystal clear. Which is usually the point I wish I coulda made.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @stillwater, true. We do know that for certain social groups, the idea of abortion will be considered more intently than with other social groups. If Heigl’s character was an Evangelical or religious Roman Catholic than her decision to keep the child would be less bewildering than a secular single woman from Los Angeles.

        @will-truman, we don’t know why Heigl’s character isn’t interested beyond narrative necessity though. There should be a semi-plausible reason why doesn’t get an abortion beyond mere lack of interest. You should know that having a baby is a big change in your life if you want to be a good parent.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “Knocked Up is not intended to be a story about wresting with the question of what to do with an unwanted pregnancy. It’s a story of someone having maturity thrust in their face without their choosing and what they do with that. ”

        It’s also a variant case of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. The guy, Joe Schlob, basically gets Katherine Heigl through no virtues or work on his part. This has been pointed out in other places, that 30-something male writers seem to have a taste for characters similar to them having a beautiful woman fall into their laps and make their lives fulfilling.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        *nearly every single person* would consider it,

        “nearly” is a rather important qualifier there.

        and if they didn’t then there is some important character reason why they didn’t that needs to be addressed to make the character understandable.

        Because I have a pre-set view of what “those people” are like and am unable to grasp that one of “those people” might be different than the norm unless somebody spoon feeds me an explanation.

        I do get what y’all are saying, I think, but to me it seems like a lack of imagination. Does Heigle’s character actually do or say things that conflict with her keeping the baby, or is it just that the choice doesn’t comport with your preconceived perceptions of what her type–“those people”–do? The lack of imagination, as it seems to me, is in the insistence that characters be tropes, not real individuals. Their reality–their non-tropeness–gets defined as unreal, which is odd. And the fact that the character is an individual rather than a cardboard cutout, it’s claimed, requires an explicit explanation.

        I just don’t get that. I didn’t think that a move like Knocked Up was supposed to be intellectually challenging, but maybe it actually functions, if inadvertently, as a challenge to the viewer’s casual stereotypes.Report

      • Avatar switters in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        MY wife is an atheist. She is pro-choice. She was career driven. She was a teacher, looking to become an administrator. She got pregnant. Out of wedlock, to a man she had no real feelings for. She didn’t even consider abortion. This was one of the first stories i heard that made me fall for her. Would you have thought she was lying?

        I am pro-choice. I am an atheist. I have three children. At one point during the our last child’s time in the womb, there was concern that something “might be wrong”. Sitting in a room with my wife, the doctor asked permission to perform more tests so we could find out. I asked if there was any risks to my wife or the child’s viability or if this was just about making a decision about whether to term the pregnancy or not. He replied that it was the latter. I said no thanks. The test would be a waste of money. Abortion was something I simply did not need to consider. My wife remained silent, which scared the living hell out of me, and then appeared to gesture in agreement. When the doctor left the room, I was still worried that i had overstepped my bounds. But she gave me a big hug and said “I love you even more now.” She tells that story like its the proudest moment in her life.

        The fact that certain people can’t believe that there are other people in either Heigle’s or Lorelai’s position, who do not even need to consider abortion, is mind boggling to me.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I love how in this conversation, on both threads, people have to keep pointing out that she’s not only wealthy, but white and wealthy, which means she should have behaved more rationally than she did. “Why would a wealthy white woman make this choice?! She has prom! And college! And a career! Because she’s a wealthy white woman! Won’t someone please think of the wealthy white women?!”

        Sometimes, ya’ll… sometimes….Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        Your wife’s decision doesn’t make sense and you didn’t explain why she made that choice, so I’m unable to suspend disbelief, and will assume that you’re not actually married at all. 😉Report

      • Avatar switters in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Her irrationality is consistent with her choice to marry me. But shit, now i gotta explain that. And that’s even more unbelievable.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:


      • Avatar zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @switters +1.

        There is this weird thing here that because women have choice, they’re supposed to not have a child in inconvenient circumstances. That’s not a choice. Thank you.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        zic, right! The odd, counterfactual belief that being well-to-do somehow limits your choices, rather than expanding them, is also very bizarre to me: poor people have children because they can’t afford abortion, so they don’t have the choice; rich people have abortions, because they can’t afford the inconvenience of a child, so they don’t have a choice.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I was going to write something on this sub-thread, but after @switters’ comment there is really nothing left to say.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Okay, now I’m actually upset. i think that folks have been mischaracterizing what Knocked Up did. They addressed that she thought about abortion… (or at least that it got raised as an issue)

        (GG gets something of a free pass. it’s 16 years later, for gods sake. )Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to trizzlor says:

      Keep in mind it’s also not whether what Lorelai did is consistent with what the character we see would do. It’s whether it;s consistent with what the character as we would have seen her when she did it would have done. The show started airing in 2000 and Rory is about to turn 16. So that puts the character action in question in 1984 at least. And she was herself sixteen at the time she became pregnant. Now, certainly in the upper class in connecticut in the mid-Eighties it would have been entirely normal for a quiet abortion to take place in that situation. But at the same time, this was only eleven years after Roe. Does it really take any suspension of disbelief to think that one, single rebellious teenager might make the choice not to follow the prescribed course at the time, even granting that it requires suspension to think that one, single family might not in fact prescribe that course for their daughter? Does what’s portrayed not just have to be plausible, but in fact have to portray what we think is the most probable way any given situation is likely to play out? I think that’s a ridiculous view.

      And as to why they don’t “deal” with the question through dialogue or what have you (though the discussion of that problem might be more about Knocked Up than GG), it’s sixteen years later. Lorelai was estranged from the parents for years during which time she’s raised Rory on her own amidst the townspeople of a town who have come to love her, and she’s recently patched things up with her folks. And Rory is a brilliant young student and town beauty. So the characters are likely to go around having conversations about why Rory wasn’t aborted?

      This is just a nonsensical line of criticism of the show.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Michael, I actually think that the closeness in proximity to Roe makes the decision not to have an abortion in need of even a greater explanation. The pro-life movement existed at the time but it was still in its relatively early stages. This in the pre-Casey era, so access to abortion was even more widespread.Report

      • Fair enough on Roe/Casey specifically. But the distance in time makes it less in need of one. We really don’t know what the prevailing attitudes were – how strong, whether a person like this really would have felt overwhelming pressure to end the pregnancy, such that positing that one individual might successfully resist it requires a special explanation k in order for us to be able to just say, “Okay, that’s what this person did in this story. Because that’s what someone, not most people, but someone like her, might have done.” And that’s all you need. You don’t need to suspend your disbelief, because there is really no reason to disbelieve that that could be the basis for character.

        So on it’s face, regardless of what we think we know about upper-class Connecticut in the mid-Eighties, there’s no need for an explanation beyond, “Here’s the story.” It’s just not far-fetched enough to be a problem. People do this. People did this.Report

  11. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Along with my deep love of Buffy, my liking of Gilmore Girls kind of makes me wonder if I don’t have a late-Clinton/early-Bush era teenage girl living somewhere deep inside of me.

    GG never did anything for me, but I still binge on Buffy from time to time. Buffy’s character is rather boring — too often she fits one of the standard non-epic fantasy literature molds for heroes. The other characters, both major and minor, always seemed much more interesting.Report

  12. Avatar Damon says:

    Sad to say that I watch GG fairly often in reruns. Frankly, I though the Laura Gragham’s was pretty hot. The annoying, and less real part was the “sophisticated” convos she had with Rory. That seems less believable and how reliably she sabotaged her relationships with men.

    However, the accidental pregnancy story line never bothered me. I took it as part of her whole rebelling against her family stuff…..Report

  13. Avatar Kolohe says:

    @glyph “AKA, “Why didn’t Frodo pull a Steve Miller Band all the way to Mt. Doom?””


    But the explanation could be that with the ring still active and Sauron’s power waxing, (and with an intact Nazgul* air force) there was no way a direct aerial infiltration would have worked. It was only after the ring was destroyed, fatally compromising Mordor’s IADS and overall C2 systems, were the eagles able to enter that airspace.

    It’s like how US & Allied air campaigns these days normally start with TLAM strikes and Spec Forces incursion to negate any opposition anti-air defenses (and provide targeting data) before the F-16s/-18s/-22s commence sorties.

    *now, another good question is how was it possible that the forces of Mordor, having complete tactical and strategic air superiority, weren’t able to take Minas TirithReport

  14. Avatar Michael M. says:

    I’m not clear about your meaning when you refer to “Internet-era film and television criticism” — specifically, whether you’re referring to general critical chatter from the swirling masses who offer up their opinions about movies and TV shows at various places around the web, or more specifically to professional critics who write for outlets that didn’t exist pre-Internet, or to professional critics who write anywhere, even for channels that existed before the Internet. In any case, it would be helpful if you could have offered more specifics.

    I think this is a pretty fascinating time for criticism and its impacts on what we see and read. There have been pretty enormous changes just in the past decade or so to how criticism functions that ripple out into what gets promoted and distributed, how those things happen, and ultimately impacts what is produced (or at least, how easily something might get produced). I don’t think anyone has their head around it yet and the situations are still so dynamic and fluid that I don’t think anyone will for some time. But I don’t mean to suggest that critics or criticism is leading the way — by its very nature, criticism is mostly reactive and critics are probably the least powerful (and definitely the least compensated) people in the entertainment soup. Yet decades after people began suggesting that these sorts of “cultural gatekeepers” would become a thing of the past, the roles they play in shaping and guiding the conversations around popular entertainment seems to me more … um, critical … than ever.

    The biggest change to the kind of criticism that I grew up with is the rise of the TV episode “recap review” that didn’t exist (and wasn’t really possible) pre-Internet. At their best and worst, these function as a sort of virtual water-cooler conversation centerpiece. Critics and sites that do them well add tremendous value to TV viewing, at least for those who like to think a bit about what they watched. The development of this kind of TV criticism, not coincidentally, happened in symbiosis with the development of higher quality TV shows that lend themselves to this kind of obsessive dissection. Smart fans — the early adopters who flocked to BBS and USENET to obsess over The X-Files — set the direction and to a lesser extent the tone of this kind of criticism. One thing that is so interesting about it is how it flips the script — traditionally, “reviews” have always been written for an audience that the critic assumes has not seen the show or movie, which puts limitations on what the critic can discuss. Recap reviewers write for an audience that has seen the episode under review, which changes the gatekeeper dynamic. Of course, critical think pieces always existed for a more expansive and sometimes more conversational assessment well after the fact of a movie’s release, a book’s publication, etc., but the recap review builds this kind of assessment in from the get-go. I think it is changing how people engage with criticism for the better.

    That is only the tip of the iceberg, of course. I’m really curious to see if or when the NY and LA Times are forced to abandon their decades-old policies of reviewing every movie that opens for a week in their respective cities. The rise of VOD as a platform is making the volume of films unmanageable because of the way producers and distributors are gaming the system by four-walling. I’ve been following the NY Times movie reviews for a the better part of 30 years in part because of its commitment, but many of the reviews of lower profile films are, of late, becoming more and more perfunctory as the volume rises. The situation doesn’t seem sustainable to me. Another area I won’t go into because this comment is already too long is the increasingly important role critics and writers play in fostering the ongoing development of the festival circuit, which started its ascendancy pre-Internet but whose importance has been reinforced by the Internet.

    I just have to add that I disagree with @saul-degraw theory that critics are frustrated artists. I don’t think any critics who fit that description last very long. Critics are, first and foremost, writers who like engaging with culture and with an audience that cares about culture. That function is older than most of the art and entertainment forms under discussion today and it’s not going away anytime soon.Report