Why Paris Geller’s Bathroom Breakdown In ‘Gilmore Girls’ Matters For Women
Paris’ briefcase is Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit — a symbol of female power in a world that’s afraid of it.
Paris Geller was always destined for greatness. From the time she was young, she participated in every extracurricular she could, eventually helming the Yale Daily News—all by herself. Her tireless ambition to fill the pages of her biography make her one hell of a nasty woman.
When “Gilmore Girls” fans are re-introduced to Rory’s brash best friend in “A Year in the Life,” it’s no surprise she turns out to be the self-proclaimed “Pablo Escobar of the fertility world.” She’s a pantsuit-wearing entrepreneur living in a five-story New York City apartment and raising two children with her soon-to-be ex-husband Doyle. Not to mention, girl also has an M.D., a law degree, expertise in neoclassical architecture and a dental technician’s degree. Even when she’s not working, her briefcase does the talking: It communicates that she’s a serious, ambitious woman. Except there’s one catch, which we learn in a vulnerable exchange between her and Rory that’s arguably the best scene in the revival: her briefcase is empty.
While visiting her alma mater, Chilton, Paris runs into her ex-high-school crush Tristan. Paris’ encounter with him destabilizes her and causes her to question her accomplishments. Inside a bathroom, she breaks down and comes to terms with her own failing marriage and obsession with success, never wanting to be seen as anything less than perfect. She admits to getting “nips and tucks” and joining a private club just for the prestige. The most heartbreaking part of the exchange is that she dismisses the “fear, heartache and loneliness” she feels as pathetic, “like a Blake Shelton song.” It brings up the sad reality that powerful women like Paris know our society perceives emotion as a sign of weakness. She doesn’t want to appear weak — so she buries her emotions deep inside.
The thing is, rage has always been Paris’ dominant emotion. She dislikes most people (men especially) and her cutting honesty scares people. Even at Chilton, students run away at the sound of her voice. Her bluntness intimidates people. One of the most memorable scenes in “Gilmore Girls” is when Paris sleeps with Jamie and then gets her rejection letter from Harvard. “I had sex, but I’m not going to Harvard!” she famously shouts to hundreds of people at a college panel.
However, Paris uses her rage to succeed in multiple aspects in life, including choosing to view Rory as a friend and not a competitor. The friendship becomes her most prized relationship. Because rage is deemed an unfeminine emotion, though, people often view Paris as scary. Which is funny, because if a man expresses rage, he’ll likely be praised for being “assertive.” In “A Year in the Life,” Paris is enraged with herself, her own pain, and very possibly the way powerful women are held to a certain standard of perfection in order to be respected.
Hmmm, does Paris remind you of anybody? Perhaps someone who recently ran for the office of president of the United States?
Yes — Paris Geller and Hillary Clinton have A LOT in common. Throughout the campaign, Hillary Clinton was criticized for being “bitchy,” “unlikeable,” and in Donald Trump’s words, “nasty.” The Democratic nominee was praised for her years of experience and hard work, but called heartless and robotic. Both Paris and Hillz threaten masculinity and male privilege with their candor and refusal to quit. Let’s face it: Their power makes them unlikeable.
So back to the briefcase — when Paris shows Rory her empty briefcase and calls herself a phony, despite her accomplishments, it’s a profoundly sad moment. Like Paris, Hillary has always seemed to struggle with conforming to our culture’s idea of perfection. She would often nod and smile tirelessly during debates, looking like she’d crack any minute. During the last debate, Clinton was even attacked for her smile being “scary and creepy.” It’s a vicious cycle: Women are viewed as scary when they exert power or control and then criticized for being “robots” when they don’t display emotion.
In the end, it’s a man who triggers Paris’ breakdown. It’s easy to see why this enrages her ego. Remember when Headmaster Charleston once assumed Paris and Rory were fighting over a boy? The assumption infuriated Paris.
This rage resurfaces during her breakdown. Paris despises the fact that she feels insignificant in the face of Tristan. Unlike Rory, Paris’ past boyfriends and crushes don’t define her or give her inspiration. Her love life has always been a supplemental part of her journey—a bonus.
The fact that Paris experiences fear and loneliness after running into Tristan just shows she is human—and she has every right to have those painful emotions, even if they undermine her pathological need to feel constantly put together. Paris’ bathroom confession is an indication that she’s tired of maintaining a perfect image and being scrutinized by everyone in her path.
I am all for Paris Geller dominating the world. This girl has stood on her own two feet without help from anyone along the way. Hell, she ran the Yale Daily News until it became a one-woman show, slept with a professor, sacrificed sleep for work and was always unafraid to speak the cold, hard truth.
For the sake of all the Parises and Hillarys in the world, though, I hope we can overcome the backwards notion that women must meet a rigorous standard of behavior in order to be respected. We must allow ourselves to express normal human emotions without feeling like we’re “less than.”
Women have a right to get angry, stay angry and do something about it. In a world full of Donald Trumps, it’s important to be a Paris. Be proud of your emotional briefcase—and stay nasty.