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'Gilmore Girls' actor Scott Patterson gets real about being objectified during 'uncomfortable' scene

'Just because it was 2003 didn’t mean it was OK. It’s never OK.'

Gilmore Girls Stars Hollow

"Gilmore Girls" was set in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut.

"Gilmore Girls" is one of those TV shows that's easy to judge negatively until you actually watch it. The fast-paced dialogue, quick-witted humor, colorful characters and surprisingly smart cultural references can take you by surprise if you're not expecting them.

The show was moderately popular when it aired on the CW, but it got a huge second life thanks to DVD and streaming services. However, like every show, not every element has stood the test of time. Since its creation, we've been through some major cultural shifts that have shone a spotlight on problematic tropes and forced us to reexamine what we find funny.

The "Me Too" movement brought into focus the ubiquity of sexual harassment and sexual assault against women. That conversation included the problems with objectifying women's bodies. But objectification can happen to—and hurt—both women and men, as "Gilmore Girls" actor Scott Patterson shared on a recent episode of his podcast.


Patterson played Luke Danes, one of the primary love interests of the show's main character Lorelai (played by Lauren Graham). Patterson's adorably grumpy, flannel-shirted character was a fan favorite, and for the first time, the actor is rewatching the whole series and giving scene-by-scene commentary in his podcast "I Am All In" (named for one of his most swoon-worthy lines).

Most of what he shares in the podcast is positive, but while watching an episode from Season 3 ("Keg! Max!"), he shared an experience that bothered him. One of Patterson's podcast cohosts pointed out what she called "the butt scene" in the episode. In that scene, Lorelai and her best friend Sookie (played by Melissa McCarthy) spend an inordinate amount of time discussing Luke's butt after Sookie accidentally touches it. The cohost said she didn't know if that scene would fly today and that acknowledgment prompted Patterson to share how he felt about it.

"You want to ask me how that feels?" he said. "Yeah, that was disturbing. I realized it wasn’t OK, and it didn’t make me feel comfortable at all. It made me feel really embarrassed, actually."

“It's infuriating to be treated that way," he continued. "It is infuriating because you’re being treated like an object. And it’s disturbing, and it’s disgusting. And I had to endure that through that entire scene and many takes. It was all about the butt, the butt, the butt, the butt. When we weren’t filming, we were sitting down and people were still talking about the butt, the butt, the butt. It was the most disturbing time I have ever spent on that set, and I couldn’t wait for that day to be over.”

Patterson's female co-hosts debated the appropriateness of the scene within the context of the relationships of the characters. On the one hand, it felt like the type of flirting a couple might do, and Luke and Lorelai do eventually get married on the show. But at the time of that scene, Luke was dating someone else and the repeated nature of going back to his butt pushed it from a singular flirtation (which still may have been questionable) to something that made Patterson feel like the character was being humiliated and having his dignity taken away.

"It wasn't OK with me. I hated that scene," he said. “It’s as disgusting for women to objectify men as it for men to objectify women and it’s as harmful. It was just the most offensive day I've ever spent on a set. Just because it was 2003 didn’t mean it was OK. It’s never OK. And I didn’t feel comfortable doing it and it pissed me off.

"I never said anything, so I was angry at myself for never saying anything," he added. "But, you know, I had this job and I didn’t want to make waves and all that.”

Patterson said he hadn't planned on sharing those feelings on the podcast, but rewatching the episode brought back how uncomfortable he'd felt at the time.

As his cohosts pointed out, if you reversed the genders and switched out "butt" for "boobs," it would be a glaringly inappropriate scene. Of course, there's always been a different power dynamic between men and women that has made it extremely difficult for women to speak up when they are being objectified, so the experiences aren't exactly comparable. But in this case, the showrunner was a woman with power over Patterson as an actor. Some women might say, "Well now he knows how it feels to be a woman," with little sympathy, but that reaction feels less than healthy. Objectification is objectification, and Patterson has every right to feel disturbed by how he and his character were treated in that scene.

Here's to the hard conversations that have led us to this point where people being objectified can speak out about how it feels and actually be heard, and here's to Scott Patterson for moving those conversations forward.

You can listen to the podcast episode here. And watch Patterson share why he started the podcast with TODAY:

True

Do you ever feel like you could be doing more when it comes to making a positive impact on your community? The messaging around giving back is louder than ever this time of year, and for good reason; It is the season of giving, after all.

If you’ve ever wondered who is responsible for bringing many of the giving-back initiatives to life, it’s probably not who you’d expect. The masterminds behind these types of campaigns are project managers.

Using their talents and skills, often proven by earning certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI), project managers are driving real change and increasing the success rate on projects that truly improve our world.

To celebrate the work that project managers are doing behind the scenes to make a difference, we spoke with two people doing more than their part to make an impact.

In his current role as a Project Management Professional (PMP)-certified project manager and environmental engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Joshua Williard oversees the cleanup of some of America’s most contaminated and hazardous waste sites.

Courtesy of Joshua Williard

“Recently, I was part of a four-person diving team sent to collect contaminated sediment samples from the bottom of a river in Southeastern Virginia. We wanted to ensure a containment wall was successfully blocking the release of waste into an adjacent river,” Williard says.

Through his work, Josh drives restoration efforts to completion so contaminated land can again be used beneficially, and so future generations will not be at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.

“I’ve been inspired by the natural world from a young age and always loved being outside. As I gained an understanding about Earth's trajectory, I realized that I wanted to be part of trying to save it and keep it for future generations.

“I learned the importance of using different management styles to address various project challenges. I saw the value in building meaningful relationships with key community members. I came to see that effective project management can make a real difference in getting things done and having on-the-ground impact,” Williard says.

In addition, Monica Chan’s career in project management has enabled her to work at the forefront of conservation efforts with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US). She most recently has been managing a climate change project, working with a diverse team including scientists, policy experts, data analysts, biologists, communicators, and more. The goal is to leverage grants to protect and restore mangroves, forests, and ecosystems, and drive demand in seaweed farming – all to harness nature's power to address the climate crisis.

Courtesy of Monica Chan

“As the project management lead for WWF-US, I am collaborating across the organization to build a project management framework that adapts to our diverse projects. Given that WWF's overarching objectives center on conserving nature and addressing imminent threats to the diversity of life on Earth, the stakes are exceptionally high in how we approach projects,” says Chan.

“Throughout my journey, I've discovered a deep passion for project management's ability to unite people for shared goals, contributing meaningfully to environmental conservation,” she says.

With skills learned from on-the-job experience and resources from PMI, project managers are the central point of connection for social impact campaigns, driving them forward and solving problems along the way. They are integral to bringing these projects to life, and they find support from their peers in PMI’s community.

PMI has a global network of more than 300 chapters and serves as a community for project managers – at every stage of their career. Members can share knowledge, celebrate impact, and learn together through resources, events, and other programs such as PMI’s Hours for Impact program, which encourages PMI members to volunteer their time to projects directly supporting the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“By tapping into PMI's extensive network and resources, I've expanded my project management knowledge and skills, gaining insights from seasoned professionals in diverse industries, including environmental management. Exposure to different perspectives has kept me informed about industry trends, best practices, and allowed me to tailor my approach to the unique challenges of the non-profit sector,” Chan says.

“Obtaining my PMP certification has been a game-changer, propelling not only my career growth, but also reshaping my approach to daily projects, both personally and professionally,” Chan says. Research from PMI shows that a career in project management means being part of an industry on the rise, as the global economy will need 25 million new project professionals by 2030 and the median salary for project practitioners in the U.S. is $120K.

PMI’s mission is to help professionals build project management skills through online courses, networking, and other learning opportunities, help them prove their proficiency in project management through certifications, and champion the work that project professionals, like Joshua and Monica, do around the world.

For those interested in pursuing a career in project management to help make a difference, PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification could be the starting point to help get your foot in the door.

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