The Problem With Everyone’s Problem With Rory Gilmore

rory-in-kitchen

I am a die-hard Gilmore Girls fan. I watched the original series religiously when it was still airing; I tuned in with my mom when I was in high school, and when I went off to college, I watched new episodes on my computer in my dorm. I didn’t have cable on campus, but I was part of a LiveJournal community that would find links to new episodes shortly after they aired. I owned all of the boxed DVD sets and would binge them on summer breaks, while eating the necessary pop tarts, and drinking the required coffee.

I’ve always felt connected to Rory, in part because I have lived my life parallel to hers. I graduated high school when she did, attended college within the same years that she studied, and felt all of the same emotions along the way. I watched Season 7 during the second semester of my senior year, as I catapulted towards graduation. When Rory had that emotional meltdown in the bathroom with Lucy and Olivia, crying about the big abyss that awaited her after graduation, I cried too, because I knew exactly how she felt.

Needless to say, the Netflix reboot was appointment television for me. Not just because I’m a writer and I was assigned to binge watch it the second it came out, but because I had been waiting, like so many of you, to reconnect with the Gilmore Girls for the past decade. And while the revival had its faults, as all revivals do, it was endlessly satisfying and nostalgic for all the right reasons.

In the days since Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life dropped, I’ve been seeing more and more think-pieces written about Rory, and many of them are harsh critiques. I’ve read stories with headlines like “Rory Gilmore Is A Monster,” or “Definitive Proof That Rory Gilmore Peaked In High School.” And while there’s certainly validity to the complaints about Rory’s behavior in the revival — many critics feel that she’s endlessly selfish, narrow-minded, and “amoral” — I find it almost ironic that all the backlash to this character is happening now, even though Rory has always been this way.

The reboot was, in a way, a rehashing of the very conflicts that plagued Rory in Seasons 5 – 7. It makes sense, considering that the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino was not involved in the final season of the original run and wanted a chance to end the story the way she always intended. The final act of the original series saw Rory make impulsive decisions (like when she stole a yacht), struggle with her path (when she dropped out of Yale), stray from “traditional” morals (that whole affair with Dean), and grapple with what true independence feels like. Season 7 ends with Rory turning down a proposal from Logan, despite the fact that he offered her comfort, security, and a freakin’ avocado tree.

The Netflix revival had Rory doing all of these same things, yet in the realm of adulthood. Her impulsive behavior is still there — perhaps she wasn’t stealing yachts, but she’s showing up to journalism job interviews without pitches or questions, bouncing back and forth from the States to London, and having one-night stands with guys in Star Wars costumes. She continues to struggle with her path, trying to find her true calling as a writer. And just as Season 7 ended with Rory finding her way to the Obama campaign, the reboot ended with Rory finding her way to the story she was actually meant to write all this time.

Furthermore, the arc of Rory and Logan’s relationship was a deep parallel to the original series. Just as she rejected his offer of security at age 22, she did the same thing at 32, by saying no to his suggestion of letting her write at his house. It was the 2016 version of the avocado tree: Rory, once again, decided that she wanted to choose independence over something safe.

It’s important to note that none of these things make Rory a bad person, as some of the harsher articles have suggested. They just continue to make her relatable (with the caveat that most of us aren’t routinely flying back-and-forth to London, of course). None of us, the real writers of the Internet, are really in a place to judge the fictional Rory Gilmore. I’d be lying if I said I never questioned my career, made impulsive choices, acted selfishly, stayed involved with an ex much longer than I should, or wondered what my future really had in store. And I’m willing to bet that others have done the same.

Perhaps the truth of the matter is that Rory’s 32-year-old self struck a nerve with so many young adults because we don’t want to admit that this is reality. We don’t want to admit that 30-somethings might still struggle with the future, because we’re “supposed” to have figured it all out by the time we hit that magic number. It’s terrifying, in a way, to be confronted with the fact that Rory is emotionally in the same place that she was when she graduated from college. It’s a depressing thought to imagine that we may not grow as much as we think we will.

However, Rory isn’t entirely hopeless, and this is essential to remember. That horrific abyss she was afraid of in 2007 turned out to be a path towards independence. In the reboot, Rory learned — thanks once again to Jess — that she may have to carve her own future. She doesn’t end up getting hired at Condé Nast or Sandee Says, but rather, she writes a memoir; she takes matters into her own hands. She decides to be a #ladyboss, and maybe she doesn’t do it in a way that we all might agree with, but there’s something to be said for her determination and drive. Rory learns, as we all must learn, that sometimes we have to take deliberate steps to create our own futures. That sometimes the future doesn’t look like a job offer, or a proposal, or a wedding. Sometimes, the future — that big terrible abyss — is something we craft from the thread of an idea. Rory showed this to us ten years ago, and she showed it again to us now. It’s up to us to decide whether we respond with snark, or choose to be inspired.

De is a New Yorker turned Bostonian and lover of all things theatrical. She’ll never turn down a cup of gingerbread coffee, and she’s the owner of the fluffiest cat imaginable. De is on Twitter and Instagram.

Image via Netflix

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  • Court E. Thompson

    THANK YOU! I’m sooooo over all the Rory-hate! It’s like no one has ever crashed and burned before (many of us have). You pick yourself up and figure it out – which she did!

  • LynnP2

    Was I the only one who wanted to see that she’d grown, even a little, in the past 10 years? That she’d at last learned, perhaps, how to behave at a job interview or how to speak to her editor professionally on the phone? Or not to sleep with someone who is engaged/married to someone else? Instead this felt to me to be the season the showrunner wanted to create for 22 year old Rory and never got to. At least Emily and Lorelai got to have journeys and grow.

    • Tara

      This, 100%. The story was crazy — we’re supposed to believe Rory is a semi-successful journalist when after 9 years she goes into an interview and has no story ideas to pitch? That she can’t even make something convincing up? That she’d fall asleep while interviewing a subject? That she has no network, no support, no backup of anything?

      In the original run, Rory was maybe not the most creative or forward-thinking person, but she also did tons of research on everything and was an over-preparer. What happened to that girl?

      • KM

        Ding Ding Ding – you nailed it! That’s exactly my problem with her.

        I couldn’t care less who she was sleeping with (in fact, I sort of liked that she was still stuck on Logan but so unwilling to commit to him that he proposed to someone else) but I absolutely reject the idea that she had no growth in 9 years, that she made nothing of the incredible opportunity on Obama’s press bus, that she slid into puff pieces instead of sticking to harder journalism. She used to be overprepared, overread, bursting with questions, not lazy, shallow (I’m sorry, but what the hell was with that pool scene with the body-shaming? What on earth did that add to anything except the overwhelming feeling of entitlement?!) and untethered.

        I don’t expect her to be Christiane Amanpour by 32, but I did expect her to be Rory Gilmore, junior production editor for CNN or something.

      • Dana Ernest

        Totally agree! I think what the writer of this piece is missing is that people aren’t hating on Rory for being stuck in life, or unsuccessful, or a confused 30-something. That’s normal. I have a problem with the continued lack of empathy, the entitlement, and overall meanness. The Rory from the first few seasons was actually a decent/humorous person. The Rory from season 5-7 and the revival just seemed bitter and nasty. I kept watching to see if she’d ever laugh or crack a genuine smile in this revival – did she? I understand she was at a difficult place career-wise but her bad attitude was unnecessary, considering she’s still pretty privileged.

    • BK

      I feel like that’s where the backlash is coming from. I didn’t hate Rory in the revival anymore than I did in the original (I didn’t hate her at all, honestly). But I was disappointed by how little she’d grown. I’m about a full decade behind Rory age-wise, but still related to her so much. I think about where she was in college as a writer and post grad and I am in similar spots. I have had similar experiences. So in a weird (and very unrealistic way) I expected to see her grow in the way that I hope to.

      Progress isn’t linear, I understand that, but I was disappointed, like you, at the lack of growth on all fronts. The cheating, the wasted time, the attitude and entitlement. That type of behavior makes sense from a 20-something and even sometimes 30, 40 and 50+ somethings, but for it to be such a constant throughout the 4 episodes was sad.

      • Kitkit

        I think there’s so much we werent told though. What if in those nine years she did have that dream staff job and lost it? Or she was in a stable relationship with Logan and it ended up sour. I love Rory but I m glad we didnt see the perfect happy ending in this particular revivial. Im also grateful for the reminder thst growth and life isnt linear or perfect

      • My suspicion is that, should it get another revival via Netflix, she’ll get the chance to have that growth. Emily’s story line is basically wrapped up, and Lorelai had her growth moment with that Wild mess. Given those last four words, I think it’s going to be Rory’s turn next.

  • Bee

    While I agree that 30-somethings shouldn’t be expected to have it all together, I’m not sure that cheating on a boyfriend with an engaged man should be written off as eschewing “traditional morals” or that Rory’s attitude couldn’t have been a little less entitled. I guess in the end, it’s just a TV show but her storyline was pretty bad if you ask me.

  • Lindsay Stadter

    I think part of me realized I enjoy Seasons 1-4 of GG the most, and liked 5-7 less, so seeing Rory stall out in her Season 5 personality made me a little sad. I agree with some of the other commenters — yes, maybe some of her personality bits from seasons 5-7 are permanent, but c’mon, “forgetting” you have a boyfriend at 32 is just ridiculous. I miss naive, idealistic Rory.

  • nicolacash

    The only part that confused me about Rory was how, after 9 years of writing, she hadn’t built up a network of industry contacts/freelance clients by that point – or hadn’t managed to save anything, when she graduated with no student loans and could have been living in the upper east side apartment her grandparents offered to buy her? I also thought it was dumb how she hadn’t learned her cheating lesson, but then again if it’s supposed to be a parallel of her mother sleeping with Christopher while he was engaged in season 2, then I see what Amy was trying to do there

  • Georgina

    I really loved the fact that Rory didn’t have this perfect life in any way, and that you were watching and thinking ‘you didn’t prep for the interview?!’ In a purely selfish way, it made me (and my sister) feel like we were OK for not having a plan (or rather the plan completely changing from when we graduated), and for various bits of our lives being messy and/or totally up in the air and not where we thought they’d be… looking at my friends too, it’s as you wrote part of a millenial life now. If Rory or even Paris had had this perfect life (and if Paris can’t force a perfect life, no one can!) then I would have been left feeling crap about myself, and that’s part of the reason Gilmore Girls was so great the first time – that it’s this safe haven where you finish feeling better for having watched it.

    • Shannon

      Yes! I felt the same way. I was disappointed in her storyline, but I wasn’t disappointed in her. Gilmore Girls is supposed to be a little all over the place.

  • victoria g

    see, i think i could accept that the show was just trying to make rory a relatable mess (or just still working on figuring out her life) were it not for the running joke of the 30-something crowd in town. like aren’t these people rory conceivably grew up with? why isn’t she at least sympathetic to the fact that they are going through exactly the same things as her: unemployed, had to move home, probably in a rut. i know it was meant to be a gag, but i winced every time they were onscreen – if the show is trying to get us to understand that even in your 30s it’s ok to not have it all figured out yet, and that life doesn’t always go the way you plan then rory’s (and lorelai’s! ) snobbiness towards and outright disgust of this group was baffling.

    i don’t know man, i liked a lot of things about this revival but i didn’t actually WANT rory to have to rehash the conflicts of seasons 5-7. because watching that on top of her consistently cheating on a boyfriend (and forgetting he exists and generally treating him like crap for 3 YEARS) made reboot rory much, much more unlikeable than anything else.

  • SG

    “It’s important to note that none of these things make Rory a bad person”
    Sleeping with someone who is engaged/married is not great…especially when you have done it before and don’t learn from it.

    • Violaine

      I think it’s the fact that she has a boyfriend that is terrible. I think that if I cheated on my BF, that would make me the bad person; but if I sleep with somebody who is married and I am single, I wouldn’t feel too guilty – I mean, if somebody is in a relationship, they’re the ones cheating.

      • SG

        Uh I’d definitely feel guilty if I slept with someone who were married, whether I myself were single or not. I don’t get a reprieve if I were single.

        • Violaine

          If somebody wants to cheat, they will – whether with you or somebody else.
          I would feel sorry for the other person who is being cheated on, but at the end of the day, if I am not in a committed relationship, then I don’t owe anyone anything.

  • Ingrid

    there is a differente between the original series and now, and its age. at 22, this things are related to maturity, but a 30, I mean, you don’t have to have your shit together – but the way she goes about at life – she is entitled. that is my problem. she feels she doesn’t need to do research for a job interview or have pitches – when she is a freelance writer – she just assumes – still, that because she was praised all her life for her intelligence – not her effort – everything in time will be handled to her.

  • Bee

    She didn’t have any redeeming characteristics. I couldn’t believe her weird entitlement. And all the journalist things were so off. I was really Team Jess before but now I see she has a lot of growing up to do before she’s on his level.

  • Jacqueline Green

    While I have more to say my main thing is that there’s a difference between fooling around with an ex and then there’s cheating on your boyfriend of almost three years (??? #justiceforpaul) with your ex-boyfriend who is engaged to be married and not giving a damn about the consequences. it is frustrating because so much of her other behavior is semi-relatable and semi-excusable. there’s also nothing wrong with not ending up in the career path you chose in university but doing that with no regards to the consequences (for both Logan & Rory) is pretty reprehensible and justified for criticism.

  • Fritz Vanburgson

    I find it almost ironic that all the backlash to this character is happening now, even though Rory has always been this way.

    Something I’m not sure the author considered is that she, and many like her, watched GG when they were much younger and likely not nearly as self-aware as one could be in their late 20s and early 30s. The complaint is that *Yes she was selfish in the past* but somehow despite all of her privileges, she hasn’t grown up at all.

    Perhaps the truth of the matter is that Rory’s 32-year-old self struck a nerve with so many young adults because we don’t want to admit that this is reality.

    It strikes a nerve because this is ~*~reality~*~ for only a very specific subset of coastal white women who in no way represent society at large. Why should we be “inspired” by a girl who seemingly can’t get her shit together and yet suffers no real consequences for her actions? There are many #ladybosses out there both within Netflix and the world we walk around in and Rory is not one of them.

    And yes, I’ve watched the new GG.

  • I agree with all of this. I really see the humanity in Rory. Her mistakes in relationships, how we all have a tendency to go into these slumps coated with “ugh, why aren’t my plans happening!?”. I feel like I have a lot of wins and make a ton of mistakes! I can relate to that with her. I feel like she’s such a fantastic example of how we’re all just doing the best we can!

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