Gilmore Girls: Rory Is Giving Us All a Bad Name

Superficially, I share so much with Rory: I am an only child; I love to read; I take books with me everywhere; and I have brown “straight, shiny Harvard hair,” as Carol from season 3, episode 3, “Application Anxiety,” describes it. Adults told me I was “mature” and “precocious” and would “go on to do great things,” without much more evidence than that I was a smart kid. I would like to think that I did not become an insufferable young adult as Rory did, but I write judgmental nonsense on Medium, so maybe I did.

I remember my mom making me read the article “The ‘Trophy Kids’ Go To Work” when I was in junior high that clearly framed millennials wanting financial security and job stability as a bad thing and invoked a moral panic about participation certificates and teachers not using red pens anymore. I thought the article was unfair to young people trying to find financial stability directly after the 2008 financial crisis then and I still do, but Rory is giving us all a bad name. She acts entitled to absolutely everything: Ivy League education, high-profile jobs, men, etc. She assumes that going to private school and getting good grades will be all that is required of her to get into Harvard, and she has no backup plan if Harvard rejects her. She just assumes Harvard can’t reject her. The only reason she even applies to Yale is to make her Yale alumni grandparents happy. But first, she has a meltdown because her grandfather was kind enough to organize an interview at Yale for her. The bastard.

Whenever her narrow trajectory directly to success is challenged, she goes into a complete meltdown. When Paris says she has been doing community service since fourth grade to look good on college applications, Rory has a meltdown. When Mitchum Huntzberger, who everyone agrees is a giant asshole, tells her she’ll never become a real journalist, Rory has a meltdown. When she doesn’t get the job with SandeeSays because she is unprepared and unprofessional, Rory has a meltdown. When she finds out Logan slept with other women while they were separated but not broken up, Rory has a meltdown. I’m not defending Logan here — it was definitely a shady thing to do — but Rory is upset about her access to Logan being infringed upon and her solution is to bang Jess, to whom she is also entitled.

If you date Rory Gilmore, you belong to her forever.

Rory’s “specialness” is something we are often told but seldom shown. For example, when Rory’s first boyfriend, working-class Dean, comes to dinner at Rory’s affluent grandparents’ house (s2e1), Richard and Emily grill him on why he thinks he’s good enough for their special granddaughter. Richard points out that Rory will be going to an Ivy League university, and that Dean has dimmer prospects, and will, therefore, hold her back. Richard implies that Rory will “go on to do great things,” simply because she is smart and not because she is incredibly privileged. It is obvious that Dean has “dimmer” prospects because he has to work alongside going to high school and has other responsibilities in Stars Hollow which preclude him from spending $$$ on an Ivy education and extensive travel. Rory does stand up for him and point out that being working-class does not make Dean less than, but she hangs on to the idea that she is more than because she is smart and does not acknowledge that her private school tuition, Ivy tuition, and travel is only within her reach because of her family’s money and connections. In her mind, she maintains that she is a lower-middle-class or working-class person who has achieved her “special” status through hard work, but she has never been the one to undertake this hard work. Through the entire rest of the series, she will never come around to seeing this, and interestingly the only time she gets close is when Logan calls her out on her snobbery. Logan, of all people.

The possessive and jealous descriptors can also be attributed to Lorelai’s boyfriends, specifically Luke. Luke is so sensitive over Lorelai’s friendship with Christopher (pre the whole impulsive decision to get back together and get married in Paris mess), even though Christopher will always be a part of Lorelai’s life because he is Rory’s dad. At this point, Luke has found out about his secret daughter, April, and is fighting so hard to be a permanent part of her life and does not seem to appreciate the parallel. April and Rory are the subjects of Luke’s possessiveness. He feels entitled to be a parent to Rory, even before his relationship with Lorelai, but then refuses to let Lorelai get to know April even though they are engaged and kept her existence a secret for months. Again, he cannot see the double standard there. After they break up and Lorelai gets back with Christopher, Luke then has the audacity to ask Lorelai to write him a character reference so he can win custody of April. Luke also asks for parenting advice from Lorelai on how to deal with both Jess and April, but when he doesn’t like her response, he either says outright or insinuates that Lorelai is not qualified to weigh in, even though Lorelai is a parent Luke clearly loves and admires Rory, the product of her parenting.

On the subject of Lorelai’s parenting, I have some questions. When she ran away from home at seventeen, was she legally emancipated? I don’t think any court would rule in her favor if she had complained that her parents were rich east coast snobs. Richard and Emily are certainly overbearing and snobby, but is that enough reason to literally run away? As a result, Lorelai has become stuck in the mentality of her 17-year-old self and believes people are “against” her personally when they just have different opinions on mundane things. In season seven when her parents want to throw a party celebrating her marriage to Christopher, shoots down literally all of the party planner’s ideas because she feels threatened that her parents want to celebrate her marriage. She’s really out here at thirty-eight being moody and rude to the party planner like she’s a PMS-ing teenager. Richard and Emily did not get to see their only child actually get married — is it so much to ask that Lorelei goes along with their party plan?

This kind of thinking cultivates an “us against the world” feeling between her and Rory which also contributes to Rory’s feelings of entitlement — Rory’s high school valedictorian speech at her graduation was almost entirely about her relationship with her mom. It is absolutely no surprise that Rory has no empathy for anyone else and only thinks of herself and what she wants in the moment. This sometimes even backfires on Lorelai, such as when she graduated from her business degree. Rory chose that exact day to skip school to visit Jess in New York, miss her graduation ceremony, and leave her graduation present on the bus. Lorelai never got her Belinda Carlisle record, and I’m still mad about it.

Historian | PhD student | LSE

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