My childhood TV consumption came entirely from the channel TV Land, which almost exclusively broadcast reruns of American sitcoms from the 1950s-70s (think I Love Lucy, I Dream of Jeannie, Leave it to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show, Three’s Company, and Happy Days), so Gilmore Girls was not on my radar; in fact, I was barely aware of it. I am sure that if I made any effort to watch it in real-time, my mother would have told me to “turn off that trash,” as she had when I wanted to watch anything on the Disney Channel or Downton Abbey. GG has been revisited in the past years as more people have become aware of all of its problems, and as the Year in the Life reboot has come out recently. Even though many of the re-visitations of GG have been to criticize it, it’s clear that this was an important and beloved show that people see as a seminal aspect of their childhood and adolescence. Reading around GG made me feel like I’d missed a defining experience, so I decided to watch all seven seasons and the reboot, even though I knew that I would hate it. And I really did. I started watching season 1 on Thanksgiving in 2016 and I finally finished the original series and the reboot not long ago, in June 2020. I had to take breaks from Rory and all her bullshit.
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.
As she enters her final semester of university, she seemingly only applies for three jobs. The one she really wants is a six-week New York Times unpaid internship that is in incredibly high demand. Again, Rory just assumes she will get the internship because she’s special and turns down a real job with a salary in Providence. After she finds she has been rejected by the NYT, she calls back about the Providence job, only to find the position has gone to someone else. She does not learn from this and continues to feel entitled to jobs just because in the revival. Rory has a few job possibilities in the revival, but one by one they fall apart, so she decides to go in for an interview with the website SandeeSays for a job she considers beneath her (but why? Because it’s online?). She is absolutely unprepared for an actual interview because she assumes Sandee will automatically hire her. When Sandee is disappointed that she is unprepared and does not hire her, Rory yells and insults her and her publication.
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.
It’s easy to see how Rory became so entitled in the first place. Stars Hollow is a quaint but bustling town, home to what might be described as a “colorful cast of characters,” who literally all dote on Rory and constantly tell her she is special. Stars Hollow is also home to its very own high school, but clearly none of them are special. Rory’s entire community bolsters this idea in her that she’s struggled against some sort of monumental obstacles, which is just not true. Lorelai is the only one in this family who has achieved anything through hard work alone, and that is because she absconded from the family home as a teenager with a baby Rory.
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.
This brings me to my hottest hot take on Gilmore Girls: Logan is Rory’s best boyfriend. Both Dean and Jess were possessive and emotionally abusive, so the bar is very low. Rory clearly has terrible taste in men, but of the three dickwads in Rory’s life, he is somehow the best. Logan is not possessive like the other two and seems to be the only man in the entire series that’s not unreasonably jealous. For example, when Rory develops that crush on the TA (even though he’s ugly let’s be real) he recognizes it for the silly passing crush that it is. Dean and Jess would have both lost their minds.
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.
I have many more thoughts about Gilmore Girls, like how they did Lane so dirty, and how unnecessarily rude Rory was to the Thirty-something Gang, but that would turn into a body of work rivaling my actual PhD thesis I am procrastinating on, so I will stop for now. Now that I can put GG behind me for good, I can finally “go on to do great things,” whatever that means.