I started watching the original “Gilmore Girls” when I was in middle school, and when I say I watched it, I mean I obsessed over it. Why wouldn’t I? It was a show about the bonds between mothers and daughters, and if there’s anything that occupies a teenage girl’s mind, it’s that. It was witty and sharp, chock full of 80s references I still don’t understand but that sounded really smart. It did not, unlike the vast majority of television shows at the time, make a romantic relationship its focus (*cough* One Tree Hill *cough* The O.C. *cough*). Instead, it was about a girl who studied hard, who loved to read and write, who wanted to be a journalist, who was smart and funny and hardworking and a good friend.
(Also, Alexis Bledel was and continues to be drop-dead gorgeous, which is important to gangly, acne-covered teenagers).
Rory Gilmore was what I aspired to be when I was a kid. I applied to journalism programs in college in part because she made it look like a viable career option for smart girls. I saw myself in her, related to her struggles and her triumphs, and believed that her life could become a template for my own.
So when Netflix announced its revival of the series, I was nervous. As the series went on, Rory made a lot of decisions that went against her basic characterization, that of a smart, level-headed young woman building a life based on her passions. I hoped that this new series would give me a Rory Gilmore who was happy and successful, secure in her own self, steering her life with the purpose she had always exuded.
Instead, I got essentially the exact opposite. Rory is lost and untethered in more ways than one, making a lot of bad decisions: sleeping with an engaged Logan (who continues to be the WORST), refusing for some insane reason to get an apartment or at least a storage unit to put all her stuff in, and floundering in her career because reasons.
This was acceptable, even relatable, eight or nine years ago when Rory was getting ready to graduate from Yale and had no idea what she was going to do next. (I think a lot of people have had that “should I apply to law school?” moment, and the answer is no, you shouldn’t.) It is not quite so cute in a 32-year-old woman who should have learned a few life skills by now. This is the woman who supposedly followed Barack Obama on the campaign trail in 2008, and yet for some reason she is unable to leverage a very popular “New Yorker” article into solid opportunities. She is also wasting a lot of money flying off to London all the time, money that would be better spent BUYING AN APARTMENT TO PUT HER STUFF IN. If you couldn’t tell, this really bothered me. I think the Palladinos’ meant Rory bustling around from one place to another looking for a dress to be quirky, but instead it was annoying and stupid. Also, I know this show is from the 2000s, but no one has different phones for different things anymore. Work-life balance is dead, boundaries have been erased, and people just use one phone for everything. Let’s try and get with the program, shall we?
It’s hard for me to write this because in spite of it all, I’m really fond of Rory. She’s like an old friend, and to Alexis’ credit, she fell right back into the role like she’d been doing it all this time. I want her to be happy – and yes, part of that is because I’m self-projecting, but it’s also because I like the character. Rory was the first person who showed me that it was okay to spend recess in the library. She made it okay to get good grades but not want to go to medical school. She showed me that you could make mistakes, big mistakes (*cough* married Dean plot *cough*), and still be a good person.
When I was in school, Rory was four years ahead of me. I went into college the year she graduated with the intention of modeling my college career on hers – and in a lot of ways, I did: I was editor of a school newspaper, buddies with the professors, and I too had an aggressive but lovable bestie. Now she’s eight years older than me, but she’s the last person I would model myself on.
Thankfully, we’ll always have Paris.
This article was adapted from a piece that originally appeared on the author’s blog.