Why It's Hard To Like Rory In The 'Gilmore Girls' Revival
If you're anything like me, your initial outrage over how Rory Gilmore behaved in the Gilmore Girls revival has passed. Yet, the lasting impression is one that Rory can be, well, the worst. While there have already been plenty of think pieces about the plethora of ways that Rory's privilege make her so hard to like, I'm also bothered by the conflicting messages viewers get about her. Because if you compare what characters say about Rory with what she actually does, you'll start to see why she can be so infuriating.
I was never a big fan of Rory in the original series and the reasons why were echoed in the new revival. Perhaps that's a good thing, since it means the series is consistent in its portrayal of the character, but if you had hoped to see Rory advance in the nine years since the original series ended, you might've been disappointed to see that she is in a state of arrested development. Even though Rory is supposed to be accomplished on the outside, how she acts does not seem to reflect those accomplishments.
In the original series, Rory was incredibly smart with a pleasant demeanor that had an entire town charmed by her. She was valedictorian of her high school; had her (unbelievable) pick between Yale, Harvard, and Princeton; and beyond her educational accomplishments, pretty much always had a suitor. In the revival, she's a smart, accomplished, and beautiful woman. She has written an acclaimed piece for The New Yorker and the well-known subject of the piece asks Rory to write a book about her. Additionally, media empire Condé Nast has requested to meet with Rory. But just because a person appears to have it all, doesn't mean they have it all together, and A Year in the Life more than proved that.
Yet, my issue is less with the decisions Rory makes throughout the revival and more with how even though she continued to let her sense of entitlement ruin opportunities, she is constantly praised by others, from potential employers to her former headmaster. Every character who has ever come across Rory Gilmore has praised her to the hilt and even when she wasn't on her best behavior in A Year in the Life, the compliments still came fast and furious.
While I can accept the kind words that come from Luke, Lorelai, Emily, Logan, and Jess — people who love Rory and would want to encourage her — there are the people involved in her life professionally who give her outrageous amounts of praise. Although "Winter" and "Spring" are supposed to be showing how Rory's career failures lead her back to Stars Hollow, I just saw a woman squandering opportunities. Someone who, perhaps because of the constant praise she has received over the years, thinks she is better than everyone else. So when things don't work out for her the tiniest bit, she throws tantrums and runs back home. Is this really the wonderful Rory Gilmore everyone has always talked about?
When she visited Chilton, Headmaster Charleston told Rory:
"I've always thought the world of you, Rory. All of us here have and your experience since you've left us — top of your class at Yale, your writings. We have a spot open for you in whatever department you choose ... Yes, you were always internally stronger than everyone else."
And because Rory interpreted this incredibly complimentary moment as Charleston smelling the failure on her, she missed all of the praise that he bestowed on someone of her "caliber" during her visit back to Chilton.
When she finally met with Condé Nast, Jim compared Rory to David Foster Wallace, saying, "There's an erudition to your stuff and some whimsy, which I like." He continued, "And all of your interviews are spot-on. You're in the piece, but not too much." When she noted there was a website after her, he responded, "There must be a million." Has anyone ever had such an encouraging, complimentary first professional meeting? Yet, Rory's disappointment that she wasn't instantly being offered a job or a more concrete assignment was palpable. Has she been complimented so much in her life that she no longer can hear the praise?
When she does take Condé Nast up on their idea to write about lines in New York, she doesn't take the assignment seriously — even falling asleep mid-interview. That entitlement comes again when Sandee of the website Sandee Says calls Rory out for not being prepared. Before, Sandee said things like, "Of course you're busy. You're Rory Gilmore." But she was displeased when Rory came to a job interview with nothing to pitch and no knowledge of the website. And instead of listening to this very rational feedback, Rory met this potential job lead with hostility. Plus, even if she wasn't prepared, couldn't the genius Rory Gilmore have come up with a pitch on the spot?
This is where the praise starts to wear thin. Because while other characters constantly tell viewers how talented, smart, and lovable she is, Rory was rarely those things in the revival. She had a bad attitude when things didn't work out for her perfectly in her professional life, and it carries over into her personal life as well.
She acted like she could have just a casual affair with Logan, but she was possessive of him when his fiancée moved in and gave him grief for it. She feels entitled to Logan and therefore betrayed when his fiancée spends time with him and moves in, even though Rory knew that was the situation she was getting involved in. (Logan is still the most wrong in this scenario, but Rory played her part.)
The creator of Gilmore Girls, Amy Sherman-Palladino, recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about Rory being unlikeable in the revival and said, "I also think you can't go into any story-breaking process thinking, 'What if they come off as unlikeable?'" Yet, I don't mind Rory going through a bad stretch or being a jerk for a year. What I mind is that Gilmore Girls tells viewers she's fabulous, but never really shows it. Maybe if you believed Rory was marvelous in the original series, seeing the 2016 version of her didn't bother you. But having never really understood what made Rory so special in the first place, I found being told — and not shown — how renowned she still is particularly frustrating. It's hard to become invested in a character's descent when you never believed in the ascent in the first place.
And that's where Rory's pesky privilege comes in. It's a sense of entitlement that she thinks she shouldn't be in Stars Hollow and scoffs at the 30-something gang. She thinks it's her right to tell the story of her mother and instead of listening to Lorelai's very real concerns, becomes defensive and childish at her mom's initial resistance. Of course, both Rory and Lorelai are flawed — that's a major part of the series — but Rory's selfishness shouldn't be her dominating feature. And if it's going to be, then other characters should notice it.
While I did find Rory to be unlikeable, I don't mind that in theory. What really exasperated me was the way that Rory's bad attitude and apparent lack of some basic journalistic skills were never acknowledged. Though I was waiting for it, by the end of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, I never saw the smart, accomplished woman the series and its characters wanted me to see. I just saw a woman who, after the smallest of roadblocks, threw a fit and gave up. So it's not really Rory I'm mad at, it's the people who incessantly tell her — and viewers — how great she is. They may be the root of her frustrating sense of entitlement in first place.
Images: Saeed Adyani (7), Neil Jacobs/Netflix