The One Thing ‘Gilmore Girls’ Fans Need To Forgive Mitchum Huntzberger For
It's hard to admit, but all those years ago when Mitchum Huntzberger told Rory Gilmore she didn’t have what it takes to be a journalist, he may have actually been right. A year after Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, it’s worth looking back at Rory’s journalism journey to see how Mitchum predicted the pivot she takes in her career, even if she, or let’s be honest, audiences, couldn’t see it then. Mitchum recognized early on that Rory may not have been cut out for her dream job as the next Christiane Amanpour and while it was a blow to her young ego it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. That's why it’s finally time for Gilmore Girls fans to forgive Mitchum Huntzberger.
The Rory we re-meet in A Year In The Life is a 32-year-old struggling journalist who’s had some wins, her biggest being that New Yorker piece that ends up on Luke’s diner menu. But, she’s mostly been on the losing side of a business that’s in flux. You want to root for Rory, but she makes it hard since she’s not really putting in the effort to make it in this business: She’s napping in the middle of interviews, sleeping with her subjects, and showing up unprepared to a meeting with the founder of Sandy Says, a millennial website she thinks isn’t good enough for her.
By her own admission, Rory’s lost the drive to find stories and report, and is looking for anything to help her get out of her rut. This desperation leads her to take a nothing story on lines and “why we stand in them” for GQ, and a failed book proposal with self-described “hellion” Naomi Shropshire, whose name elicits condolences from every member of the media Rory meets.
This lapse in judgment and passion seems out of character for Rory, who famously wrote a compelling story about re-paving a school parking lot for the Chilton newspaper just to one-up her then enemy Paris Gellar. But it echoes some of what Mitchum told her when she was interning for him.
While in her junior year of college, Mitchum takes Rory under his wing and offers her an opportunity to work in a real newsroom at one of his papers. It’s the least he can do for his son’s girlfriend who had been humiliated by the entire Huntzberger family. From what we see in the Season 5 episode “Blame Booze and Melville” she’s nailing it: She's a friend to the staff, always has coffee ready, and even put a system in place to keep the newsroom in order. So imagine everyone’s surprise when Mitchum tells Rory in her performance review that she “don’t got it.”
Mitchum tells her he has a “pretty good gut sense for people’s strengths and weaknesses” and that it’s a “tough business, lot of stress” and he doesn’t think she has “that certain something to make it.” It’s a punch in the gut that leaves Rory questioning her future. Not to mention, stealing a yacht and dropping out of school.
At the time, Mitchum’s comments seemed pretty harsh and possibly a way to encourage Rory to think less about her career. After all, Logan’s family made it clear they wanted the young heir to marry someone who could host parties, not her own CNN show. It was hard to believe he could actually have a point with his criticism. But, in hindsight, Mitchum’s assessment of Rory doesn't seem that far off.
In their meeting, Mitchum doesn't say Rory can't be a writer, but makes the case that she’s a better assistant than a journalist. “I just don’t really think you have the drive to put yourself out there,” he tells her. “To get a story, to dig.” And, that’s exactly what Rory is struggling with in A Year In The Life, but it's something she always seemed to struggle with.
During what feels like a disastrous review, Rory tells Mitchum, “I’ve always done what’s asked of me" and he argues that's the problem. "See, the thing is, in the real world, it's not always good enough to do just what's asked of you."
It's hard to disagree with him there since doing what she was told as a writer was how she ended up with a ballet review in which she body-shamed a ballerina. Rory's willingness to please her then editor Doyle showed how skewed her editorial judgment was. She wanted to please him so badly she was willing to say anything. Something she regretted after the ballerina wrote "Die, Jerk" on her dorm door.
Its when Rory didn't do what she was told that she was able to find stories like the Life and Death Brigade or even the courage to write a book about her life with her mom despite Lorelai's reluctance. Rory admits that nothing she's ever written came as quickly as her book, Gilmore Girls — which, Lorelai's right, is much cleaner without the "The."
Back then Mitchum’s words felt like a real blow to Rory’s confidence, but now it feels like he was someone who really did understand the business. He saw that Rory would have trouble handling something so fast moving. Journalism has changed but the Rory in A Year In The Life is having trouble adapting. Now she has to change course and figure out what works for her.
Rory admitting that she may not have what it takes to be a journalist isn't a defeat, it's an opportunity. She never could have imagined writing a book when she was that 20-year-old girl being told her dream wasn't going to come true. Instead, it's something that a 32-year-old women can ponder over, knowing there may be a nugget of truth in what Mitchum told her way back when. Fans can also admit that Mitchum was right.
After all the truth hurts, but I'm sure Rory will feel much better after she sends Mitchum a copy of her new book.