Ever since I first discovered the show, I've been completely enamored with the feminism of Gilmore Girls. And while its feminist statements weren't always the most groundbreaking or intersectional, the show still provided powerful female storytelling that was always affirming to watch. Gilmore Girls was utopic with it's feminism, pushing female characters to the forefront with entertaining zeal, and giving them all an inspiring sense of purpose. As someone who found herself cheering at the Season 7 ending of Gilmore Girls, and feeling distinctly bleak during the shows return in A Year In The Life, one thing was obvious to me: The Gilmore Girls finale was more feminist than the revival. And that's more significant than you might think.
Though some fans are dismissive of Season 7 of Gilmore Girls due to the fact that the show's creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, had no involvement in it, there's no denying that the finale was still deeply satisfying. Not only did Rory refuse Logan's weak offer of engagement in order to service her own needs, ambition, and career prospects (amen to that, honey), but the parallels of Lorelai and Rory's respective achievements are celebrated with tremendous warmth.
When the whole town throws Rory a "Bon Voyage" party in celebration of her new job, for example, (working as a reporter on Barack Obama's campaign trail), it becomes clear that this is a dual celebration of Rory, as a young woman, and of Lorelai, as a single mom.
Throughout Gilmore Girls it was made clear that Lorelai wanted to provide Rory with the opportunities that she couldn't take advantage of when she got pregnant as a teenager. And repeatedly, Lorelai encourages her daughter to put her own needs ahead of boyfriends, to maintain focus on her goals and education, and to value self-sufficiency over a lazy dependence on privilege (with varying levels of success, let's be honest).
In the finale, we see how Rory has achieved all of this as a 22-year-old woman, and in turn, how Lorelai has achieved this as her mother. It's a deeply touching episode that doesn't just place incredible value on female ambition and autonomy, but it also elevates motherhood to be rightly celebrated on an equal level to Rory's achievements.
Ultimately, the finale is brimming with the excitement of opportunities, and of a new, flourishing future: Lorelai is starting the next phase of her adult life, while Rory is embarking on the first stage of her dream career, and her life as a young, independent woman. And that was, and still is, truly thrilling to see.
Which is exactly what made Rory's character arc so sorely disappointing to see in A Year In The Life. There she was, ten years ago, putting her career ahead of her boyfriend, and leaving her small town to pursue her future. And here she is now — Rory 2.0 — moving back to her hometown to cushion the end of her journalism career, and returning to that same terrible boyfriend. Who, let's face it, comes with the double whammy deal breaker of being engaged to someone else, and also requiring transatlantic flights just so Rory can sleep with him (girl, DTMFA).
And, trust me, I get it. We can all go through rough patches, sleep with the wrong people, and find that moving back home with our family provides a much needed safety net as we crash messily through certain periods of our life, but Rory’s character arc in A Year In The Life lacked the perspective necessary for it to be in any way relatable or constructive for young women to see.
By giving us an unfairly superficial caricature of a millennial woman in Rory, the revival did much of its young female audience a great disservice. While it’s always great to see complex female characters encountering failure and engaging with their flaws, as many of the female characters of Gilmore Girls have always done, it’s also rewarding to see those characters acknowledging their faults and striving for change and self improvement. Which, all epiphanies about writing a book about her and her Mom aside, isn’t something that A Year In The Life delivered with Rory's story.
Believing that women deserve the best, can be the best, and can achieve the best, is a belief you have to apply to yourself, before you can clearly see it for the rest of the World. The Gilmore Girls Season 7 finale delivered that message perfectly, and we definitely deserved to hear it from the revival too.
Putting a final, disappointing smear on the feminism of Gilmore Girls was the now infamous closing scene of A Year In The Life. With the final four words revealing that Rory is pregnant at the end of the Gilmore Girls revival, A Year In The Life brought the show full circle. But it also did so in the most mercilessly bleak way possible.
Instead of being supportive or even thrilled for her 32 year-old daughter, Lorelai looks distinctly horrified for Rory, before the screen fades to black, and that's it, guys. It's over. There's no discussion about what options are available to Rory, nor is there a moment where the mother and daughter share an excitable embrace and realize that hey, this could be phenomenal news.
There's just this briefest and most galling of shock endings, before Rory's future is left dangling in the dark, sad periphery of the TV credit sequence. Which might not have been so bad had Rory not spent the entirety of the revival already wallowing in the dark, sad periphery of her own life.
For a show which purposefully celebrated motherhood and the everyday achievements of women, this didn't just feel like an odd choice of an ending, it also felt painfully regressive. Gilmore Girls deserved far better as a show, and we deserved far better as an audience.
So, as an alternative, I'm just going be living for the ferocious optimism, and jovial, feminist enthusiasm that the original Gilmore Girls finale graciously delivered to use back in 2007. Because that's absolutely the version of the world that I want and need to see right now. To hell with Rory 2.0, you guys. We can all do — and be — better.