Reflections on “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life”

Anyone who knows me knows that I really love Gilmore Girls. I’ve watched every episode in the series probably 6-7 times each (and more for my favorites).

Why? Beyond the fast-talking, quirky town characters, and female-led cast and crew, it was mainly about Rory. I just get Rory. I sometimes wonder if I *am* Rory, and Amy Sherman-Palladino has simply been stalking me. Here are some facts about Rory, compared to facts about me.

  • In the new Year in the Life show, Rory is 32. I am 32.
  • Rory is an only-child, raised primarily by a single, working mom. I am an only-child, raised primarily by a single, working mom. (Though, shout out to my Dad who was very active in my life as well.)
  • The other adult figures in Rory’s early life (Emily, Sookie, Mrs. Kim) are primarily strong women. The other adult figures in my early life (grandmother, aunts, cousins) are primarily strong women.
  • Rory transferred in her junior year of high school to a prestigious private school. I transferred in my junior year of high school to a prestigious boarding school.
  • Rory got good grades. I got good grades.
  • Rory went to a prestigious private University, where she majored in journalism. I went to a prestigious private University, where I majored in public relations (which at USC, is housed in the Annenberg School of Journalism.)
  • Rory had a serious, live-in boyfriend in college. I had a serious, live-in boyfriend in college.

There are other similarities, but those are the main ones. To put it mildly, I see a lot of myself in Rory.

She’s determined, cautious, smart, deliberate, hard working, and fastidious.

****CAUTION: SPOILERS COMING. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED****

And because of all that, I have a real problem with the idea that in the past 10 years since we’ve last seen Rory, all she’s managed to accomplish is 2-3 freelance articles published in random magazines. Amy Sherman-Palladino turned our beloved Rory into the reflection of the popular millenial meme that my generation is a bunch of whiny do-nothings, that despite her stellar education and well-documented internal drive, she’s somehow flamed out entirely without a career, money, relationship, or even a place to live and must come back and live with Lorelai.

Palladino apparently really believes in this meme – so much so that not only was painting Rory as a millenial burnout not enough, she also added the “30-something gang” as a running joke in the latter half of the new episodes to reinforce the stereotype.

To put it mildly, that’s sort of infuriating. If I look around at the people I went to college with, I see people with challenging and interesting careers in fields like medicine, science, music, marketing, technology, and yes — even journalism. I see them building upon solid relationships in their marriages, raising curious and responsible children, buying houses, volunteering in their communities, and standing up for what they think is right.

That’s not to say my generation is perfect and just lives perfect lives. If I look at that same group of people, I also see layoffs, divorces, failed startups, miscarriages, special-needs children, the death of parents and friends, recessions, setbacks, and challenges. But when those things have entered the picture, they’ve been dealt with. No one ran home to cower in their childhood room and lament that the world wasn’t handing them enough success.

And I just don’t believe that Rory would have done that either.

Nor do her relationships make sense. Rory was never a cruel person, so the running joke of “Paul” is out of character for her from the beginning.  And the idea that she’s continuing to sleep with an engaged Logan Huntzberger? I’m pretty sure Rory got her fill of “being the other woman” from her second go-round with Dean. Beyond that, to suggest she’s not encountered any other serious relationships in 10 years time? I’m just not buying it. Perhaps again, Palladino is relying on those spurious headlines about millenials, proclaiming this is the generation that never gets married, doesn’t date, and never settles down. It all seems very cliche.

It didn’t need to end this way. We see glimmers of hope in Palladino’s portrayals of the other characters; Paris, for example, has become a business mogul, married Doyle, had kids, and gotten a divorce. It’s not all perfect, but it’s consistent with who Paris has always been. Lane, meanwhile, is busy raising the twins, while still jamming out with her band in her spare time — another consistent portrayal.

So how did Palladino miss the mark so much with Rory? Hard to say. Palladino’s last season of the show’s original series was season six, where Rory WAS floundering around on her “break” from Yale, planning DAR parties and redecorating the pool house. It’s possible Palladino just couldn’t break out of that mindset; much of Rory’s distress in the new episodes seems well suited for a just-out-of-college 22 year old, and only fails because Rory’s supposed to be a decade older and wiser now.

In the end, it’s not that the new episodes were bad. Emily’s journey is interesting and even touching at times, and Palladino does capture the feeling of Star’s Hollow again quite accurately. It’s just that it could have been so much more, especially for our beloved Rory.

Whitney

  • I haven’t watched but from what I read, your analysis sounds spot on. I could see Rory struggling to find an ideal mate and perhaps still being single at 32 or having found someone and gotten married but I don’t see her being the other woman. Wouldn’t she have been more assertive and realized she doesn’t need to be the other woman cause she should be first or nothing? Is she really that pathetic that she’ll accept scrapes in her love life and in her career? I could see glimmers of Lorelei’s messiness manifesting in Rory as she got older, but Lorelei always wanted to have her own inn and despite her love life problems, she was able to achieve her goals career-wise. Why would Rory struggle on both fronts, unless she is just one of those in the 30-something-gang…

    • Right? If Rory was still single, she would be tearing up Tinder. That’s actually another thing I question a little bit – the lack of technology. For all the millenial memes Palladino bought into whole-heartedly, she notably forgot to include reference to Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, etc.