Winter, spring, summer, and fall

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The writers life for me.

WARNING: CONTAINS GILMORE GIRLS SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE NEW SEASON OF GILMORE GIRLS, FOR THE LOVE OF PAUL ANKA TURN AROUND. AVERT YOUR EYES LEST YOU TURN INTO A PILLAR OF SALT. FLEE.

I’ll start by saying that Gilmore Girls is an important touchstone for me. It served as a key formative influence in my awkward tomboy young adult years when there was often a lack of interesting female characters, and certainly an absence of television shows in which two women were unabashedly the protagonists. They were smart, witty, well read, eccentric, flawed, and unapologetically the center of their own universe—Stars Hollow. And I loved them for that.

While I have long believed that Lorelai (the elder) was by far the most interesting of the duo, I feel a strong affinity with Rory and always have. On the list of fictional character with whom I identify—women including Jo of Little Women and Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables—Rory managed to make the top five despite the fact that I discovered Gilmore Girls rather late in adolescence. We have our differences, sure. I was a tomboy whereas Rory lacks the athleticism to play any sport except under duress. Our family situations are both nontraditional, but different. And whereas Rory is shy and slow to speak up for himself, I don’t require any pushing to speak loudly and with a great deal of profanity about the things I happen to think are important.

It is because I think of Rory as a kindred spirit that I had a difficult time watching the latest season of Gilmore Girls. So much of Rory’s intellectual promise is overshadowed by bad decisions—and not just bad decisions but actively cruel behavior. I’ve catalogued this list below, with my specific thoughts as to why this behavior is out of character or downright ridiculous:

  • Paul. The boyfriend Rory strings along for several years, while sleeping with at least two other men. The show’s reasoning for her failure to break up with him is that she continually forgets, a gimmick that is absurd, unlikely, unnecessary, and obnoxious. Whatever her flaws, Rory has historically been a sensitive character who would decry such extended and blatantly cruel behavior.
  • Sleeping with Logan while he is engaged to another woman. As the victim of Logan’s infidelity in previous seasons, Rory would have a pretty good idea of the sting of that infidelity. While this behavior is not necessarily out of character given her earlier willingness to lose her virginity to Dean while he’s married to another woman and given that she has historically tolerated bad behavior from Logan, such a prolonged bout of this behavior seems unlikely. Obviously, her “what happens in Vegas” relationship with Logan is being used by writers as an excuse for her lack of an honest, fulfilling relationship with someone else, but I would think her busy schedule or her similarity to her mother, who has a difficult time making a commitment, might be a better excuse.
  • The nomadic lifestyle. By choice, Rory gives up her apartment in New York and spends the season flitting from one friend’s couch to another, which might have seemed whimsical when the writers initially conceived the idea but rapidly became another turn that was so far out of character that it served as a distraction. Yes, Rory is a busy writer and yes, her career does require a great deal of travel, but Rory consistently serves as the straight man, “the responsible one” to her mother’s somewhat less grounded character. Rory Gilmore would never spend a year living haphazardly here and there with her possessions strewn across two continents. Rory is, at her core, a homebody. And a homebody needs a home.
  • The inability and strange unwillingness to pitch to a website considering hiring her. It’s true that Rory is a character who likes to be prepared and does not necessarily think well on her feet but considering that she agreed to attend an interview with the CEO of a website considering hiring her, I find it difficult to believe that she would attend this meeting with no ideas whatsoever.
  • Tap dancing. Yes, this is somewhat minor and it was obviously included as an effort to showcase the quirkiness of the Gilmore Girls, but Rory would never take up tap dancing to soothe her anxiety. She’s unathletic, not fond of expending energy, not particularly graceful, and given that she’s depending on the goodwill of her friends and family for housing, it’s a pretty noisy hobby to take up, particularly in the middle of the night.

I could generate a list of issues with the Lorelai the elder plot line as well, and might at some point, but at present I am far too fixated on the sins committed against Rory’s character to get into that lengthy and bitter can of worms. That said, there were some things that I thought the new season got right, but that isn’t to say that they made me happy, in part because they resonated a little too intensely with my own professional life.

Writing is hard. Not necessarily the writing itself, but the making money off of it as a profession part. I believe that journalism could take a bright, ambitious young woman and spit out an embittered and broke 32-year-old filled with self doubt. In many ways, that’s my own story—straight A’s in high school, knew exactly where I was heading, motivated in college, 11 years of professional journalism experience in a world that just doesn’t have much to offer the professional writer. The real world is not kind to dreamers, to readers, to those of us who want to create new worlds comprised of our own words. Whether this experience would have transformed Rory into the aimless, wandering, philandering 32-year-old we meet in this newest season, I do not know. I rather doubt it though. It could potentially account for some of the bitterness of tone that shadowed much of the season.

Rory’s decision, at the very end, to write her own book feels like a step in the right direction and an authentic decision for the character to make. I might just be prejudiced because that was the right step for me to take to escape the uncertainty and self-doubt that shadows anyone who considers herself a writer. I will acknowledge feeling a giddy sense of superiority—a consequence of my Type A personality and highly competitive nature. At 32, Rory is just beginning to write her first book. At that same age, I have written three while maintaining my full-time writing gigs that pay the proverbial and endless bills. If Rory and I are in some sort of bizarre competition that exists only in my head but still matters very much (and obviously we are) then I win. Hands down. I’ve got three books, a house, a steady boyfriend who does not cheat on me and who writes books of his own, two cats, one dog, and, disregarding recent political events, a fairly optimistic view of my future.

The problem is, I’m not sure I wanted to win. I’m not sure I want to identify with a whiny, pitiful woman who absolutely refuses to make reasonable choices despite her privileged upbringing. If fiction is to serve as a source of inspiration, a reminder when the dining room table is covered in rejection letters from potential publishers that life is still pretty good and my creative career is worth fighting for, then I need the Rory who rallied to become valedictorian of Chilton despite starting late. I need the Rory who respected her independence and future enough to turn down a marriage proposal from Logan. I need the Rory whose passion for words and books and writing was solid enough to survive a rejection by The New York Times. That Rory was worth emulating, even when she stumbled. I don’t know whether she can be salvaged from the wreckage of recent events. Even a fictional character has to endure the consequences of her behavior, after all.

And why does any of this matter so much, anyway? If I am, in fact, a 32-year-old woman with a full-time job, a house, two cats, one dog, and books to write, why am I devoting so much time to a television show? It’s been a rough year, and especially a rough month. We all need a win sometimes and I suppose I was counting on this season of Gilmore Girls to remind me of my optimism, my sense that anything can happen if I will it. That’s the Gilmore Girls I used to watch, and I find myself wondering: Have I changed? Or is the show?

Stay tuned for future Lorelai rants.

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Comments

  1. Yeah, I cringed at Rory. A lot. The casual infidelity was like an ever-present and unsettling undercurrent, but her complete botching of her interview with the site that was wooing her—as well as the fact that she fell asleep during an interview and then slept with another potential source—really irked me. And the fact that in researching a story about the psychology of lines, she passed up the opportunity to do any interviewing whatsoever upon encountering a line that had formed for literally no reason.

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