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  • Christy Alfaro

In Defense of Rory Gilmore

My sister and I used to watch Gilmore Girls together religiously. It was one of our favorite shows and anytime a re-run was on, we'd watch the episode. Then it became available on streaming and I made it an annual part of my fall routine, nothing says fall like the opening notes of the Gilmore Girls theme song. However, the older my sister and I got the more we started to hate Rory's character. When we were younger, when she was younger, we loved her. We wanted to be like her, but somehow age made us look at her differently. I went into my last re-watch knowing I'd find Rory incredibly annoying... except this time I didn't feel that way as much as I actually felt bad for Rory. And everyone that's been a fan of the show that I've said that to has said. "What?! How?! She's the worst!" So... I'm going to explain it to you. This is: In Defense of Rory Gilmore.

I feel like this post is more than just a defense against one person or character, it's in defense of all teenage girls trying to find their way through life, a defense for all the little girls with childhood trauma that went un-explored and had to be a parent to their parent.


I'm going to break up her defense into three key sections: Romantic Relationships, Family Relationships, and her School Life. As I feel like these are the main points in which teenage girls develop and mold themselves for adulthood.

Romantic Relationships

I'm not here to debate who was the best boyfriend to Rory (mainly because my opinion changes depending on when I watch it - except the one thing that is definitive is how much Dean sucks), I'm going to talk about how her different relationships affected her and the ways they molded her.


Her first boyfriend, Dean, was the first guy that she noticed and was a very puppy love type of relationship. It's what happens when you don't know what you're actually looking for in a relationship or a partner. You're just happy to be with someone, to have someone. But of course, as someone grows they start to realize that what they thought they wanted may not actually be what they need. Someone's desires can change, and when Rory started to like Jess when she was with Dean that's when her problems started.


When it starts to be unveiled that Rory likes Jess everyone in her life; Lorelei - her Mom, Lane - her best friend, her frenemies at school, her grandparents, everyone tells her that Dean is perfect and that Jess wasn't worth the risk. It didn't matter that Rory liked Jess, it didn't matter that Dean wasn't actually perfect, and it definitely didn't matter that Jess was trying to become a better person for Rory. None of it mattered and because Rory is a picture perfect people pleaser (more on that later) she stayed with Dean, despite knowing her heart wasn't in it.


Obviously the heart wants what the heart wants and eventually Rory leaves Dean for Jess - I won't go into the craziness of her relationship with Jess but I will say that it was a young high school relationship where two people had to try and grow and learn. They just decided in the end to do so separately, which I think was right for what those two characters needed.


When Rory gets to college and finds it harder than she expected, when she's challenged in a way she hadn't before (which we'll also talk about later), she of course goes back to what felt safe - Dean. Everyone said Dean was perfect, Jess broke her heart, and her life felt crazy so she went back to the person who wouldn't trigger her abandonment issues and would also help her get back to feeling like she had control of her life.


But we already knew that Dean wasn't the one for her and that's how she finds Logan. Someone who challenges her and allows her to explore a side of herself she hadn't before. The part of herself that her Mom hid her away from.... which leads us to her family relationships.


Family

Dr. Nicole LePera (who is amazing and everyone should follow and read her book) summarized a good portion of why I believe we need to give Rory a bit more credit on Twitter, but I'm going to go more in-depth and give my own opinion as well.


Before I go too in-depth with Lorelei, and trust me I will be talking about Lorelei, let's start with the fact that it's heavily insinuated at the beginning of the show that Rory didn't meet her extended family until she turns 16. Her grandparents, who she ends up growing very close to, didn't actually enter her life until she's a teen. That plus an absent father means that her whole family dynamic comes from Lorelei and Lorelei alone.


Speaking of Daddy issues. When we are first introduced to Christopher we see Rory incredibly excited to see her Dad and yet by the end of the series she's asking her Dad to leave her Mom alone and practically leave her life. We see her build resentment with Chris as she continues to see him disappoint her and her Mom, and she learns that she'll never be his priority and that she can never count on him.


Okay, now let's talk about Lorelei. I want to start by giving Lorelei some credit. She was a single mom at the age of 16, that's not easy, and she found a way to still build a life for her daughter and did it away from her parents - not to mention the emotional trauma from having emotionally unavailable parents that she had to deal with while still raising a child while being a child herself. That being said, Lorelei put Rory in a position where she had to be the parent in their relationship. Rory was constantly the peacemaker between her Mom and her grandparents, making the relationship she has with her grandparents at times confusing. Sure it must have been fun to have a parent who was chill and your best friend, but how confusing must have that been for Rory when she spends most of her time being the parent to Lorelei and yet when Lorelei didn't like something she became the parent again and her word was law. It became apparent that Lorelei wanted Rory to be the version of herself that she wanted her to be, not the person that Rory really wanted to be. I.E Lorelei being upset that Rory decides to go to Yale because they had been talking about her going to Harvard since she was 6.


Also, how ridiculous is it that they started talking about Rory going to Harvard when she was SIX years old?! No 6 year old knows about Harvard that early naturally, not unless they watched Legally Blonde, so somehow Lorelei pushed that onto Rory even if it was subconsciously done. Which brings us to the school portion of this post.

School

I think we can all feel a little sympathy for Rory on her start at Chilton. She goes into this school that she's super excited about and meets people who bully and tease her. She spends a good chunk of the beginning of her time at Chilton with no friends and feeling like everything HAS to be a competition. On top of all of that, she's challenged in a way that she's not used to and for the first time in her academic career has to question her aptitude for academics. She finds her footing eventually but we see this repeat itself when she goes to Yale. She chooses to take 5 classes at Yale just like her Grandfather did and finds it challenging to keep up with the workload. She has based her core identity in her love for learning and when that's challenged we see her, rightfully, break a little bit.

The thing about Rory is that she's a fighter so she eventually gets the hang of the whole school thing. But then we get hit with the internship, aka the beginning of her "bad decisions", the feedback that she receives revolving around her not being someone who pushes and only does what is asked of her is incredibly valid. I think that the people around her are the ones who failed her. They all try and coddle her and tell her that the feedback is preposterous instead of helping her find a way to embrace that feedback. This was her first REAL test to learn and grow and the people around her failed her.


"Why did you drop out of Yale?!" Jess asks her in the infamous season 6 episode. I honestly don't fully blame Rory for maybe wanting to take a break, I'm someone who took breaks from college and I think it really helped me figure out what I wanted in life and so it was incredibly frustrating to watch her Lorelei not allow Rory to explain her self or her decisions. There was no room to support her or even find a workaround, just no and then refuses to talk to her after that. I can understand the feeling of losing, what is perceived to be, a huge part of your identity. Especially given that this was Rory's thing her entire life.

I am not saying that Rory is an angel and a victim or that she had no agency over her actions. But I think it's important to remember things like this because these are real things people go through, real mistakes people make, and while we crucify Rory we're also crucifying the people in the real world who are working through real trauma. I'd love for Amy Sherman Palladino to make another installment of A Year In The Life with Rory pregnant and starting to unpack the trauma that was her upbringing, or hell have her talk about it on screen through her book. Just some accountability and justice for this character that has gotten so much hate over the years.


I know this is just a TV show and it doesn't matter that much and I shouldn't care this much but I think it's important to question the media we consume and hold it to a higher standard, to find a way to use it to learn and grow. We can do that and still enjoy it, I know I'll be watching the show again this fall!

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