Rory Gilmore Should’ve Been a Contender

I wasn’t worried about Rory before the Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls. It had been nearly a decade since I had last seen her, and the last thing I knew was that she was going to be a reporter following the campaign of then-senator Barack Obama. She had just broken up with her rich but ultimately smothering boyfriend, and she was headed out on her own for the first time to travel and write.

rory
credit: Netflix

I remember feeling exhilarated by that finish, especially because I had been following Rory’s example for years. I wanted to grow up and be a writer — just like her — and everything Rory did seemed like the behavior of a like-minded older sister.

All right, I understand how crazy that sounds. Rory isn’t a real person, and I always knew that, even when I watched the first episode in the seventh grade. But even at that point in my life, I identified with her. I wore a plaid uniform to school and read constantly, too. I also had a best friend who seemed to own every possible album in existence. I could eat chili fries with coffee and sprinkle pop culture references into everyday conversations. And hey, if Oprah can look up to Mary from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, then I could have this.

But other than the surface similarities, Rory was a role model. We both studied journalism in college and dreamt about impressing Christiane Amanpour. We both wanted to travel to faraway places and write about all the things we’d see. And in the years since the show ended and I re-watched beloved episodes, I imagined that she would be even more successful in adulthood than she was in adolescence. After all, she’s a Gilmore.

So, what happened? In the Netflix four-part season that aired over Thanksgiving weekend, Rory wrote a “Talk of the Town” piece for the New Yorker, an article for Slate, and three chapters of her personal attempt at Little Women. But mostly — eh. Her career is about as impressive as that time she tried to make the world’s largest pizza for her mom’s birthday. Sure, she has a meeting with Condé Nast and pushes an editor there to let her write a story on spec. And yes, she braves ancient computers and agitated coworkers to publish the Stars Hollow Gazette.

But all of those instances seem anticlimactic for the Rory I admired.

Isn’t this the Rory Gilmore whose first story for the Franklin expertly compared the re-pavement of a parking lot to the passage of time? And didn’t she save the Yale Daily News from missing its first publishing deadline? Heck, wasn’t her first job out of college writing stories for a presidential campaign? If so, what is she doing in any of the career scenarios she was in during the revival?

As a 32-year-old woman who appeared to have everything going for her at the end of the regular series, it seems like Rory blew it. And instead of telling the people what she’s working on next, she’s asking them — awkwardly, Logan and Jess especially — for reassurance. In the words of Emily Gilmore, well, I’ll be damned.

I did grow up to work as a writer and travel on my own, so I know how harsh this sounds. It’s really tough to live up to childhood expectations, especially if those fantasies include Christiane Amanpour. There are more upsets than bylines, more measly checks then giant paydays. It’s almost impossible, even for a Yale graduate, to ascend to the likes of Nora Ephron or Maureen Dowd. But the thing I loved most about Rory, the thing I tried to emulate in my own life, is her drive.

Beneath her polite, doe-eyed exterior, Rory got shit done.

Paris Geller liked her because Rory met or exceeded her high expectations (and made her more approachable, but that’s beside the point). And look at Paris Gellar now: of course her personal life is weird, it always has been. But her career took off, as we all expected it would. I only wish Rory’s had done the same.

Instead of seeing a woman who doesn’t want to admit that she’s moved home and tells her high school ex that she’s broke, instead of seeing someone who doesn’t prepare for an interview and bungles an opportunity to work for GQ, I wanted to see the Rory I looked up to. Frankly, I wanted to see a woman make it in a field where the odds are stacked against her. Before watching the revival, I imagined Rory as a Condé Nast editor in an office that would make Meryl Streep jealous. I envisioned her interviewing Hillary Clinton over coffee for a cover story (wouldn’t that have been a great cameo?). I wanted Mitchum Huntzberger coming to her for advice on a possible merger. Yes, Rory Gilmore doesn’t exist. But in watching her all these years, and even recognizing the instances when TV serendipity was on her side, I expected more.

I wanted on-spec bylines and overall uncertainty to be a part of her post-college blues, a series of disappointments brought up nostalgically in witty conversations with Lorelai. Rory, I hoped, would be past all of this.

I didn’t think that this Rory, a woman who most resembles her listless post-yacht-stealing self than a promising ivy-league grad, would exist at this point in her life. That’s why this Rory worries me. She turned the tables since I last saw her, and let her drive fall away to complacency. I am not sure I look up to Rory anymore. In fact, I think I feel sorry for her.