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Why we need to stop being so hard on Rory Gilmore

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Image: Netflix

Warning: This article contains major spoilers of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

The long awaited Gilmore Girls revival was something I had literally penciled in on my calendar. As far as my mom and I were concerned, November 25th couldn’t have come soon enough. For years I have taken comfort in watching reruns of the series, crying and laughing through most episodes as I found a true connection between Lorelai and Rory’s interesting mother-daughter relationship and my own relationship with my mother. Between the quick wit, coffee addictions, big dreams and feminist outlook, Gilmore Girls truly resonated with me and helped shape the idea of the kind of young woman I wanted to be. I wanted to be Rory Gilmore.

In the original seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, Rory evolved from being this shy and timid adolescent to a confident and determined badass. She graduated from Yale University and turned down the pretty boy’s marriage proposal (looking at you, Logan) to follow her own uncertain course. Rory’s growth not only inspired me, but encouraged me to pursue writing. To learn from my mistakes. To read and rely on coffee. To lean on my mom.

But it seems that somewhere in the last decade, Rory lost her sense of self that was so inspirational and attractive back in the good ol’ days of 2006. The Rory Gilmore we see in the revival is again lost, timid, and covering up her dream to be the next Christiane Amanpour with trips to London and flitting from one half-finished project to the next. I couldn’t help but wonder where the strong-willed, meticulous planner of a girl we grew so proud of had wandered off to.

Do we not remember the episode where after Logan flew all the way to Mia’s wedding in North Carolina to apologize to Rory, she wouldn’t even let him have some of her cake? (I basically take all my relationship advice from that exact scene where commitment-phobe Logan stood leaning against his car staring admiringly at Rory while Rory stared admiringly at her slice of cake.)

From the crazy amount of whiskey we see her casually throwing back (Seriously, where’s your coffee???), the affair with an engaged man (did we not learn from the whole Dean incident?), a one-night stand with a wookiee (really, Amy Sherman-Palladino?), and vagabond lifestyle, I could barely recognize the driven, morally upright Rory Gilmore I had come to admire.

Regardless of the lessons that Rory should have learned in the last several years since the show has wrapped, it’s easy to watch the Gilmore Girls Revival and feel sad. It wasn’t necessarily what we had wanted. Why is our girl so lost? We needed her to have her sh*t together. We needed her to be someone we could once again look up to.

We need her not to be, well, us.

Watching the new episodes, I couldn’t get past how disappointed I was in my beloved Rory Gilmore. Why did she let her life get so out of control? Didn’t she know she had millions of fans to inspire? Didn’t she realize that I had been looking up to her character for a large part of my young life? I then found myself wondering one thing: At what point in my life did I think I was supposed to have all my sh*t figured out by age 32? And, at this point in my life, do I think it’s even possible to have life all “figured out”? The answer that kept playing back in my head was simply “I’ve been there before.”

I remember quite vividly times in my life where people could look at my life from the outside and easily assume that all hope had been lost for me. I’m sure people saw me floundering, scared, uncertain of where I was or where I was heading. It was hard to be doubted, to be disappointing everyone around me. But for all the opinions and criticisms of everyone else that were thrown in my face and even worse, tossed behind my back, I still had to live my life. Make my own mistakes. Learn. Grow. And, eventually, find my way out of that “lost” chapter.

You see, it’s not our job to live up to other people’s expectations of us. And guess what? It’s not Rory’s job, either. Yes, I realize I am writing an entire article defending the actions of a fictional character written by a team of screenwriters. But it’s important for us all to remember who Rory Gilmore represents. She represents all of the hard working young women in this world trying to find their niche and be successful, and what a struggle that can be even with a fancy degree. She represents any daughter trying to unite her desire to please her family with her own desire to follow a dream that doesn’t make sense to those around her. She represents the women out there who may be spending too much time with a bottle of wine (or in Rory’s case, whiskey) than with a bottle of water, finding solace in their solitude and choosing to be alone rather than choosing a man who can’t fulfill their desires. And, in light of the last four words of the show (“Mom.” “Yeah?” “I’m pregnant.”), she represents the millions upon millions of single mothers and mothers-to-be out there who continue to have real ambition, along with new dreams.

So while we are quick to throw stones at Rory, unsatisfied with her character in the most recent year in her life, I urge you to consider all the times that your life looked startlingly similar to Rory’s 2016. Our ability to overcome these hardships and find our way out of the woods is what makes us strong women, and it has always been what made Rory a Gilmore.

Ellen contributed to this piece.