Gilmore Girls Revival– or, What Do Characters Owe Us?

Caution, spoilers ahead.

(Really, I mean it.)

Another disclaimer: I haven’t fully worked through all of these ideas. Perhaps I’ll come up with something more coherent in the next few days.

I watched Gilmore Girls on Friday. I started in the morning, made it through half of “Winter” and saved the rest for that night. I finished after midnight, and kept trying to press the button to the next episodes in hopes that it wasn’t really over, that there was another installment of four episodes waiting for me because 1). how could they end the revival on a cliffhanger and 2). how could they end it like that?

Gilmore Girls was the first television show I loved; it was the first television show I watched as it aired. True, I caught on during season 5, but no matter what was going on in my life, I was parked in front of the guest bedroom television on Tuesday at 8 o’clock. I started drinking coffee because the Gilmores drank coffee, and I wanted in on some of the fun. Like many young Gilmore Girls fans, I identified strongly with Rory. She loved books and pop culture and talked really fast. And yet she always had a boyfriend. She had friends. She had this fabulous college life, what I hoped that mine would be. It comes as no surprise to those who know me that I had a hard time in high school; Rory was proof that if I kept working hard, I would find a way out.

And I did. I loved college. I followed my passions, I made friends, I moved to New York, I got a great job, and somewhere along the way, I didn’t need Rory Gilmore to pave the way any more.

Gilmore Girls actually led me to some of my best friends from college, one of whom walked up to me at sophomore housing draw, told me I looked like Rory Gilmore and asked if I needed a roommate (I did).

I looked forward to the Gilmore Girls revival for moments. I parsed every bit of online fodder for clues. Much of many of my friends’ chagrin, I am a Logan fan (I like Jess every time I rewatch the Jess seasons, but he abandoned Rory!), and I was thrilled to hear that he would have a major role in the revival, particularly because he and Rory ended on such an unhappy note in the original series.

I was delighted by the first three episodes revival, even though Rory’s flailing (and failing) unnerved me. At thirty-two-years old, Rory Gilmore was supposed to have a vibrant career. She wasn’t supposed to be broke and living at home while other people succeeded. I kept wondering when she would pull herself out of it. And I have spent enough time in publishing to know that writing a book, especially a memoir, is not the answer to financial security. In a crowded memoir market, a book like that needs to wow publishers, and although I would have believed in the original series that Rory could write a book to command a huge advance, I’ll admit that I was starting to doubt her in the revival.

And the boys. Rory’s relationship with Logan problematic, but I still rooted for them. I kept waiting for the moment Logan would decide to leave his fiancée, Odette. Odette was his father’s choice of a partner, and he was putting his family’s opinions behind him in season 7.

And that ending. Rory, thirty-two-years-old and living at home with very few serious career prospects, pregnant. (Presumably by Logan. Presumably from their last Life and Death Brigade adventure together.)

That’s the ending we get for Rory Gilmore?

Have a kid. That’s the fulfilling, feel-good answer to her feeling lost?

I was so distressed, I didn’t think I’d sleep all night. I woke up in the morning depressed. My family was driving back from our Thanksgiving vacation, so I had a lot of quality time staring out car windows, which got me thinking, what do characters (and their creators) owe us? And also, when did Rory Gilmore become a feminist icon?

Over the years, people have poked holes in my idolized idea of Rory Gilmore, pointing out that she is a little, well, boring. She doesn’t have the spark Lorelai has; she follows. And I hate to admit that they’re sort of right.

Rory’s wanting so many things, particularly career-wise, made us think of her as a young feminist (which is not to say she isn’t). But those career plans didn’t really work out. And now we’re left with a Rory who seems to be falling into parenthood by default. The world has beaten her down, she is giving up, and now she’s going to be a parent.

That ending doesn’t leave me hopeful, it doesn’t leave me happy, it leaves me sad. Because it’s not just that Rory is having a baby (presumably; obviously, there are other options available). It’s that Rory Gilmore, perfect and confident and frequently praised Rory Gilmore, failed. No one wants to say it in the show. But Rory failed. And it feels like a whole generation of girls who watched the show dreaming of big careers and fulfilling lives, failed with her.

A baby is not a salve for that.

The Gilmores and creator Amy Sherman-Palladino don’t owe us anything. This show is their creation. They should end the characters’ arcs the way they see fit. The last four words have been in the works for decades. And I understand the appeal of the full-circle ending.

Characters take on lives of their own for fans. We mold these characters into whomever we need them to be. But Rory Gilmore returning to Stars Hollow with her tail between her legs and pregnant doesn’t fit my vision of Rory. It doesn’t fit the vision of Rory’s life so many of us had imagined ten years later.

I don’t need Rory Gilmore anymore. I made my own life. I found new role models. But that doesn’t mean that I wanted to see her story end in a way that seems antithetical to all that she once represented to me.

If the revival has a sequel, I’ll still be there. Rooting for Lorelai and Rory (and maybe Logan and Jess, too).

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