This article comes to us from guest writer Justin Scarelli
I know I don’t really have the authority to “defend” anyone, let alone a female – fictional or real. Rory didn’t ask me, or any of us, to defend her, and neither did Amy Sherman-Palladino. I will, instead, offer my insight, based on my own experiences, with how I viewed certain parts of Rory’s storyline in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
Like Rory, I grew up in a small New England Town. Our population was 8,523, slightly smaller than the 9,973 that the sign of Stars Hollow boasted in the pilot. Our town square didn’t have a gazebo, but we had frog jumping contests every summer, and a Miss Small-Town New England competition. Like Rory, my world was a world of books. I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. And like Rory, I transferred to a prestigious private high school. Sadly, unlike Rory, I did not bump into the tall, handsome Texan known as Jared Padalecki. Rory had dreams of becoming the next Christiane Amanpour, I wanted to be the next Chris Carter, the creator of my beloved show The X-Files. In the finale of Season 7, Rory went off to follow Senator Obama’s campaign. For me, my journey happened at the age of 29, when I left my quaint small town as a big fish, touching down in Los Angeles as a very, very tiny minnow in a somewhat smoggy pond.
Ironically, my first job in LA was a Tour Guide for Warner Bros. Studios. For three two-hour tours a day, five days a week, for a year and a half, I got to show guests around the studio backlot. I walked around Midwest Street, forever etched in my mind as Stars Hollow (though it has been many, many other fictional towns), noticing the painted bricks on the sidewalk, the ceiling-less practical sets of Doose’s Market and Luke’s. I walked people through the exterior of Lorelai’s house and out through Sookie’s house, as they shared the same walls. I enjoyed walking guests through Babette and Morey’s kitchen, noticing how it was built-to-scale for Sally Struthers and her 4’11” frame. I stood on the roof, looking down at the town square, as Rory, Logan and the Life and Death Brigade did in the “Fall” episode of the revival. My Los Angeles education, for all intents and purposes, began in Stars Hollow.
Like Rory, I did not want to be back with the other thirty-somethings in my town. Or the ones who had never left. I was on to bigger and better things, I thought. But that idealism slowly faded as I found myself in job after job that got me seemingly no closer to my goal of sitting around a table with other writers, breaking stories and discussing character. Like Rory, I felt my dream lose a bit of its color, faded by the reality that most of the time it isn’t about talent, it’s about who you know. I sat in rooms with twenty year-olds who had created the latest app or gadget or viral video craze, and I was supposed to work for them. What had happened to me, I wondered. How did I end up in the place I thought I needed to be, only to feel only more removed from what I wanted to do?
Some of the disappointed feelings we have towards the series and revival, is that we want Rory to be the Every-girl. But she isn’t an Every-girl, she is, in fact, as the title suggests: A Gilmore Girl. Although Rory did not grow up in the confines of the Gilmore manse, she did indeed enjoy a life of privilege. She was raised by a single mom, yes, but she also was the recipient of the full court-press Hillary Clinton “it takes a village” proposal. Rory had, and has, a charmed life, regardless of the explanation or logic of how she was able to afford those trans-continental flights. And she is finding out that her charmed existence -through Stars Hollow, Chilton, Yale, and Logan’s flat and bed when Odette isn’t in town – does not always extend to the real world.
Amy Sherman-Palladino is not trolling us, or systematically destroying Rory, or the image of Rory that some of has have, and have projected onto her. She is simply stating the story, and the character, as they are. Life is a mirror, it’s messy, and it’s complicated. We were always watching a show about a mother and daughter who both talked fast, one of whom threw away her supposed privilege, and the other ultimately embraced parts of it.
Like a lot of us, those in our early thirties, and those who are younger, grew up in a world where we were told it was our proverbial oyster. When that reality is turned on its head, it can sometimes lead to inappropriate life choices. Rory slept with Dean, a married man, stole a yacht with Logan after his father, though he didn’t have to be as callous, basically told Rory the real world wouldn’t be handed to her on a platter, no matter if it was silver or Betty Boop-related or covered with Pop-Tarts and an apple for nutrition. These may have seemed out-of-character for the audience, and for Alexis Bledel, but I see them as having always been brewing underneath the surface of Rory’s well-read and potentially ageless face.
In the revival, Rory is still at odds with that world view. She is disdainful of a job that is beneath her, then when it’s her only option, she doesn’t even bother to come prepared, instead spending all of her attention on making sure she has her lucky dress. She’s focused on prestige, an unhealthy fixation with Conde Nast the company, who keeps pushing the meeting and Rory views as a personal offense. I empathize with this. Too many times, I have reached out to those in the entertainment industry, either through cold calls or references from a connection, wanting them to see me as who I believe I am, and what I have to offer. The likely result of these meetings or phone calls is that perhaps I did not grab their attention, they had another individual in mind, or I was perhaps not yet ready. But it can start to feel altogether painful and personal. This is a mistake, because it keeps you barking up a particular tree for status’ sake. It blocks you from your ultimate purpose, why you fell in love with what you are pursuing to begin with.
I lost my job over the summer. I’m not terribly upset over it, but it does bring into clear view the lack of finances, how expensive it is to live in a city like Los Angeles, the feeling of careening headfirst into an early grave and being buried alive in failure and obscurity. Everything I know about life and my situation is turned on its head. Like Rory, I’ve been so focused on the ladder, on the idea of arriving, that I’ve missed perhaps the whole point.
This is where I find some disagreement with those who may have been upset that Rory needed some prodding (from a man, no less) in order to come up with the idea to write a book about her life. Ideas are not proprietary. They need inspiration to grow. They don’t wait around in a file cabinet or Notes app on your phone. They may be written down, but if you do nothing to decipher their meaning or put in the actual work, they may find another individual to play with.
Ideas build from clues, from your experiences, from those close to you. For example, you might be in a pitch meeting and all your proposed ideas are falling flat and you blurt out “a show about a mother and daughter that are more like friends” without knowing where that statement will take you until you remember that trip you took with your husband to a small New England town and the lightbulb goes off. It became the story you were supposed to write. Of, you might find yourself floundering, pursuing a book idea with a completely unstable individual, working at your small New England town’s newspaper when a close friend (and former romantic partner) sits down and nudges you in the direction of what’s right in front of you. The idea of Rory the author was always there, buried beneath her own desires and the ill-conceived partnership and entree-pilfering with Naomi Shropshire.
I had an experience in my life, about a decade ago, that was both revealing and inspiring. I was asked to help direct a couple film skits that were being created by a teen center in more rural New Hampshire. I jumped at the chance, and that experience, and the teens, helped me to re-focus on why I fell in love with writing and creating in the first place. So when Jess sparked the idea in Rory’s head, I was on board completely. And I currently find myself visiting my small, New England town, with that same voice in the back of my head, dressed as Milo Ventimiglia insisting, “I know what you should write about.”
To that end, I watched a clip on the ever-giving Internet, explaining how a lobster’s shell is stagnant, and that the crustacean’s cue for growth into shedding the old and building a new shell can be boiled down, pardon the expression, to the feeling of being uncomfortable. How can we apply this to Rory, you ask? In “Fall,” she gives Logan’s key back to him, and ends their relationship. You may argue that it sure took Rory long enough to realize that Logan can’t rescue her anymore, but it’s easy to pass judgment on our fictional, idealized characters. At least she arrived there. Though less-enthused for her one night-stand with the Wookie in “Spring,” it was yet another moment for Rory to examine her life and her choices, for her to acknowledge uncomfortable failure, and rebuild. The layered conversation she has with her father comes from a more authentic place of wanting to learn, to grow. That she tells Lorelai those pregnant final four words is the continuation of Rory’s growth. Whether she decides to tell Logan (the most likely candidate), decides to keep the child, or perhaps make the decision only a woman can make about her body, or to carry to term and give the baby up for adoption, Rory’s story is really just beginning.
Gilmore Girls was not written by the Warner Bros. or Netflix, and Rory’s book will not be written by Jess, hunkering down at a laptop in Richard Gilmore’s study. For perhaps the first time, we are seeing Rory take some autonomous steps that will hopefully and potentially humble her, where she is not a clone of her mother’s experiences, not a whale or a mouse or whatever martini-drunk Naomi insists, but her own lobster, her own person. For that reason alone, I could see some continuation of the Gilmore Girls saga.