Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Dear Gilmore Girls AYITL: Please Bring Back the Real Rory Gilmore
I'm a huge Gilmore Girls fan. HUGE. I can't even tell you how eagerly I was anticipating the new Netflix miniseries Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. And, okay, I didn't hate every single part of it. I really enjoyed being back in Stars Hollow and seeing all its weird and wacky residents again. But I also think this revival did something unforgivable. It took one of the best smart, bookish heroines in the history of smart, bookish heroines and turned her into someone who was completely unrecognizable to me.
Old Rory Gilmore was amazing. How often do you see a smart girl on TV? Not a Big Bang Theory-style nerd girl, just a normal girl who really loves books and school and learning? Rory was smart and idealistic and principled. Not perfect, but real. And GG: AYITL took away every one of those qualities away from her.
The first episode starts with Rory making a quick visit to Stars Hollow to see her mom. - yay! She's impeccably dressed in a little black dress, camel hair coat and boots. She's written a piece for the New Yorker. She tells her mom that she's given up her Brooklyn apartment to free herself up to "travel wherever there's a story to write." She seems like a more polished version of old Rory, but still one who is pursuing her dreams of being a writer.
But ... she's misplaced her underwear. All of it. (Um, how does that even happen, exactly?) And instead of buying more, she come to Stars Hollow hoping to locate it.
Yes, Gilmore Girls has always loved the running joke. Lorelai can smell snow, yada yada. But many of the new running jokes in GG: AYITL were also real danger signs. Take Paul, Rory's new (well, not so new to her but new to viewers) boyfriend. Yes, in the past, teenaged Rory made some questionable romantic choices. But poor Paul was possibly the worst running joke in GG:AYITL and evidence of the complete ruination of the Rory Gilmore character. She's "settled" by dating Paul: he's nice, bland, and completely forgettable. As in the fact that she constantly forgets that he exists. And knows she needs to break up with him but repeatedly "forgets" to do it. THIS IS NOT MY RORY. Old Rory was occasionally foolhardy or impulsive, but never this callous and cruel.
More bad Rory omens in the Spring. The cracks in her polish are beginning to show, which in theory is fine. I don't like when women pretend that they never struggle with career, romance, family. But Rory is long past pretending and well into denial. She attends a Chilton reunion (yay, Paris is back in all her prickly, neurotic glory!) But when Headmaster Charlton says to Rory "I've always thought the world of you" (aw...) and suggests that Rory might like to consider a teaching job at Chilton, she recoils as if he suggested a career as a pole dancer. "I don't think teaching is my future." What? Rory, you're a snob.
It gets worse. We think Rory has been jetting back and forth from London for work, but the reality is far more disappointing:
So ... I'm not completely anti-Logan. In the regular series, I thought Logan represented all the things that Lorelai rejected in her former life, a life that Rory was understandably curious about. And I don't think Logan is a bad person, he's just a person who isn't willing to reject his easy life of wealth and privilege. I think that, in his own way, he does love and support Rory.
But... he's unavailable. He's engaged to someone else. In this episode, we learn that Rory is basically his mistress, a kept woman whom he flies back and forth from Connecticut to London and sends cars for and sleeps with behind his fiancee's back. Ugh. Yes, Rory cheated with the married Dean, but I sort of thought she might have learned from that experience.
This all felt very icky to me. At the very least, could Logan please buy her some new underwear?
Rory's character takes another turn for the worse in summer. She and her mom are suddenly hanging around the Stars Hollow Community Pool. (Who knew there was such a thing?)
At the pool, Rory and Lorelai hire children to stand there, holding parasols over them (huh? - this was just extremely weird.) And Rory and Lorelai have become a pair of mean girls who repeatedly fat shame a neighbor of theirs who has the gall to show up at the pool even though he's overweight. This was beyond disappointing to me. Lorelai has always been immature, but I expected more from Rory. If someone at Chilton had been fat-shamed, she would have delivered a blistering lecture to the culprit and then written a op-ed for the Franklin.
There was a really great scene in the summer between Rory and April (Luke's daughter). April, a college student, is over for dinner and pretending like her life is Instagram-perfect. Then, when she and Rory are alone, she admits that she's not as perfect as she pretends, and just trying to figure everything out. Like all of us are. This was a great piece of writing. But sadly, it reflected well on April, not Rory.
There may be some other nice moments in fall, but they don't involve Rory. In fact all the Gilmore Girls except Rory exhibit some admirable moments of personal growth. Lorelai is finally able to tell her mother how much her father meant to her (I found this scene extremely moving and well-acted.) Emily Gilmore freed herself from her empty mansion and the judge-y passiveeagressiveness of the her fellow DAR biddies and made a new life for herself. (I never really got the whole Gypsy-in-glasses-and-a-wig-pretending-to-be-a-housekeeper-who-spoke-an-imaginary-language, but whatevs.) Go Emily!
Rory. (Deep sigh). Rory took over the Stars Hollow Gazette. She was "rescued" from her boredom by the Life and Death Brigade (another really weird sequence). Oh, and she had some farewell sex with Logan and got pregnant.
A bit of backstory: Gilmore Girls ran from 2000-2007. Series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her writer-director husband, Daniel Palladino, decided to leave the series in 2006 when they had a contract dispute with the network, so they weren't involved in the show's final season. Sherman-Palladino had long said she'd planned the series to end with "The Final Four Words." And that she planned to use them -- nine years later -- in this revival miniseries.
Saving those final four words for so long was kind of like saving your most awesome outfit for nine years and then pulling it out of your closet. Outfits do have an expiration date. And apparently, so do final four words.
tl;tr: I am totally fine with having a Rory who isn't perfect and hasn't figured her life out. In fact, yay for that. But Rory went from Best Smart Bookish Heroine Ever to an underwear-losing, cheating, fat shaming snob. This is all kinds of tragic...
If you watched GG: AYITL. Tell me what you thought. If you liked it, please tell me about it!