Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (With Spoilers)

Netflix has spawned a cottage industry of reunion and revival events.  The latest is the return of Gilmore Girls, probably the best received of the late 90’s/early 2000’s WB/CW lineup (although Dawson’s Creek got much more high school water-cooler buzz at the time).

A Year in the Life contains its share of reunion show gimmicks (celebrity cameos, one-off character returns, re-hashing old plotlines), but succeeds as a satisfying continuation of the story of Emily, Lorelei, and Rory Gilmore.  By combining strong characters with lovable quirks, the revival successfully…blah blah blah.

It’s good.  There.  Now let’s talk about a far more interesting topic.  Rory Gilmore is a train wreck.  I’ve noticed that pointing this out on the internet has become a clichĂ©, up there with “Kirk vs. Picard” debates.  But man, is she interesting.

I mean, A Year in the Life has satisfying conclusions and arcs for Lorelei, Emily, Luke, and even Michel.  Satisfaction though, is well tread and boring territory. What separates A Year in the Life from the dull, box checking reunion events of yesteryear is that all of this satisfaction is overshadowed by the atmospheric event known as Hurricane Rory.

Let’s take a look at her career.  She thinks she can make it as a professional writer but has no patience for the grind of that profession.  Everyone warns her that the British woman she’s working with is high maintenance, yet she ignores her and treats her with contempt.  Sure that crazy website lady has been bugging her for months, but Rory comes into that meeting with no ideas.  She won’t write the “lines” story because she thinks it’s beneath her.  Her best idea is a personal memoir, because the market isn’t already bursting at the seams with those.

She’s also surrounded by enablers.  The townspeople have always been in awe of her, and her modest success has given them continued justifications for it.  Getting published in Slate is not very impressive, they ran a story by a crackhead once, but the New Yorker and Atlantic have a lot of cache, so maybe that’s understandable.  She has Lorelei and Emily wrapped around her little finger, providing her a safety net of unearned emotional support and money.  Paris sticks by her because no one else can stand her. Lane sticks by her because Rory is the one person that won’t call her out on living like a teenager well into her thirties.

The unearned adoration combined with the veil of bookishness gives Rory the ability to treat people like crap without consequences.  Praise is such a default reaction to her that she doesn’t seem to understand that compassion is a two-way street.  As a result, she’s cold and dismissive towards Jesse, Logan, the 30-something gang, and pretty much anyone who’s not Lane, Paris, or her family (although she’s plenty dismissive to them too).

Rory, however, isn’t a bad person.  She’s been playing a certain game successfully, after all.  School came relatively easy to her, it appeared she was working hard but when you’re a natural at something you have less incentive to really challenge yourself.  She majors in journalism and tries her hand a professional writing because she’s always been good at research and writing essays. She gets some articles published in well-regarded magazines.  The next step is getting a regular gig or a book deal, so she writes a book.  At no point has she had to re-evaluate what she’s doing or how she treats people.

She’s pregnant now, which is one of the few things that could happen to her that could make her re-evaluate her life.  It represents a new beginning and the failure of her master life plan.  If we get another season, it’ll be interesting to see if she changes or continues on the same path of destruction she’s been on all of these years.

(c) 2016 D.G. McCabe