The last time I saw Rory Gilmore, it was 2007.
She sat nervously sipping a cup of coffee at Luke’s at 5 a.m, about to take off on the road to work as a journalist, covering the Obama campaign.
At the time, an unlikely black, underdog, born in Hawaii had unexpectedly become a presidential candidate and I, a young eleven year old girl was about to enter the daunting world of high school.
Although Rory, Obama, and I’s futures were uncertain, there was a palpable feeling of hope that outweighed any fears of the unknown.
During my young impressionable years, I had the privilege—in both my real and imaginative worlds—to be surrounded by truly remarkable characters.
In the real world of politics, I got to grow up in the ‘yes we can’ generation, believing that anyone regardless of gender, race, economic background, could carve out a place for themselves in even the most elite pockets of society.
In my world of fiction, I was fortunate to have two strong female heroines whose self-worth was anchored in their intelligence, independence, and capacity to eat more than their male counterparts.
As a young woman—navigating through a time often ridden with cliques and self-confidence issues—my real and fictitious role models helped me keep a touch on the pulse, whose steady and defined beats reminded me of the values I would grow up to cherish dearly.
When I was reunited with Rory Gilmore this past November, only weeks after a sexist tyrant was elected as Obama’s successor, I mourned the loss of feminism in the worlds I had once inhabited.
When I left Rory, she was a quiet, driven young woman, who acknowledged her flaws and her fears.
She chose a career she loved over a man she adored, and though terrified, fearlessly threw herself into the deep end.
The Rory I found in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, was virtually unrecognizable.
Her work-ethic I had once so preciously admired was replaced with a repulsive entitlement that manifested itself in her career, her love life, and even her relationship with her beloved mother and best-friend, Lorelai.
She found satisfaction in her friendships with trust-fund babies she had once despised (Logan’s Life and Death Brigade friends) and seemed to have no qualms being Logan’s mistress, meanwhile walking all-over her caring boyfriend whose name and existence not even she could remember.
When I have expressed my disappointment with Rory’s character in the Gilmore Girls revival, people have told me—to my fervent frustration—that the old Rory was ‘unrealistic’.
But to say that a sincere, hard-working, and driven young woman who cares more about C-Span and Tolstoy than about fashion and parties is ‘unrealistic’ is to do a massive dis-service to every hard-working young woman out there who refuses to succumb to stereotypes of what a young woman is supposed to look like.
Like all of us, Rory was a flawed and imperfect character.
Throughout the seven seasons, Rory fell apart almost every time she received criticism.
When she hit a deer and missed her exam, she threw a tantrum in class; when a professor in Season Four told her to drop a class, she cried in Dean’s lap; when Mitchum Huntsburger told her she didn’t have ‘it’, she dropped out of school for a semester and moved into Richard and Emily’s pool house.
As Jess poignantly noted back in Season Two while driving Rory’s car—and Logan pointed out at a Life and Death Brigade retreat later in the series (You jump, I jump Jack)—Rory was scared of the world around her.
She spent her first year of university hiding away after her mom slept at her dorm her first night of college, where I might add, she hardly made any new friends.
So no, Rory was not an unrealistic character because she was imperfect with flaws that I learnt from and whose attributes I grew to admire.
But because of Rory, I went through high school hardly worrying about my appearance or trying to be cool.
While I undoubtedly had my teenage moments where I rolled my kilt to show a little more leg, or worried about what party to go to on a Friday night, I spent more time reading and studying than I did drinking or sneaking out.
I wanted to be valued for my independence and intelligence rather than be judged by my appearance or who I was dating.
Though I would like to take credit for these character traits I have grown to be proud of, I can say with an utmost certainty that I inherited these attributes from Rory Gilmore and for that, I am thankful.
In her high school graduation speech, Rory said:
“I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I’ve been a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina and strolled down Swann’s Way. It’s a rewarding world, but my second one is by far superior. My second one is populated with characters slightly less eccentric, but supremely real, made of flesh and bone, full of love, who are my ultimate inspiration for everything.”
For those of who grew up watching Gilmore Girls, we also grew up living in two worlds.
In one, we were part of a fictitious, eccentric town in Connecticut where two women taught us what it meant to be independent strong women in the 21st century.
In the other, Obama, an also imperfect character, reminded us that despite all the odds, hope could conquer.
In 2017, I am no longer inspired by the characters in my world of fiction nor in my world of politics—feminism seems to have temporarily escaped them both.
But perhaps this reminds us that progress is not an uphill process—it zigs and zags in surprising directions—but it’s up to us, the generation whose impressionable years were imprinted by impeccable role model to reshape the worlds that have shaped us.
It’s our turn to be someone worth imitating.
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Cover Photo Credit: Ed Schipul/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)