I hate you, Rory Gilmore. I really do. With your perfect GPA, flawless complexion and innate ability to survive off of cheeseburgers and lattes without gaining a single pound, you represent an ideal that can never be achieved. Your existence has caused me great amounts of pain and suffering over the years, and it’s time that the world knows of your destructive nature, before it’s too late.
I didn’t always hate Rory Gilmore; in fact, I used to love her. Worship her, even, albeit in a totally healthy and normal way, of course. She reminded me a lot of myself: soft-spoken demeanor, clever sense of humor, always carrying a book in her bag. We both share a love of rock music, an impressive knowledge of pop culture, and a dream of becoming journalists, not to mention the same go-to hairstyle of cool brainy girls everywhere. But the similarities end somewhere around there, because, unlike Rory Gilmore, I live in the real world, and have experienced conflicts and disappointments that don’t seem to exist in the mythical land of Star’s Hollow.
Let me break it down for you. Rory went to an extremely prestigious and competitive private school called Chilton, which was paid for by her ridiculously rich grandparents. She was elected vice president of her class, pursued by the most popular boy in school, and only applied to two colleges, Harvard and Yale, both of which accepted her. Everything she did was done effortlessly, and she never had purple bags under her eyes or coffee stains on her dress (I’ve had both since I was 15, I’ve just gotten better at hiding them. Isn’t that the true sign of adulthood?)
I know a kid who got into Harvard, but he had a recommendation letter from the President of Indonesia. He also had an elevator in his house. And for some reason, I find his existence more believable than Rory Gilmore’s.
If Chilton was all that and a bag of biscotti, why did it look so easy? Rory spent more time on screen making obscure movie references than she did studying, which doesn’t seem like the typical behavior of a private school student. And more importantly, how did she find time to read all those damn books? The last book I finished of my own volition wasn’t a book, it was a play, and it was on a five-hour flight from Los Angeles to New York. That was three years ago. Since then, I’ve been preoccupied with the required readings for class and making sure I don’t fall asleep in the library. Again.
My point is that school, whether public or private, is challenging and demanding, and Rory Gilmore’s academic career did not adequately convey that. Instead, the show’s creators chalked up her success to Rory being practically perfect in every way, an idea repeated so frequently on the show that it starts to feels as if it’s being shoved down your throat. Rory finished all her homework weeks in advance, giving her time for fun activities like reading Russian literature, ingesting large amounts of marshmallow fluff, and having several stupidly good-looking boyfriends.
Speaking of boyfriends, I find it irritating beyond compare that all the men in Rory Gilmore’s life worship the ground she walks on. She barely had to lift a finger with her first two boyfriends (don’t get me started on Logan Huntzberger, I will rip him to shreds), and never dealt with the thoughts of being unattractive and undesirable that I’m sure many of us have. Her father, grandfather, and everyone in Star’s Hollow feel some deep-seated desire to dote on her, protect her, and glorify her existence in any way they can. And because she’s so perfect, none of it goes to her head. This isn’t respect, it’s idolization, and I would always prefer to have the former rather than the latter.
Maybe Rory’s life is supposed to teach us that if we just be ourselves and stop trying to fit into everyone else’s idea of a perfect girlfriend, some cute guy with beautiful bone structure will declare his love for us in a car he built with his own two hands. Or maybe we’ll spend Friday nights in our rooms with a pint of ice cream and both seasons of Twin Peaks, hating ourselves for not asking out that guy from yoga with the tattoos.
Rory Gilmore didn’t sit in her room on Friday nights, wallowing in self-pity. She was too busy having dinner with her rich grandparents and hanging out with her rich boyfriend who bought her a Birkin bag and an apartment. This just goes to show that Rory Gilmore’s problems were those of privileged white kids everywhere, the ones with Ivy League legacy and a trust fund waiting for them. And that doesn’t speak to a large portion of girls growing up with the idea that, if they read lots of books and have the adorable social skills of a 12-year-old boy at a school dance, they’ll live happily ever after.
You know who deserved more recognition on this show? Rory’s best friend and sometimes sidekick, Lane Kim. Lane was awesome! She secretly rebelled against her Korean mother’s strict rules by hiding music records under the floorboards, having a closet that was cooler than most teens’ bedrooms, dating a non-Korean (gasp!), and being a kickass drummer in a rock band. Torn between her loyalty to her family and her desire to pursue her passions, Lane ultimately got kicked out of her house, moved in with her band mates and married the lead singer. And she even found time to listen to and support Rory with her problems, which is more than can be said for Rory’s treatment of Lane.
Lane’s character arc was incredibly inspirational because she encountered obstacles and overcame them herself. No one gave Lane a fancy apartment with a suit of armor, or constantly praised her just for being polite and cute. She bore no resentment towards Rory for her success and popularity, and was more than content with her life in Star’s Hollow. If there’s ever a character we should aspire to emulate, it’s not Rory, it’s Lane.
But the worst thing about Rory Gilmore, worse than her endless modesty and perfectly manicured life, is all the people who want to be just like her. No matter how hard I tried, I was never smart enough, pretty enough, or nice enough to garner a comparison to the great Rory Gilmore, and that left me feeling dissatisfied with the person I was becoming. Rory was what everyone was looking for in a daughter, friend and girlfriend, and my inability to achieve that told me I wasn’t good enough to have her success or happiness.
Comparing yourself to a fictional character is the quickest way to harm your self-esteem. Instead of chasing an unachievable ideal, why not take some time and identify the qualities that make you unique? Whether it’s a talent for composing music or doing a great impersonation of Lana Del Rey, it’s important to find these qualities and celebrate them. Television characters exist to entertain us and inspire us, not set a standard that we should hold ourselves to.
But there is one thing at which we are better than Rory Gilmore: we’re real girls, not from someone’s imagination.