When I look around at my own 30-something group, it’s clear that it’s not lack of reason (pregnancy or otherwise) that’s keeping us from “getting our lives together.” It’s that we are literally not being allowed to do so.
I was the same age as Rory when “Gilmore Girls” premiered back in October 2000—about to turn 16, which meant I met life’s milestones at the same time as the character: graduating high school, starting college, turning 21, graduating college.
Like most others my age, I was excited for the revival to see where my favorites from Stars Hollow had ended up since last checking in nearly 10 years ago. And, I’ll admit, I was even more excited when speculation around the Internet hinted that Rory Gilmore, proverbial golden child for whom things always seemed to have had a magical way of working out, was struggling with adulthood. The show, particularly toward the end, had seemed to lose touch with what Rory’s real world peers were facing. While it did devote a few episodes to Rory’s struggle to find employment after graduation, the series ended with her heading off to cover Barack Obama’s presidential campaign for an online magazine.
“Well, glad that all worked out, what were we worried about again?” was the note the show ended on. Frustrated, jobless 20-somethings around the country (myself included) seethed at the ease.
My, and many in my generation’s, struggles after college were drastically different. Graduating into a recession, we were mocked and criticized for everything from our choice of major (who told you to get an English degree?) to the amount of student loans we took out (how were you planning on paying that back without a job?) and of course our expectation of finding basic, entry-level work that might, just might, utilize our college learnings (“what, you’re too good for waitressing/bartending/grocery store clerk?” “Oh you’ve applied and been told no? Go and see if you can meet with the boss, face to face. That’s how to get a job,”) we were told.
Many who happened to graduate from college at the dawn of the Great Recession still find reliable work hard to come by, so I was eager to see how Rory had handled this past decade. I knew this was a television show and am a big proponent of escapism in television/film, but I was disappointed in how untouched she seemed by the real world’s economic troubles.
Much has already been written about the revival, tackling everything from Rory’s charmed existence as a freelancer, with seemingly infinite money to spend on trans-Atlantic flights to the entirety of the “Gilmore Girl” universe and its intense ignorance and refusal to include any form of intersectionality in the revival. And, at first, I was tempted to write an entire piece focused on the frustration, hurt, and anger I felt watching Rory, untrained and without certification, be offered a prime teaching position at a historic institution, having spent five years fighting tooth-and-nail after getting a master’s in education, so I could work in New York City while entertainers, politicians, and philanthropists demeaned and degraded the profession as cavalierly as Rory did.
I agree with these writings, of course. Rory’s “struggles” in the revival don’t come close to what our generation has experienced. I read the collective frustrations watching a character who was supposed to mirror us, waltz down the tone-deaf narrative path creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino laid out for her. Yes, I thought reading, it was irresponsible of Rory to think she had a job in the bag and not prepare for the interview. Yes, her attitude at being given the opportunity to run the community newspaper while living rent-free was grating. Yes, her insistence that she was not one of the Thirty-Something Gang showed incredible condescension. Yes, yes, yes, as article after article and comment after comment tore into her.
But the more I read, the more I started to notice that many of the criticisms of Rory throughout the internet zeitgeist weren’t only focused on her charmed life or unlimited opportunities. Many also included her age, particularly focusing on how those famous last words (“Mom,” “Yeah,” “I’m Pregnant,”) held a different meaning from the 32-year-old character who got to say them than the 23-year-old character who they were supposedly originally intended for. Many were quick to point out that at 32, an unexpected pregnancy wouldn’t have the same repercussions, some going as far as to suggest this pregnancy would serve as a wake-up call for the flighty character to get her life together, the implication of course being that someone that age should already have her life together.
It is to those responses I defend Rory Gilmore. Because when I look around at my own 30-something group—the group whose realities these think pieces at first seemed to defend as fighting a frustrating and difficult fight—it’s clear that it’s not lack of reason (pregnancy or otherwise) that’s keeping us from “getting our lives together.” It’s that we are literally not being allowed to do so.
Yes, Rory’s arch throughout the revival is privileged, but it doesn’t make the parallel any less real or the shaming any less hurtful. She is struggling in an industry that is dying and coming to the realization that this is a major reason she will likely have to give up on her dream of being an international correspondent. Watching her get jerked around career-wise (meetings that seem like your big chance pushed back for months on end with no regard for the job seeker’s schedule; jobs all but promised, then yanked away in the final moments; work tasks assigned because no one else wants to do them; forced to grovel before high-ranking connections who treat you terribly) should be heartbreakingly familiar to most, not fodder for blanket mockery.
Similarly, I shudder at the consensus that an unexpected pregnancy should be viewed as a come-to-Jesus moment, borderline punishment for not having found a more established, suitable path as a 32-year-old. An unexpected pregnancy is just that—unexpected. And whether one is 16 or 32, it should never be treated with derision for lack of preparedness. At 32, it is likely that more resources are available to the person facing it, but the idea that women must be ready for the possibility, should be constantly building a life in case a surprise baby appears, perpetuates the unfair and unequal way we’ve viewed pregnancy in our culture for a very long time: as the responsibility of the woman to be thinking about, even if she, like Rory, has never expressed interest in having children before. (It also not so subtly suggests that terminating the pregnancy would be the irresponsible choice, as it would allow Rory to continue her messy, unorganized, un-put-together lifestyle.)
I was disappointed not to see more of the last 10 years of my generation’s reality infiltrate the Gilmore’s world. But I take even more umbrage at the pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps missives lobbed at the character. She’s trying, like so many, to find a new path because the one we were promised doesn’t exist anymore.
Elizabeth Skoski lives in New York City. She is the author of the novel, For Girls Who Find Themselves With Child, the proceeds of which are donated to The National Network of Abortion Funds. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Bustle, and The Frisky, among others.