Here’s a piece I wrote for The Boston Phoenix in 2005, when Gilmore Girls season six was premiering and I was excited about where they would go with Bad Rory. Putting it here since things can disappear on the internet at any moment. I remember at the time thinking that GG was going somewhere interesting and kinda real with Rory’s “caz” relationship with Logan but then it kinda resolved itself TV-listically, like when she got into Harvard, Princeton, & Yale.
Life after high school
Rory Gilmore’s early-20s crisis
BY ELISABETH DONNELLY
For the past five seasons, Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) of the WB’s Gilmore Girls (Tuesdays at 8 pm) has been that TV rarity: the realistically drawn smart girl. She’s an indie-rocking reader who wants to be the next Christiane Amanpour, and her plot lines revolve around school, with boys a distant second. There are some chinks in the good-girl armor, however, and as Rory has floundered at Yale, Girls creator Amy Sherman Palladino has shown us a young woman becoming unmoored in the throes of an early-20s crisis.
Girls premiered in 2000 on the fledgling, critically maligned WB and established itself as a reason to watch. Rory and her hot thirtysomething mom, Lorelai (Lauren Graham), are more like best friends, trading quips and coffee in bucolic small-town Connecticut. Runaway Lorelai had Rory at 16, and she’s trying to reconcile with her snobby society parents while her daughter tries to figure out her own relationship with them.
Last season ended with Lorelai proposing to her diner-owner boyfriend, Luke. The season-six premiere, “The New and Improved Lorelai” (airs this Tuesday, September 13), gives us the answer. But the more complex issues revolve around Rory. No longer the self-possessed teen who in the second season told off her meddlesome headmaster, Rory has been adrift, adopting various personae. The Rory who for three seasons had had a steady boyfriend lost her virginity to a married ex and then entered a “modern” relationship with freewheeling philandering rich kid Logan Huntzberger; it culminated in a drunken night on the bathroom floor in her mother’s home, with Rory crying “Why doesn’t he like me?” over Logan’s He’s Just Not That into You snubs. Even as Rory insisted she was fine with Logan, the audience saw her coming apart at the seams. The lives of lovable TV dramedy heroines don’t often get this messy.
Rory’s experimenting with a “casual” relationship and its emotional cost evolved into something more serious with Logan. But other parts of her life have also become muddled. Despite having grown up with egalitarian values instilled in her by the strong-willed Lorelai, she’s drawn to the upper-crust society represented by her grandparents and Logan’s rich dilettante friends. Yet when she’s handed a swanky internship from Logan’s Rupert Murdoch–like mogul dad, she learns she doesn’t have what it takes to pursue her dream career, journalism.
Having decided to drop out of Yale, Rory gets arrested for stealing a yacht, which she justifies by citing Moby-Dick (She feels like “knocking people’s hats off” and wants to “take to sea.”)Despite Lorelai’s plans to get her back into school, the grandparents end up siding with Rory, and they put her up in their palatial pool house. The once-self aware Rory announces in the season premiere, “I’m a grown-up, I’m independent,” but her grandparents are supporting her, and she’s no longer speaking with her mother.
The smart TV teen’s life usually ends when she enters college. Palladino anticipated the logistical challenge of extending Gilmore Girls by drawing Rory’s life out in familiar and not-so-clear-cut terms. Yes, the show has been guilty of sloppy plotting, with characters changing according to actor availability, and Rory’s relationship with Logan takes an unbelievable turn when he decides he wants to be her boyfriend. But shows like Felicity tried and failed to address early-20s uncertainty by exploring depression. Gilmore Girls is taking a gratifying run at young-adult confusion through Rory’s missteps. Smart girls flounder too.