Rory Gilmore: The True Villain of “Gilmore Girls”

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Spoiler Alert: Titular character Rory Gilmore is the unsuspecting villain of “Gilmore Girls.” (Courtesy of Cory Bork, The Fordham Ram)

Taylor Herzlich, Opinion Editor

I am a huge fan of comfort shows. As a result, I like to think I’ve become quite an expert in the field of feel-good “dramedies,” shows that will both make you laugh and give you a plot line to gossip about. And, in my heavily biased opinion, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s “Gilmore Girls” is the best dramatic masterpiece of our time. 

“Gilmore Girls” focuses on the life of Lorelai Gilmore, a young, vibrant, single mother, and her teenage daughter Rory. Set in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, the two Gilmore Girls interact with a group of equally eccentric characters, including chef Sookie St. James, town selectman Taylor Doose and the undisputed town goofball Kirk. After enough episodes, the family and friends written into the show begin to feel like your own.

I could teach a class on the literary brilliance I’ve identified in the show. “Gilmore Girls” follows a cyclical pattern (major spoilers ahead!) where Lorelai does everything in her power to help Rory lead a life different than her own, yet unintentionally becomes an unparalleled idol for Rory. This leads them to fulfill scarily similar prophecies. Even Rory’s love life reflects Lorelai’s own. 

Rory’s first young love in the show is Dean, an easy guy to root for in the beginning. However, he quickly reveals he isn’t right for Rory, just as Max Medina, Lorelai’s boyfriend at the time, wasn’t right for Lorelai. 

Then, Rory becomes infatuated with Jess, a moody, sometimes emotionally unavailable figure who easily matches her intellect. However, it just never seems to be the right time for Rory and Jess, similar to Lorelai’s timing issues with Jess’s uncle, Luke, the brooding diner owner with a long-time love for Lorelai. 

And then there is the boy that Rory just can’t seem to quit: Logan. After facing issues with commitment early on, Rory and Logan end things at Rory’s graduation, only for “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” to show the two reconciled, struggling with commitment once more. An unplanned pregnancy (with the child implied to be Logan’s) seems to come at the most inconvenient time for Rory. Ring a bell? Lorelai struggles with these same issues of commitment with Christopher, Rory’s father, spanning a decades-long on-and-off again relationship ending in divorce.

The quality of “Gilmore Girls” is unmatched. Palladino quite obviously planned out the plot, even admitting she had known years prior what the last four words of the revival series would be. Not only is the show rhetorically beautiful, with symbolism and foreshadowing throughout, but it is undeniably entertaining. Each character is well-rounded and whole, easily delivering quick dialogue laced with a sarcastic bite. 

Nothing is perfect, however. There has to be a flaw in the show somewhere. 

That flaw is found in Rory Gilmore.

One of Palladino’s titular characters has slowly begun to be recognized by fans of the show as the true villain of the series. In the beginning of the show, Rory is fine. In fact, she’s a relatable character for many, perhaps even a role model. She is well-mannered and respectful. Rory does well in school and is a diligent worker, often shown completing her homework despite her mother’s distractions. Most importantly, she is a bookworm. Rory is revered for her tendency to read for leisure, with both Lorelai and other adult figures repeatedly praising her for her intellect.

A young mind can only take so much praise, and Rory quickly becomes an example of wasted potential. Ironically, it is Lorelai’s adoration of her daughter that mainly leads to Rory’s downward spiral. Although Lorelai often defends her teenage pregnancy from her own mother, Emily’s, arguments, Lorelai never truly forgives herself.

Was Rory a bright child? Certainly. But she was one of many bright children. Lorelai’s obsession with Rory’s intellect quickly inflates the young girl’s ego, and Rory is seen playing the victim repeatedly throughout the show. After being worshipped for so many years, Rory believes she can do no wrong. 

When Rory oversleeps, is “hit by a deer,” and arrives late to Chilton, missing an exam, is she able to accept this fact? No. Max Medina is tasked with the unfortunate job of telling Rory “no,” maybe for the first time. 

To be fair, Rory was overworked and disappointed, and I sympathize with her frustrations. But would I have leapt into an angry outburst at the news, causing a scene in the classroom and yelling at other students? No. And you probably wouldn’t have either.

When Rory realizes she has feelings for Jess, does she leave Dean? No. She leads him on, embarrassing him as her feelings for Jess become clear. Even after their breakup, when Rory immediately begins dating Jess, she is so uncomfortable with the idea of being wrong that she climbs up to Dean’s bedroom window, pleading with him not to hate her.

When Rory finally convinces Lorelai to attend her business school graduation, does she even show up? No. She prioritizes visiting an ex-boyfriend over honoring her mother on her one special day, despite Lorelai’s unending support for Rory.

When Rory has an affair with Dean, a married man, can she finally admit she is wrong? No. Instead, she yells at Lorelai, saying, “I hate you for ruining this for me!” 

When Rory steals a yacht, is it her fault? No. It’s her boss’s fault, for criticizing her and saying that he can’t visualize her as a journalist. Rory then ends up not being able to make it as a journalist in the revival.  

Bottom line: do I recommend you go rewatch the entire series immediately? Yes, I do. It’s incredible. But I apologize in advance for ruining one of the main characters for you.