This post originally ran on September 25, 2014. We are re-running it in advance of the new season of Gilmore Girls.
Gilmore Girls is a treasure, and watching and rewatching (and rewatching and rewatching) has brought me countless hours of joy. I am a diehard, a true believer. And as such, I have to admit this hard truth: Lorelai and Rory are, at least sometimes, terrible people. But who is worse? Lorelai? Or Rory?
Obviously, GG is a show about, you know, Lorelai and Rory, so the series holds them in special-snowflake regard, as do all the characters; everyone in Stars Hollow thinks Rory is a tiny, blue-eyed She-Christ, even though she's just a studious person and not actually a valorous one. Lorelai believes her I'm-so-kooky routine delights her neighbors, even though they themselves are marching to their own drummers perhaps more than she is. In a town with a Miss Patty, Lorelai still sees herself as a local object of interest. Both Gilmores have an exaggerated sense of their own wonderfulness, though I suppose, in their defense, those around them seem to play along. Except for Mitchum Huntzberger, who is admittedly a tremendous douche, but he's also the only person ever to tell Rory anything other than how wonderful she is. We're supposed to hate him for this, and certainly Lorelai and Richard and Emily and Logan do, even though there's no evidence to suggest that Rory has any investigative drive whatsoever. Conscientious? Sure. But homegirl does not have a nose for news — at least not one that we've ever seen.
Rory's worst attribute, other than her slouchy posture, is her lack of impulse control. She misses Lorelai's college graduation because she had to go into the city to see Jess. She steals a yacht. She sleeps with Dean. She kisses Jess. Rory's strongest motivator is want — if she wants to do it, she does. Her wants always win. Conveniently for her, her wants often align with social norms for WASP success, but on the occasions that they don't, she still follows them. She wants to drop out of college? Boom. If she wants to avoid a problem or a conversation, she does — why confront the consequences of your actions when you can just go to Europe and pretend you're not a mistress? Why hang out with Marty, as elaborately promised, when Logan wants to hang out with his garbage friends?
Lorelai's downfall is her intense, overwhelming self-absorption. She thinks it's pretty darn adorable to pester people about giving her coffee! She's chronically rude to people in the service industry (even though she works in hospitality and should know the agony of rude customers), and she is always in the market for special treatment. The store is closed, but won't you open it for me? There's no food allowed at the meeting, but can't you bend that rule for me? You deliver mail in your own farkakte way, but can you do it differently for me? Me, me, me, me, me. On the night before Sookie's wedding, Lorelai marvels that she herself was there for the whole courtship! Because really, what's being celebrated here is of course Lorelai's presence and not something about anyone else. She is not a good friend to Sookie, even though she thinks she is; she kinda, sorta takes advantage of Sookie's pleaser tendencies and frequently ignores, minimizes, or dismisses Sookie's ideas and problems.
Lorelai's self-absorption erodes any opportunity for self-awareness. She likes to refer to her "emotional baggage," but she assiduously avoids doing anything about it. She says she has these rules about not letting her love life interfere with Rory's life in any way, but then she dates Rory's teacher, occasionally rekindles things with Rory's biological father, and dates and breaks up with the most consistent father figure in Rory's life — and, in each instance, claims she's not putting Rory in the middle of anything. I'm not suggesting that Richard and Emily are the easiest parents to have, but Lorelai doesn't seem to want to make meaningful changes in their relationship: hanging up on Emily, calling Emily Hitler and Stalin, and not telling her about getting engaged, either time? That's not how forgiving, forward-moving relationships work. Lorelai knows how to push Emily and Richard's buttons, and she never hesitates to do so. It's one thing to stand one's ground, but it's another to show up itching for a fight.
So both Lorelai and Rory are ... flawed. They're black holes of neediness — take, take, take, take, take — and likely to ignore the needs, wants, and feelings of other people. At least Rory still has time to grow out of it, though. Lorelai's locked into her stunted, oblivious ways, so she's officially worse.
All of this said, I still love them both so much.