I was Rory Gilmore. I spent 9th grade at a high school where I was woefully unchallenged. Like Rory, I transferred from that school to a rigorous college prep high school (complete with knee-length multicolored skirts). I was an outsider who couldn’t quite figure out how the privileged system worked, at first. I too had my sights set on the Ivy League and eventually realized those dreams. I struggled my first year at Princeton by taking on more than I could handle, and even took part of a year off. For me, like Rory, reading was as natural, as necessary, as breathing.
Gilmore Girls was the family-friendly show that I could watch with my mother, as we both wished our relationship was more Lorelai and Rory and less Emily and Lorelai. I took pride in understanding more and more of the show’s obscure pop culture references with each round of reruns on Netflix. It never occurred to me to be frustrated by the stark lack of diversity on the show. The differences between Rory’s privileged suburban life and my ‘hood and poverty-adjacent life did not bother me; I ignored them in order to solidly place myself in her world.
When news of the revival hit the internet, I responded with squeals and over-the-top Facebook statuses filled with exclamation points. It was meant to be a reunion with old friends. I built it up in my mind to be everything I wished seasons 6 and 7 (after the departure of Amy Sherman-Palladino) would be. I imagined Rory and Paris conquering the world, harnessing the passion and focus of their Chilton days, and directing it with the maturity of lessons learned.
I reflected on the various ways that I still was Rory Gilmore: Since the series ended in 2007, I have become a freelance writer and gotten an MFA. I’m a writer, like Rory. I’m an Ivy League graduate, like Rory. When I sat down with a friend I met at the VONA/Voices workshop to binge watch the revival, I went into it with the hope that it would be the mirror I had imagined the show was.
Admittedly, my hopes were, dare I say, a bit ridiculous. It was unfair, and yes, maybe even naive to expect that Rory—with her white, upper-class Connecticut background—would reflect my life back to me. I have changed—I am Rory Gilmore, but not. In the years since my first Gilmore Girls viewings, I have seen myself in Grey’s Anatomy’s Miranda Bailey, How to Get Away with Murder’s Annalise Keating, Scandal’s Olivia Pope, and Queen Sugar’s Charley Bordelon West. Black women in media like Shonda Rhimes and Ava DuVernay have spoiled me with strong black female leads, and challenged me with deeply flawed, complicated, real characters. Continue reading