Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for Gilmore Girls Revival as well as for all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls.
Fandom, I have really mixed feelings about Netflix’s Gilmore Girls Revival. On the one hand, I think that it’s as good as we could have reasonably expected a reunion mini-series to be. It has its bumps and quirks, but many of the scenes do manage to recapture the magic of the original. Gilmore Girls’ unique style of “fast talking” pop culture-laden humor is on prominent display and is generally used to good effect. I also appreciated that the show didn’t offer a view of the characters living charmed, perfect lives ten years on from the original, but instead gave them legitimate struggles to overcome. The Revival does have its faults – many of the cameos from the show’s regulars feel forced and a few of the scenes (the Life and Death Brigade appearance, Lorelei’s wedding) have a bizarro, fake feeling that made me legitimately wonder if the characters had slipped into a drug-induced dream.
I can forgive Gilmore Girls Revival most of its flaws easily enough. After all, a few odd scenes are a small price to pay to spend more time with these characters. But Gilmore Girls Revival has one flaw that I have a much more difficult time forgiving – at times, it makes Lorelei and Rory into intensely unlikable characters. They aren’t unlikable all the time, but when they go unlikable, they go hardcore.
So with that in mind here are 5 Ways the Gilmore Girls Revival Made Its Main Characters Unlikable:
1. Lorelei’s Meltdown at Richard’s Funeral
In an early scene in the Revival, Lorelei has a flashback to her father’s funeral a few months earlier. After the funeral, Lorelei had a meltdown in front of Emily and several of Richard and Emily’s close friends and … boy, was it a big one. Huge.
It starts when Emily comes up with the idea of everyone sharing a fond memory of Richard. We can see right away that Lorelei is uncomfortable with this and I can understand her feeling awkward or even annoyed. Emily has put her on the spot and Lorelei didn’t have the best relationship with her father. So a bit of unease is completely justified on Lorelei’s part. What isn’t justified is what comes next – Lorelei telling a pointed story about a time her father behaved like a jerk when Lorelei was a young child followed by a story about her father discovering her having sex when she was fifteen years old and freaking out about it. Instead of sharing a fond memory, Lorelei shares not one but two bad memories that seem purposefully calculated to make her father look like the worst parent in history. At the man’s funeral. In front of his friends and Lorelei’s own mother. Sheesh.
Outbursts like this aren’t totally out of character for Lorelei. Gilmore Girls was largely about Lorelei’s fraught relationship with her snobbish and controlling parents. The difference here (besides the rather extreme move of trashing a man at his own funeral) is that we don’t see the lead up to Lorelei’s behavior. In Gilmore Girls, Lorelei often lost it when it came to her parents, but the audience would always see Richard and Emily attempting to manipulate Lorelei while getting in a lot of subtle little digs first. This made Lorelei telling her parents off feel justified and even satisfying.
Here, we don’t see Emily behaving badly before the funeral. We don’t see, say, Lorelei arguing with her father shortly before his death. Maybe we are supposed to understand that these things happened because we are supposed to know Richard and Emily, but this seems like a big expectation to put on an audience for the first new episode of a show that last aired ten years ago.
2. Rory’s consistent lack of professionalism
Rory wrote an article that got published in The New Yorker. This is an impressive accomplishment, but for most of Revival, Rory seems to believe that she can rest on her laurels. Instead of actually, ya’ know, writing something, anything, she spends all her time flying around the world in the apparent pursuit of being Logan’s mistress and then running home to Stars Hollow to complain about her failure. She has the opportunity to write an article for GQ about the group psychology of waiting in lines. She accepts the assignment, then decides that it’s too boring halfway through doing interviews, gives up, and has sex with one of her interview subjects.
Throughout much of the Revival, an online lifestyle magazine keeps trying to recruit Rory. It is quite obvious that Rory believes herself to above writing for this type of publication, but she eventually lowers herself enough to decide that she’ll take it on … and then gets so angry that the editor expects her to do a job interview before just handing her the position that she throws a hissy fit and gets into an incredibly unprofessional argument. I mean, I can understand how the editor’s vigorous recruitment might have led Rory to believe that she had the job in the bag, but Rory’s air of superiority shows through pretty clearly in this scene.
Finally, Rory is heartbroken that the Stars Hollow Gazette is closing and decides to take over as editor – a position that doesn’t pay. She immediately changes what people like about the paper, gets angry that she is expected to deliver papers (the Stars Hollow Gazette has a staff of three people), and basically goes around town shoving papers in townspeople’s faces. Yeah, she’s not getting paid, but it’s not like anyone was begging her to take the position – she had to ask Taylor for it. Her rather condescending attitude to the other staff members doesn’t earn her much sympathy either.I know we’re supposed to believe that Rory is finding out that she’s not cut out to be a journalist, but this message would come through more clearly if the audience saw her actually trying to be a journalist. In Revival, it feels more like she expects to write very little and still get rewarded for her specialness.
3. Lorelei Firing Chefs
It’s not a huge plot point, but Lorelei keeps firing a string of famous chefs because none of them are Sookie. The show treats this like a gag, but it becomes increasingly obnoxious and confusing. For one thing, I’m unsure whether celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain are supposed to be famous within the context of the show — for a show with so many pop culture references, it seems odd to play famous people as if they aren’t famous. On the other hand, if the chefs are supposed to be famous, it begs the question of why so many of them seem so eager to work for Lorelei at a small inn in rural Connecticut.
Apart from the general head scratching quality of these scenes, Lorelei starts to feel uncomfortably like Emily. For years, the show made a running gag of Emily repeatedly firing her maids for often minor infractions. These scenes worked because Emily is meant to be a demanding perfectionist. But for Lorelei to basically turn into her mother here – it’s a Gilmore Girls nightmare. In fact, Emily may very well be more likeable than Lorelei in this Revival. Yeah, Emily forces Lorelei to go to therapy and then quits. Yeah, she makes pointed comments about the status of Lorelei’s relationship with Luke. But she also deals with her grief, employs an entire immigrant family, and finally points out the ridiculousness of the DAR. Meanwhile, Lorelei fires chefs, makes a scene at her father’s funeral, and goes on a bizarre hiking expedition. Emily’s starting to look better and better.
The worst part is when Lorelei decides to fire Rachel Ray. It’s such a bizarre scene. Lorelei has a heartfelt conversation with Rachel in which Rachel gives her some good advice. And then Lorelei is basically like “thanks, by the way, we’re letting you go.” She ignores Rachel’s obvious shock and starts checking her phone. All this happens in the kitchen – Lorelei doesn’t even call her into the office to fire her like a normal person might. Lorelei’s tone isn’t cruel – but she comes across as dismissive and indifferent which is almost as bad. She’s totally channeling peak Emily Gilmore in this scene.
4. Everything About the Pool Scenes
In the episode “Summer” Lorelei and Rory visit what seems to be a Stars Hollow public pool. They proceed to sit in pool chairs whilst fully clothed and fat shame passersby for having the audacity to appear at a public pool wearing swimsuits. The episode cuts back to the pool several times. Eventually, we see that Lorelei and Rory have enlisted two small boys to hold umbrellas over their heads while our heroines sit in the sun speaking in “ironic” Southern belle accents. Rory has one of the boys refer to her as “Khaleesi.” We then see the two little boys carrying Lorelei and Rory’s things while verbally wishing that they could play with other children that they see nearby. I am not making this up.
Where to begin with the awfulness of these scenes? Well, the fat shaming is certainly disappointing. In the early 2000s, Gilmore Girls was one of the few shows on television that had several fat characters who it treated more or less exactly like the other characters. Gilmore Girls was the first time most of us were introduced to Melissa McCarthy, for goodness’ sake. I can’t think of a fat shaming scene that is comparable to this Revival scene in the entire seven season run of Gilmore Girls. The event that comes closest in the original series is when Rory writes a blistering review of a Yale ballet performance and alludes to a ballerina’s too-tight bra strap. But Lorelei calls Rory out for this and it still doesn’t approach the level of meanness that we see in these scenes in Revival. To have a show was fairly body-positive fall back on blatant fat jokes for its humor was saddening.
Lorelei and Rory “ironically” acting like rich snobs doesn’t come off well either. Part of the reason for this is that Lorelei literally comes from a background of wealth and privilege. Gilmore Girls always played a skillful balancing game with Lorelei’s privileged background and her embrace of Stars Hollow. Lorelei and Rory might have been Gilmores, but they were also Stars Hollow to their very bones – something that the show repeatedly demonstrated by having them enthusiastically participate in corny town events.
But in Revival, Lorelei is questioning her connection to Stars Hollow for the first time in the show’s history. This is generally fine, but in the pool scenes it feels less like Lorelei is drifting apart from Stars Hollow and more like she thinks that she’s better than Stars Hollow and by extension, the people in it. Whereas the original series would have played up a scene like this as Lorelei and Rory participating in a Stars Hollow institution, it never feels like they are participating in anything in Revival. They’re at a pool and they don’t even go for a swim or work on their tans or play volleyball or do any of the things that people normally do at pools. Instead, they spend most of their time getting two small boys to wait on them and mocking other people. If this scene had been used to demonstrate how horrible a couple of villains in a romantic comedy were, I wouldn’t bat an eye.
5. Every Single Thing About Rory’s Love Life. All Of It.
At the beginning of Revival, we learn that Rory is dating a very forgettable dude named Paul. This is treated as a running gag throughout the show. Lorelei and Luke can’t remember Paul even though they’ve met him. Emily doesn’t recall him either. Even Rory has a difficult time remembering that she’s agreed to meet up with him at specified times.
This would all be just awkward humor if it weren’t for the fact that we soon learn that Rory is cheating on Paul with her old lover Logan. Logan, as it turns out, is cheating on his fiancé, Odette, with Rory. There’s no indication that Rory’s relationship with Paul is open or that Paul and Odette in any way know about the affair between Rory and Logan. The show plays up the idea that Rory keeps meaning to dump Paul – but given that she keeps meaning to dump him for a whole year, this comes off as obnoxious rather than sympathetic. This was a year when Paul could have been getting on with his life. And it’s not even that she doesn’t know how to go about dumping him – instead, it feels more like she keeps forgetting and putting it off. He’s not even memorable enough for Rory to remember to break up with him.
Maybe I could get behind this plot line if Rory seemed at all morally conflicted about the fact that she’s cheating on her boyfriend with a dude who is engaged. After all, Rory had an affair with the married Dean in the original Gilmore Girls and still managed to come off as a sympathetic character. Instead, the show goes the opposite route and seems to expect us to laugh at the fact that Paul, in particular, is being duped. I guess he somehow deserves it because he’s just that boring? Or because it would have been ridiculous for him to think that he could be good enough for the great Rory Gilmore?
And why is Rory still so hung up on Logan anyway? The original Gilmore Girls had her make the very conscious decision to move forward in her life without Logan. He proposed, she had the opportunity to say yes – and she just couldn’t do it. Instead, she decided to focus on her bright future as a journalist. It’s disappointing to see her crying over Logan ten years later – especially since he seemingly only pays attention to her when he wants sex and this actually really bothers Rory.
Further Musings …
Is there something to be learned from all this if Gilmore Girls ever goes for an eighth season? Perhaps. There were times in Revival when Lorelei and Rory were unlikable, but there were also times when they were great. The thing that unites most of the scenes when the Gilmore girls seem most unlikable is the vague whiff of superiority and elitism that Rory and Lorelei seem to have acquired in the decade since the original show aired.
One of the cleverest things about the light, often soapy Gilmore Girls was the way that the show approached social class. A central question posed by the show was: Can we ever escape the social class into which we are born? Tons of shows and movies have approached this question by showing us characters attempting to move into a higher social class than the one they were born into. The trope of rich people snubbing their noses at “new money” is a common one.
Gilmore Girls takes the opposite route. Instead of being a poor or working class person trying to fit in with wealthy people, Lorelei is a woman who was born into wealth and privilege, rejects that social class, and does everything she can to fit into her working class/middle class town. Yes, she wants to be successful and own her own inn, but like many people from working class backgrounds she wants to see herself as a self-made woman – not as someone who made it through life by virtue of having rich parents.
But this was always a fantasy . In Gilmore Girls, Lorelei and Rory benefit from having rich, influential parents and grandparents respectively any number of times. The most notable of these are when Lorelei borrows a great deal of money from her parents to pay for Rory’s education at the prestigious prep school Chilton. But there are plenty of other examples to choose from. Richard is a Yale alum who seems to donate a lot of money to the school and to be on a first name basis with much of the faculty. It’s pretty difficult to believe that this has nothing to do with Rory’s success at Yale – at one point, her grandparents even try to have a building named after her. In one episode, Lorelei reluctantly uses her mother’s influence to get a bank loan and in another episode she suddenly receives $75,000 because Richard made an investment in her name when she was born.
None of this means that Lorelei and Rory are somehow bad people, it just shows that, like many people, they are more privileged than they believe themselves to be. And this is why it is always going to be difficult to meaningfully criticize Stars Hollow from the perspective of Lorelei or Rory. A consistent criticism of the Gilmore Girls series was that Stars Hollow often felt too idyllic to be real. And that’s a valid critique. But Gilmore Girls has also shown us again and again that the people of Stars Hollow have treated Lorelei and Rory very well. The entire town tries to charter a bus to attend Rory’s graduation, for example.
Any future iterations of the show should remember that Stars Hollow is part of the Gilmore Girls magic. And they should think twice before making characters like the Gilmores “ironically” act like rich snobs. It’s hard to see this as “irony” when the main characters are from a wealthy background and really do seem to see Rory as some sort of super-special wonder child.
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