For many girls growing up in the 80s and 90s, Rory was our guide, our comrade, our sister. For those who also aspired to be journalists she was another version of ourselves, but the the ultimate version with the cool mom, the talent, the knowledge of every book ever.
So when the Netflix four-part series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life came out we grabbed a disgusting amount of snacks to sit back and see where our girl Rory would be.
Would she be a White House correspondent? She did join Obama’s campaign trail. Would she be filing stories at the city desk at the New York Times? That was the coveted fellowship she wanted but did not get. Would she be forging her own path as a freelancer? Sort of, but not really.
There were a lot of things Rory was — a frequent flier, a drinker of coffee, a misplacer of underwear, and someone who complained a lot about not getting a meeting with Condé Nast. However, there is one thing Rory Gilmore was not — a good journalist.
Let’s flashback to a more innocent time in Season Five and the episode Blame Booze and Melville. Our hardworking Rory Gilmore is throwing all the lingo around the newsroom internship given to her by her boyfriend’s father, Mitchum Huntzberger, and is handing out decaf coffee like she drinks it all the time (we know better, Luke’s wouldn’t serve that). Unfortunately, it’s the episode where the clear villain, Huntzberger, pulls Rory aside and says he just doesn’t think she has it — apparently “it” is the journalism scent, maybe flare, or possibly a deep longing stare. Either way it sends Rory off to steal a boat and move in with her grandparents and to the shock of all Gilmore fans, she stops talking with Lorelai.
We fans hated Huntzberger, cursed his name, thought his son, Logan, wasn’t good enough and assumed that he represented all that was wrong in media.
After the new episodes came out, instead I’m thinking maybe Huntzberger was onto something. Rory is a terrible journalist.
Now before the anger of the pro-Rory crowd swells, there’s some clear examples of, not necessarily her misgivings as a person or a woman, but her clear failures as a journalist.
Journalists will get fired for sleeping with someone they are interviewing. It’s as easy as that. It’s called a conflict of interest and no editor is going to let it fly. No, Rory wasn’t writing an article about Logan — the main source of romance in the reboot — but she did have a one night stand with a Wookie she planned to use in an article (which disappeared at some point. Did the article get written? Was it even pitched?). This is an annoying plot device that I can assure you, as a female journalist, we are sick of seeing. Rory is not the only woman journalist in a television show or a movie to fall down this career-killing hole, she’s just the most recent. Think of the female journalists in House of Cards, Trainwreck, Thank You For Not Smoking, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, Top Five, Nightcrawler, the Devil Wears Prada, even in Superman, Lois Lane hooks up with the person she is supposed to be writing an article about. The list goes on.
Just because it’s normalized in movies and television, doesn’t mean it’s something female journalists do. We don’t. Sorry Rory, you would lose your job and the trust of your editor.
One thing a lot of journalists, specifically freelancers know, is you are only as good as your last story. It looks like ol’ RG has found her byline in Atlantic, Slate, and the New Yorker, but she’s not trying particularly hard to get anything else published. Most freelancers I know are working on about three large stories at any given time, plus a multitude of 400 to 800 word pieces that literally pay the bills. Freelancers don’t really take time off to fly and meet someone for a quick hook-up across an ocean because we are literally counting each dollar, working it out for tax season and then wondering how we can pay for the next optometrist appointment because our eyes have gone looking at computer screens all day. Freelancers are at every event, every conference and constantly recording everything because it might be a story and it might pay for our next meal. Rory doesn’t seem to be working on much. Although she graduated from Yale (YALE!!!) without any debt thanks to her grandparents and wealthy father, her pleas of poverty don’t hold much weight when she’s not really working.
Journalists’ phones are journalists’ lifelines. I pay absurd amounts for a decent plan which means coverage in most places. I get it, a lot of places don’t get the best cell service (I’ve covered news from Northern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and towns without constant electricity in Southeast Asia) but there is literally no need for three phones which apparently all miss calls and might be from seven years ago. The phone you are currently using is the size of a tablet Rory, just upgrade your plan and you are fine. I’m not sure she’s aware but you can specify ringtones for the people calling, that might clear up her life so while she waits for the career- changing Condé Nast call or drunken British writer (River Song. We will get back here), she doesn’t need to stand on a stool handing vegetables.
Speaking of who she is missing calls from, apparently Rory is getting wooed by an online news website. She talks down to the website throughout the reboot before finally giving up, giving in and going to a meeting. But our Rory, who wrangled herself onto an early Obama bus and fought tooth-and-nail with Paris Geller, doesn’t come with a single story idea. Journalists don’t even walk into a daily meeting without a story idea. Most of us don’t even walk into a family dinner without a story idea. To be honest, I rarely walk into the local coffee shop without at least tossing an idea around in my head. She might come up with more ideas if she spent less time in the air or fighting with terrible phones, then again there’s a story — what phones are most compatible to overseas flights. C’mon Rory, get it together.
Let’s get back to River Song, I mean drunken author Naomi Shropshire. Rory is supposed to be collaborating on a book with Shropshire about her life. While Shropshire and Rory talk, although over many drinks and stolen food, Rory doesn’t take a single note. She also doesn’t seem to have a recorder out. I’m not sure, I’ve never written a book, but I think that might be an important part. It’s tough to quote someone or write about their life at any moment without a record of your conversation, but Rory’s been tossing those drinks back.
Finally when Rory takes the job at the Stars Hollow Gazette she agrees to do it for no money. As writers, we compromise sometimes on pay but for Rory Gilmore to take a senior position without pay sets a precedent that should not be followed. Rory sleeping with Wookies she’s interviewing, having terrible phones, not actually writing anything and not taking notes, doesn’t particularly impact me. It perpetuates a cycle around the value of journalists (particularly women). However, Rory hunkering down with her whiskey in the desk and Jess’ sage advice without any pay does impact me. It makes people think that journalist’s thoughts aren’t valued and it makes me think Rory might actually be the worst.
Writing is hard, it might even be called grueling, and it’s usually an unforgiving endeavor. Journalists do it because it’s important and there is value in it. If creator/writer Amy Sherman Palladino wanted Rory to be a recognized as a real journalist and a real freelancer her struggle shouldn’t have been attaining a meeting with Condé Nast, instead it should have shown the hard on the ground, pavement-pounding work journalists do everyday. Writing isn’t a luxury, it’s hard and involves research and painstaking attention to detail of every word and then getting paid by those words at an abysmal amount.
What truly makes Rory a terrible journalist is the fact that we really don’t see it as a priority in her life. What does she write about? What does her writing look like? What kind of relationship does she have with her editors? What is she researching? We don’t know. While I don’t expect journalism to define Rory as a person, some of that aspect of her life should be evident and understood.
Or maybe I just haven’t sold the New Yorker piece that can pay my bills, and my continuous flights to Europe, and I’m venting.
As Rory Gilmore says, “It’s Avril Lavigne’s world, we are just living in it.”
Kelly Geraldine Malone is a freelance journalist, podcaster, and radio producer based out of Manitoba, Canada