Rory Gilmore is the Worst Freelancer I’ve Ever Seen

Originally posted on Medium

Thinkpieces on Gilmore Girls are widespread these days and as a fan of the show I’m not immune to having a lot of complicated feelings about this show.

I would like to state on record that every single criticism lobbed at this show is entirely valid. It’s xenophobic (Emily’s “spanish?” maid), fatphobic (back fat Pat), transphobic (that awful joke Finn makes in the tango club), classist (seriously none of them have any real problems), racist (too much to include), and just overall kind of anticlimactic and boring. But I loved it when I was a teenager with the caveat of hating everything past season 4 (I’m not a monster). Naturally, I tuned in for the homework assignment that was the Gilmore Girls revival and walked away from it laughing at what Amy Sherman Palladino thinks being a freelance journalist looks like.

Rory Gilmore graduated with a journalism degree from Yale. Yes, that Yale. She graduated with zero debt because first her grandparents and then her father were paying for it. They were all rich but her dad was mostly a fuck up so he got to inherit his wealth to keep his “down to earth” credibility (grinds teeth). From what we learn in the revival it would appear she has managed to live off of having a byline in the Atlantic, Slate, and the New Yorker and nothing else.

In a show in which they couldn’t even bother to have the ethnically ambiguous maid speak and actual language or have an actual ethnicity, the part that is least believable to me is Rory’s journalism career. She spends the 6 hours of this show turning down work and flying to London to hook up with old boyfriends. A website that is clearly some sort of xojane or Rookie parody is begging her for a year to write for them and she’s all “oh I don’t know” like apartments in Queens can be paid for with blue eyes and caffeine addiction. (Okay, real talk, are they just drinking coffee all the time as a metaphor for alcohol? What even is that as a personality trait?)

She’s also “collaborating” on a book with River Song and takes NOT ONE SINGLE NOTE. Naomi is supposed to be this drunk, erratic, emotional nutcase and Rory is supposed to look reasonable but I walked away from that scene completely understanding Naomi’s panic about a tell all book about how she hates her mother being a bad move emotionally and professionally.

Not that those concerns stop Rory from working on her own tell-all of course. Rory is above that.

The relatable part of Rory was that she was bookish, that she was clever, that she was smart. That she liked music and pop culture and enjoyed hanging out with her friends. Rory Gilmore was a generation of white teenage girls who just wanted to read and talk about books and get along with their moms. I am Rory Gilmore. We are Rory Gilmore. And Rory Gilmore is terrible.

She’s not smart. She’s not strategic. She’s only considered a hero because she talks the most. She lost all relatablility once she started having actual “depth.” Her crises are imaginary and shallow. Her plights are not our plights. She’s a privileged, enabled, entitled whiner. She operates from the perspective that if you have dated her EVER she has jurisdiction over you for the rest of your life regardless of your marriage status. Dean now lives in Scranton. That is the punishment he receives for loving a Gilmore Girl. She has an inability to grow up. Rory Gilmore is a Manbaby. She’s the Little Match Girl. She could help herself with her every advantage and connection and she doesn’t.
Rory doesn’t pitch, doesn’t work on deadline, and her big contribution is to remove the seasonal poem off the Stars Hollow Gazette. She hasn’t grown in her voice as a writer. We never see her actually write. I’m starting to think Mitchum Huntzberger was right about her. It’s like when people almost eat during dinner scenes but you never see them take a bite.

If Amy Sherman Palladino wanted to actually give Rory some tension, she might have shown what it’s like to pay rent and get health insurance while freelancing. But no, we’re still focusing on romanticizing the art of writing like it’s too pure to have its ass shown. Writing is a grueling, labor intensive existence where you don’t get the luxury of turning down work because when you do that you don’t get paid. We don’t have rich grandmothers whose guest houses we can haunt. We don’t have $10,000 to spend on flights to London to hook up with old boyfriends who will just give you houses in Maine, Gilmore.

Let me show you what freelancing looked like for me: it was mostly unpaid. I sold blood and bone marrow until I “sold out” and got a day job. Most freelance writers also have date jobs. And not unpaid ones at the Stars Hollow Gazette. We’re pouring 60 hours a week into our day jobs, then writing on the side, and if we have families it’s a whole other deal. Now, since Rory Gilmore is a fresh face on the writing scene she’s probably banking somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 an article if she’s being published in Slate and the New Yorker and she’s not on staff. I’ll be generous. Maybe she’s making $500. An article. That will go through two rounds of editing, all the research time, and then the time of writing it and revising it. You’re looking at about 40 hours per article if it doesn’t require a ton of research. That’s $5 an hour for those of us with English degrees.

And that’s only if you sell the piece. Pitching is not a contract at all. You pitch it, you write it, and the publication more often than not will turn it down for a variety of reasons. You are the first thing to be cut. You are the first one to be not compensated. And then there is the timing of payment. The only publication that paid me on time EVER was Harlot magazine. Every other byline was either unpaid or required constant hounding to get my $30. Where were those phone calls? You also are liable to not get paid until your piece runs which can be months in advance.

Where was the working over vacation? Where was getting sick and losing out on the $500 for your student loan payment? Where was the rice and beans? Where was not going home for Christmas and playing utilities roulette to see what could go without being paid that month? Where were the roommates? Where was cooking at home and leaving the oven door open after you finished so that it would heat the apartment?

Being an artists and surviving is a privileged in many ways, and with Rory Gilmore being an example of a freelancer it stays that way. Freelancing comfortably remains in the hands of the provided for. Once again the biggest issues in Rory’s life are about men and her family. It’s never her professional life. That’s a back plot and a shitty one where women are mean to her. It’s crazy drunk women withdrawing book deals and site-running wunderkinds expecting her to have ideas. (she came to a job meeting with no pitch ideas, REALLY?) and her mother being a bitch by not signing over rights to her life’s story to her daughter. Rory’s biggest issues in life are because women are unfair to her by expecting her to DO HER OWN WORK.

But she’s really into books, you guys. And she likes going to Bangles concerts with her mother. And she has friends in the Life and Death Brigade. She never has to sacrifice. She never has to budget. She never has to consider her choices. She never has to go through heartbreak because all the men she’s ever loved come pinging back to her. She’s a revenge fantasy built for people who thought they were picked on in school because they were nerds.

I didn’t really want to write a feminist thinkpiece on Gilmore Girls, but you see, Rory, I need the views and the trending cred, and the discussion because I haven’t figured out how to survive off of one New Yorker article yet. Teach me your ways, magical hellbeast.

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    1. I really enjoyed the Emily plotline. I am so glad she finally got to build a life for herself. Lorelai’s plotline was all over the place but I liked how it landed. I can’t even remember anything that happened in episodes 1&2 even though I watched them several times.

  1. Oh my gosh girl you betta preach! I was incredibly disappointed with the way the writers depicted Rory’s career journey as well. There was a moment when I realized ‘wait! ten years have gone by and all Rory has done is publish two pieces in major magazines and hookup with Logan?’ I think the writers focused too much on portraying Rory as a lost millennial when in fact she was not just lost but completely unemployed. The icing on the cake for me was when she openly admits to being broke but then spouts some nonsense about getting a place in Queens. With what money?! Who’s paying for these international flights? Hell, who’s paying for those three burner phones!?

    1. I had repressed those burner phones. Rory is supposed to be a Millennial stereotype but she isn’t really. She’s just walking privilege and entitlement. She bleeds pumpkin spiced latte and her limbs are skinned Ugg boots. Because she isn’t blonde or a cheerleader, no one noticed she’s basically vacant. I give ASP credit in that she’s a bookish nerd who prioritized her studies and still got the guy and that subverts traditional television tropes, but largely she’s just this whimper fool. She’s just such a Becky.

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