How ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ Did Money
Includes all the spoilers.
As clever Billfolders may remember, I ended my “How Gilmore Girls Do Money” series the exact same way Amy Sherman-Palladino chose to end Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, although a few of the details—and the final four words—were different:
“My rent takes a third of my income. My health insurance is okay, but it’s not going to cover everything. Even if I use what’s left of Dad and Grandpa’s money there won’t be enough.”
“Rory — ”
“Plus I work 12-hour days, Mom. I’m part of the news cycle in an election season!”
Lorelai reached across the table and grabbed Rory’s hand. “Rory, are you pregnant?”
Rory smiled. Then she started crying. Lorelai got up and hugged her. “Oh, Rory, it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be better than okay. We’re all going to help. Me and Luke and my mom, she’s going to be so excited, and maybe Sookie, and Kirk has started selling baby stuff on Facebook, he swears it isn’t a multi-level marketing scheme, and Lane is going to have so much good advice, because the twins are great, they’re like the best kids, and wow, Rory, we’re going to do this. Do I get to say ‘it takes a village’ again, now that Hillary’s a candidate?”
“I don’t want to ask you all for help,” Rory said, sniffling.
“Of course you don’t,” Lorelai said. “You’re a Gilmore girl.”
The idea that Gilmore Girls would have to end with Rory’s pregnancy makes sense; the entire thing is about mothers and daughters, from Emily Gilmore on down. Of course it ends with the beginning of the next generation.
I also made what turned out to be a lucky guess: that Rory’s pregnancy would be unexpected and that the father, whomever it might be—which, come on, it’s Logan—would only be minimally involved. This child will be raised by three generations of Gilmore women, plus Luke. (Jess’ll hang around, looking through the windows, and finally be invited in.)
But I completely missed the mark on Rory Gilmore’s financial situation.
Okay. So Rory is ostensibly broke. If we take what she says at face value, she spends the entirety of 2016 wearing no underwear. But we can’t take what she says at face value, because she says that she owns neither underwear nor a car, and we see her driving everywhere. (Another Toyota Prius, right? But not the one her grandparents gave her as a high school graduation present.)
What do we see instead? A 32-year-old woman who claims to have no money but is not actively trying to earn any. Here’s Rory’s job situation, over the course of 2016:
- Naomi Shropshire, Professional British Cliché, asks Rory to write (or maybe ghostwrite) a book about her life. Shropshire tells Rory she’ll pay her after the book proposal sells. She will not pay Rory for the work involved in creating the proposal.
- Condé Nast keeps setting up and canceling interviews. It takes assumedly five months—and a call to Mitchum Huntzberger—before Rory actually gets an interview, after which Rory tells GQ she’ll write an article for free and if they like it, they can pay her. She does not finish the article. (Editors remember that kind of stuff; both the part where you beg, and the part where you don’t deliver.)
- Sandee Says spends a year trying to recruit Rory as a staff writer, and when she begrudgingly agrees to an interview, she shows up without any pitches or ideas.
- The Stars Hollow Gazette—which apparently existed this entire time—loses its editor and Rory volunteers to fill the position. Emphasis on volunteer.
In other words: Rory Gilmore does not seek out any paying work over the course of 2016. Shropshire, Says, and Nast all reach out to her. Yes, you get the sense—especially in the first episode—that Rory thinks money will be just around the corner. But we never see her try to work for money.
Why? Because she doesn’t have to. There is always someone ready with food and shelter, whether it’s her mom or her best friend or the ex-boyfriend with whom she is having an affair. Which, again, I don’t mean to slag on people who are unemployed and need support, but we never see Rory actually need anything. We hear her say “oh, I’ll just stay at Lane’s.” We hear her assume that other people will provide; that it’s not yet her responsibility to provide for herself or for anyone else.
(Also: the less you have to pay in rent, the more you can spend on flights to London. Or should we assume that either Naomi Shropshire or Logan are paying for those?)
So Rory’s financial situation, as much as she whines about it, never has any real stakes. Lorelai still has stakes; even though she has enough cash at hand to pretend to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, she doesn’t have enough money to buy the building she needs to expand the Dragonfly Inn, and is forced to make another deal with her mother: a loan in exchange for a two-week-long visit every summer and a week at Christmas.
(I’ve seen a lot of articles about how Rory’s journalism career is completely unrealistic, but nothing yet about Emily Gilmore’s demand that her daughter and son-in-law, who run an inn and a diner, spend every Christmas week with her. People who work in the service industry don’t get Christmas week off. Plus, how much vacation does Emily think Lorelai and Luke are able to take, if she’s insisting that three weeks per year be devoted to her?)
I was willing to accept that Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life would include characters wearing clothing that they probably couldn’t afford “in real life” or living in overly-luxurious apartments, the kind of thing that TV usually does because it’s pretty. But I was surprised to see Rory coming by her luxury honestly, whether she’s being supported by Logan or deciding that the perfect place to write the first three chapters of The Gilmore Girls is at her grandfather’s old desk.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. When Rory pitches The Gilmore Girls to Lorelai, she calls it a “riches to rags” story—but that’s only Lorelai’s half, and it only takes us up to the first part of Rory’s childhood. Rory’s story is riches to riches; between her grandparents’ money, her dad’s money, and the cash she’ll no doubt receive from Logan after he learns he’s a father, Rory won’t ever have to support herself—and as long as Lorelai’s around, Rory and her daughter will always have a home.
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