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The Male Appeal of Gilmore Girls

Every relationship has certain certainties: it energizes you and enervates you; jokes and conversations take strange, strange turns down roads invisible to singledom; you defend and advocate the things you like with too much gravitas for something like entertainment; and you embrace new things that were outside your purview before—and that thing is most likely Gilmore Girls. This, at least, is how I believe all-male reddit discussions and the Gilmore Guys podcast came to be.

Why do so many men like Gilmore Girls? Ostensibly it’s a pop-culture deluge featuring a mom and daughter growing up in an idyllic town. Nothing about that screams ‘male’. Why have so many grown men (whom I’ve met online and off-) opined about Rory’s best boyfriend, as though it were even a debate? (It’s Jess.) I mean, seriously. I cannot otherwise recall ever having impassioned debates— yes, plural— with other guys about a girl’s love life, fictional or real.

The only conclusion I’ve reached? Rory is your future daughter.

Fathers

The absence of a male father figure in storytelling leaves the door open for a new one; however, due to the gentle nature of our protagonist, Gilmore Girls places the viewer in the odd and rare position of wanting to feeling a bit like the father himself. For those who haven’t seen the show – I don’t know why you’re reading but thanks – Rory is a believable hyper-intellectual, capably growing up with a single mom. Rory’s mother, Lorelei, had her in high school, and thus Lorelei’s at-times grating and floundering character is also believable.

The biological father is unfortunately named Christopher. Whether or not this had any impact on my deep emotional dive into this show is impossible to determine, but it absolutely did. Without the financial and emotional burden of a pregnant teenage wife, Christopher has built a nice life for himself outside of the small town where nothing truly bad ever happens. Rory’s surrogate father, whether he wants to admit it or not, is Luke, owner of Luke’s Coffee Shop and many backwards hats that somehow work on a 40-year-old.

It seems a borderline personality disorder to project yourself as the father of Rory Gilmore. But watch a handful of episodes and you’ll need your scrips; it perhaps has less to do with Rory’s lamblike approach to every new aspect of growing up and more to do with the world that awaits outside the impenetrable bubble of Stars Hollow. “But she’s so brilliant!” you shouted, soon to be taken aback by her psychological breakdown at Yale. This would-be father was not. The world is cold to the dumb and smart.

Mothers

“Mothers? But wait, Lorelei is a single mom,” you say. “Did she have a lesbian dalliance?”

She and Sookie def had chemistry out the waz. But the plural ‘mothers’ here refers to the most perfect creature in all of creation, her wealthy-as-censored-f$#k grandmother, Emily Gilmore. She is doting and concerned about Rorelei in the way that the NSA “checks in” on Middle Easterners. To the extent that Lorelei is unprepared to care for a daughter 50x smarter than her, Emily speaks grandly from a position of an authority flimsily maintained. The only thing worse for Rory than a mother who mostly doesn’t know what she’s doing is advice from one whom is errantly convinced that she does. As a father, you just want Rory to receive a generous grant from the Daughters of the American Revolution and stake out on her own in the city. But not a tough city, like New York. The nice part of D.C., maybe. Or Richmond.

But then again, she has to look after her perfectly healthy mother and grandmother. I don’t know.

The show’s defining attribute is rapid-fire allusion to old movies, TV, music and everything else you absorbed and rightfully pushed to the back of your mind. It’s the only real words-per-minute threat to Sorkin in existence. And even as Lorelei’s water-treading acting gives out from time to time, you relish the writing. As a father, however, it’s tough to ignore how name-checking a band from 1974 that almost made it big cannot supplant actual advice. At 26 I do not even have advice to offer, but knowing someone should is a start.

The most important fact in this embarrassing thinkpiece: Lorelei is an excellent facilitator, possibly even elite. She allows Rory space to grow, she always encourages her to follow her dreams, she is an unwavering source of emotional support, she is Rory’s best friend. (Sorry, Lane. Blame your mom.) Lorelei Gilmore is also an absolute travesty with men. I haven’t had the time to fact-check, but I’d bet the opposite of all her ‘salient advice’ is much better for Rory in the long run. The inner father does not so much want to mansplain as he does want to just say, “Please stop talking. You lead Luke along by the nape, you re- and de-commit to Christopher like an NA member to heroin, and you dated Rory’s teacher.” Being Willy Wonka’d into the television just to tell her these things has tremendous, tremendous appeal.

Boyfriends

Before we get going, Dean is boring and that’s all the ink he gets here. Her other two boyfriends are Jess and Logan. As a father, they are the worst-case scenarios for your daughter and you can bet you’re going to meet them.

Jess came stumbling into town, a misunderstood rebel and low-key ready to fuck up the Silent Nights that Stars Hollowans had enjoyed since 1779. Jess is the boyfriend you cannot stand, begrudgingly accept, and ultimately appreciate. As broken homes seem to not exist in this town, few children know real pain. The extent to which Jess has been hurt, bouncing around from place to place, is the extent to which he has an underlying empathy for those whom are also hurt. But it’s more than that. He reminds you of you. He has an endless path ahead of him as a stubborn, good-hearted man without many guardrails. Like you did, he retains adults’ unsolicited advice in the same breath that he lambastes it. You know he’s the right person for your daughter because you find yourself constantly wanting the best for him as well. Like, separate from whatever may happen between him and Rory. This show aired on the WB.

Logan is the opposite in every way. He appears to make perfect sense for Rory: He goes to Yale, she goes to Yale. She needs male consistency, he has money and status pouring out of his ears. She speaks, he listens. After years and years of hard work, Logan looks like the prize we believe we deserve but never seem to get.

Logan is your worst nightmare.

Essentially he grew up with the family Lorelei would have had, had she not put as much emotional distance between Emily and herself as possible. He pretends to know your daughter because he sees the traits that got her to Yale—the same as his times ten, because she didn’t have rec letters from an archbishop or whatever. Rory did not ascend to reach Logan; in his mind, he descended to find her. The smiles and gestures are those of quiet charity. The unparalleled brilliance of your daughter has become a walking checked-box for Logan. He deigns to teach your daughter what she didn’t learn, as though they were really the things that mattered. He will be polite with you, but every second she spends with him is a second where he tries to replace you. Because Logan did not want for anything, but he did not learn the word ‘enough’. A person like him must be all things to Rory: boyfriend, father, friend, teacher, benefactor, savior. Yes, through severe emotional strain, he finds a crack in her psyche and waits for her outside the ward on a 500-horsepower stallion. After so many cups of coffee and tears spilt and movies mocked from the couch, she now just exists as proof of Logan’s mortal omnipotence. It couldn’t be anyone that he chose: it had to be her, someone already gifted beyond reproach, whom he ‘made even better’. No one must know that, by dint of Logan having life on a platter, he’s just as uninteresting as Dean; the drama, money, arrogance, and gifts must flow. Your liberal daughter is the supporting evidence of a Republican poster boy, apocryphal bootstraps and all.

I think I blacked out. Where were we?

Rory Gilmore

If you’re midway through your third re-watch, and you’ve inserted yourself into various scenes, and you’re no longer even all that ashamed of doing so… you notice that Rory would be fine without you. Sure, her mother is better suited for emceeing Wednesday night trivia at a bar; her grandmother and –father are stodgy and hopelessly antiquated; and the boys always let her down. The men her mother dates let her down, but you cannot argue that all of the people listed above are ultimately positive influences in her life. It’s a system that works despite itself. In an optimistic sense, Rory is the daughter you never had. But she can also be seen as the daughter you could have had. By that I mean it’s bittersweet to watch Rory take on the world with a stream of neurotic females backing her up. You begin to wonder if this perfect child – despite her glaring flaws, i.e. occasionally fairweather emotions – could have been even more perfect with a dad. Or was it that a real dad’s absence created the original perfect person?

Questions like these appear by the bushel, and you can’t blame domesticated boyfriends for wanting to ask.

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About the Author

Chris O'Toole (Colorado State '12, Chapman '15) recently finished a Screenwriting MFA. He has written for Livestrong, CBS, and other publications. Love, hate, and job offers can be sent to: otool102@mail.chapman.edu