(Warning: Gilmore Girls spoilers ahead)
The final four words and you rethink everything you know about Rory Gilmore.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is a 4 part episode event that aired nearly 10 years after the original Gilmore Girls series ended. Many fans believed that these new episodes would bring closure to the open ending of the series, but instead, it raised many philosophical questions that left the show on a cliffhanger that made viewers question their beliefs about life, family, and the mistakes we make.
Amy Sherman Palladino, the writer and director, had always intended for Gilmore Girls to end with these final four words from the very first season:
Since the last season was written by a different writer (due to contract disputes), the plot twist of Rory getting pregnant was put off 10 years from how it was originally intended. While Rory being pregnant at 30, rather than early twenties, did alter the story line slightly, the intended effect was still the same. Through this revival series, Palladino argues that children will make the same mistakes as their parents regardless of the best efforts of the child or the parent. While this theme is portrayed throughout the entire series, old and new, this surprise ending really drove the nail into the coffin. Palladino makes her argument by using several different rhetorical strategies throughout the show, to persuade the audience of the arguments authenticity. These strategies are done well, but the point that she is trying to get across, is ultimately fallacious.
While Gilmore Girls is still an enjoyable show for me to watch, the fallacious argument that concluded the series made me question negatively everything I knew, and thought I knew about the characters, especially Rory. This twist ending makes viewers question things in the lives of the Gilmore girls and evaluate their own lives, something that perhaps Amy Sherman-Palladino wanted to evoke in the viewers all along. If only she had found a way to convey this point to the audience in a non-fallacious way, her argument could have been much stronger and more convincing.
History Repeats Itself
When considering how and if Palladino's argument applied to me personally, I couldn't help but think of my own mother. In many ways, I look like, and act like her, but I am not her. We both have different thoughts, make different choices, and make different mistakes. The argument is made that children make the same mistakes as their parents; “the element of history repeats itself — the daughter [follows] in the mother’s footsteps” in the words of Amy Sherman-Palladino(Highfill). This idea turns the mistakes we make, and disadvantages we have, into cycles, with each generation continuing the pattern. This argument led me to question: Can cycles of disadvantage really be broken, or are children doomed to make the same mistakes as their parents as argued in Gilmore Girls?
My first immediate response to that question would be an abrupt “No!” but as I began to start researching this topic,I became more open to the ideas I was investigating.
I first discovered a short report about how the cycle of poverty is related to unplanned pregnancies in teens and young women. Research shows that “nearly half of all teen mothers live in poverty….the social, health, and fiscal impacts are profound”( Flucke 18). This article offers insight into breaking different cycles (poverty in this case), but it also focuses on the main problem that faces the main character of Gilmore Girls: unplanned pregnancy. We know from the episodes prior to the revealing of Rory’s pregnancy, that she has absolutely no money at this time. A baby can be a financial burden when a woman is young and has no job, or has a low income job. This same principle applies when an older woman has no job or husband to support her and her baby. This article offers a solution to the problem of poverty by explaining how contraceptives can prevent unplanned pregnancy so young girls can create a more financially stable when they do decide to have a baby. While this sounds like a great idea, it needs to be pointed out that the solution is a only a preventative measure, and it cannot fix what is already done. It is apparent that there are ways to avoid this cycle, avoid poverty, and avoid unplanned pregnancy, but I am sure that Rory wanted and tried to avoid these things. Why was she unable to break that cycle that others are able to?
The Cycle Of Violence
The next source I found is about the cycle of violence. This article looks at how children who experience or observe violence become more likely to be violent as adults. This source's research is primarily on whether or not the cycle of violence can be escaped by treating the individuals with therapy. “Findings suggest that psychotherapeutic experiences after experiencing childhood physical abuse may decrease the likelihood of perpetrating violence in adulthood” (Maxwell 251). Reading this greatly changed my perspective on the topic I am researching. It proved there is a way to decrease the likelihood for adult violence. While reflecting on this, I suddenly began thinking about the people that receive counseling are still violent as adults. Even with effort being put it to make sure that violence isn’t something in their future, many people still succumb to it. Why is that? Is it because those people do not care if they are violent, or they do not put in the the personal effort and work to avoid it? Maybe that is the bigger issue here, not that people can’t break these cycles, but that they don’t care whether or not they do.
Throughout the course of my research, I discovered many things about whether or not children can break the cycles they are thrown into by mistakes and family ties. Sherman-Palladino clearly believes that children make the same mistakes as their parents, regardless of the effort put into preventing it. This is a cycle of mistakes that we see with all sorts of different disadvantages in our lives. While these cycles prove to be very hard to break, it is possible to with a lot of preventative measures and determination to avoid these issues. There seems to be multiple factors that plays into effect when someone is trying to break a cycle, but it is apparent that the people that do end up breaking cycles are the ones that put the most effort into to doing so.
While I do not agree with Palladino’s argument, it does have a little bit of validity to it. Morals are taught to kids primarily from their parents, so if a parent doesn’t have an issue with drinking large amounts of alcohol, then why would their child have an issue with it? However, the argument that Palladino is making goes farther than that and is a lot more extreme than that, which is why I disagree with her. She doesn’t just argue that a parent that drinks a lot will likely have a kid that drinks a lot, but her argument is more similar to saying that a parent that gets into a serious or fatal car accident because the were drinking and driving will have a child that also gets into a serious or fatal car accident because they were drinking and driving. While I do see how a big mistake could make a child more susceptible to making that same mistake, I can also see the flip side. A child can also look at a parent's mistake and decide that they do not want to do anything like that and take that example as something not to do. They are both cases of learning by example, but one sees it as a bad example and one sees it as an acceptable example.
Palladino is trying to make a point with Rory’s pregnancy. That children are doomed to make the same mistakes as their parents made before them. Her mother, Lorelai, got pregnant at 16 years old and it drastically affected her life. It affected her job and future career, who she would have married, her relationship with her parents and with her family. But despite all of the difficulties of raising a kid, when she still basically was a kid, she did her best to provide for her daughter and give her the best opportunities that she could. It was apparent in Lorelai’s parenting style that she did things very unparallel from the way she grew up, but she tried to teach her daughter to not make the same mistakes as her so that she would have the opportunities, choices, and freedom to all the things she couldn’t do. This seemed to work very well through high school as Rory attended Chilton, a high statute charter school, and decently well throughout her years at Yale, but when Rory graduated and no longer had her mother with her to guide her as much, she slowly began to make mistakes comparable to that of her mother. The moment that Rory revealed her pregnancy, Rory’s similarities to her mother as a teenager became more obvious, giving the audience a moment to look back and realize how similar she was to her mother all along.
I dislike the argument that Palladino is trying to make here, that children make the same mistakes as their parents no matter how hard they try not too. That argument has a feeling of helplessness to it, almost like you are skydiving blindfolded. You are falling and you know that you are, but you don’t know how fast or when you will hit the ground. I believe that children have the choice to make their own decisions, whether they be good or bad. If I person is trying very hard to avoid a certain mistake, than the will avoid it. They have their own agency and can decide if they want to do something or not. Rory did not get pregnant out of wedlock because her mother did also, its because she made poor choices that lead up to that.
Rory Gilmore made mistakes, including a big one that is going to influence her decisions for the rest of her life. Amy Sherman Palladino implies that it wasn’t really her fault, that she would make the same mistakes as her mother did many years before her because that’s how life is. I do not agree with that statement. While a parent’s decisions and mistakes might alter the way that a child acts, it does not always mean for the worse. A child can learn from those mistakes or they can not. But either way it is up to us, because decisions and mistakes are not left up to chance. Only we can choose what to do with our own agency.