A Musing on “The Handmaid’s Tale”

So, I’m loving Hulu’s production of “The Handmaid’s Tale”. But I do have one nagging irritation, which isn’t their fault. In fact, it’s in the source material, and is the underlying foundation of the story, so, really, they couldn’t “fix” it.

Here it is: this is a really stupid way to address a fertility problem

Yes, yes. I know the story is really the subjugation of women via an authoritarian government using some vaguely Christian bullshit as their excuse, but they really do have a fertility problem. It appear that, at a minimum, the entire continent of North America has one.

So. Their solution? Round up all the fertile women and subject them to sex during their “fertile time”, apparently using some bullshit rhythm method.

I get it. The horror of the story is ratcheted up by forcing women to endure a ceremonial rape every month. I don’t have a problem with it as a storytelling device, really. But, as I scientist, I call bullshit.

If I was going to subjugate women AND try and fix a fertility problem, here’s how I’d do it:

  1. Round up all the women between the ages of 16 and 40 who have either had a child, or are young enough that they haven’t tried to, yet.
  2. Using standard treatments for infertility, get them all on hormones to control their cycles and stimulate ovulation of multiple eggs at a time.
  3. Retrieve eggs, perform IVF to generate as many embryos as possible, then transfer 1-2 embryos per woman back.
  4. Freeze the remaining embryos, or transfer some into women who didn’t produce eggs/embryos.
  5. Repeat.

This is gonna be a lot more effective than “natural pregnancy” induced by having sex a couple times a month when you think someone “should” be fertile. It doesn’t look like they’re using any ovulation prediction methods – I mean, would it kill you to

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The Bubble

Two posts in two days? Well, I had some thoughts on the way to work, so, yeah.

If you’re a liberal (or progressive, if you prefer, but I’m a traditionalist, and I’m going with “liberal”), then you’ve almost certainly heard the argument that liberal elites live in bubbles isolated from the “real world”, which explains their “out of step” views and morality. That is, if we lived in “Real America”, we’d be more like everyone else.

Okay, so this is mostly a bullshit argument. Except for the part where some liberal views are, indeed, out of step with much of America. The thing is – we tend to be a step ahead. That’s where the term “progressive” is useful.

I got to thinking about this in more concrete terms today, as I was driving to work, listening to a podcast from my local PBS station (gosh, SO liberal). The podcast was called “Ask a Muslim”, and it was literally that – they had a panel of Muslim experts (one Imam, one university professor, and one stand-up comic who does outreach using the title “Ask A Muslim”). This all-Muslim panel answered some very basic questions about Islam as a faith, and as a culture, and then took questions from the phone lines and e-mail.

I didn’t learn a lot that was new, in fact. I was pleased to find that my perception of Islam isn’t all that far off-base. One thing I did learn, though, that surprised me, was that the Muslim community in the U.S. is so small that most Americans don’t know a Muslim. (Or, perhaps, don’t know they know one.)

This surprised me, because I currently have at least three Muslims in my lab – the ones I’m sure of are all women, but I think two of the men are, as well. I don’t ask, because it’s none of my business, as the boss, how or if they worship. But the three women are open with it.

The three women run the gamut: one of them dresses like I do, and religion doesn’t appear to be a significant part of her daily life. Another wears a headscarf but otherwise completely “western” apparel, and is clearly a bit more observant. The third is covered from headscarf to feet in traditional clothes, and has spent many half-hours in my office discussing Islam and the role of education in the faith with me. So, not only do I know several Muslims in “real life”, I know a wide variety of “types” of Muslims. Just like I know a wide variety of “types” of Christians and “types” of…well, pretty much everyone.

So the fact that Muslims in the U.S. aren’t monolithic wasn’t a shock to me, but it got me thinking about my “bubble”. I interact with a minimum of three Muslims on a daily basis. “Real” America interacts with none.

If you look more closely, this is true of other groups that are frequently demonized in American society, too. I know quite a lot of gay people, and have been to one of their weddings. One of my colleagues is a lovely transgender woman with whom I’ve had many discussions about parenting. These discussions are interesting, because she was her children’s father when they were young, and, again, this is an open and “out there” part of the conversation.

I could go on. Now, let’s be up front about one thing: I don’t claim to be free of racism. I’m a white woman in the United States of America, and racism? You’re soaking in it. But I do think I can say: all of mine is unconscious, and when it becomes briefly part of my consciousness, I admit to it and try not to do it again.

So, my “bubble” – it’s the San Francisco Bay Area, and it’s full of people who aren’t like me. My bubble is probably the first or second bubbliest in the nation, though I suspect Manhattan is similar. Liberal “bubbles” are the melting pot you heard so much about in elementary school.

So, what does this mean? Well, it means that I’m used to the idea that everyone isn’t like me. It doesn’t bother me, most of the time. It means I’m not afraid of Muslims. I’m not weirded out by transgender people. I’m not bothered by a person wanting their personal pronouns to be “them” and “their” because they’re gender nonconforming and would rather you didn’t box them in as male or female.

It means, further, that the Muslims I know are not afraid to be themselves. They expect, given the “bubble” to mostly be treated as people rather than caricatures. It means that my colleague is happy to discuss her life before and after transition (incidentally, even in the Bay Area, this wasn’t always “safe” – she had some really bad times in the 80’s and 90’s). It means that not only do I get to meet people who are not like me, but I get to learn about those people. It means they’re willing to talk to me about their experiences and their community. It means they invite me to their weddings and parties.

So, “Real America”, then. What’s that?

It appears to be a place where the vast majority of people, most of the time, are alike (or pretending to be alike). And, again, before I go further: I fully acknowledge that there are LOTS of awesome people in Real America, people who aren’t afraid of folks who are different. But bear with me: if you don’t know any Muslims, there’s a much higher chance that you have the propagandized image of them. I’ve had a few people tell me I’m just “lucky” that none of the Muslims in my lab and classes have never tried to murder me. I’ve had far more tell me that, sure, they know there are “good Muslims” that aren’t like the rest.

Okay, guys, “the rest” are the vast majority. Most Muslims are like most Christians – that is, they are varied and individual, and, by and large, peaceful and kind and good neighbors.

Similarly, if you’ve never known a transgender person, you might have been thinking how “weird” my discussion of parenting with a parent who used to be male and is now female was. Get this: to me, that’s not “weird”. It’s just “lunch with Mary”. (Note: her name is not Mary. But I didn’t ask for permission to use her real name.)

What living in the “liberal bubble” does is protect you from a fair number of overt biases. It teaches you to live with people who aren’t like you. And, further, this includes groups I haven’t discussed. By and large, getting along with conservatives who disagree with me is easier when we both live in the bubble. Because we both expect to be disagreed with.

So, remember when I said liberals in bubbles (cities) are a step ahead?

Interracial relationships became acceptable, then common, in cities first. Then elsewhere. Now the majority of Americans agrees with those of us in the bubble. Same for homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Same for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. We get there first…then the rest of the culture follows. Not always as fast as we’d like.

So, what’s a bubble? It’s a place where we’ve tossed in a little bit of everything, and, yeah, I think those of us in bubbles are a bit arrogant about it. But I also think we come by it honestly – our way, in my opinion, is better.

If you’re afraid when you see a Muslim in an airport, wouldn’t you prefer not to be? My advice: find a Muslim and get to know them. If you’re afraid of transgender people in bathrooms, wouldn’t you prefer not to worry about it? Find a transgender person and talk to them.

Finally, the notion of the “bubble” is that we’re somehow isolated from the real world. Really? How so? There’s more of the real world per square mile where I live than in most of America. We’re the ones who aren’t isolated from difference. The country would be better off if more people listened to those of us in “the bubble”.

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Wonder Women

So, two things before we begin. First: SPOILERS are possible below. Likely, even. If you haven’t seen Wonder Woman yet, you might skip this one for a while. But there’s going to be some non-WW ranting first.

Second: this is going to be fairly stream-of-consciousness, possibly even more so than my usual non-academic writing. So, you know, you’ve been warned.

We’re in what feels like a weird time, politically, culturally, and pop-culturally, as women.  We fully expected, last November, to elect the first woman President of the United States. I don’t particularly care if you don’t share my opinions on Hillary Rodham Clinton – I think the woman is brilliant, I think she’s kind, I think she is one of the most qualified candidates ever to run for President, and I don’t buy most of the criticisms of her that have been floated over the course of 30 years – just so we’re clear, negative comments about any of that won’t get past my filters.

But we didn’t do that, did we? We elected the most unqualified man ever to seek the office in a serious way. We elected someone the polar opposite of everything liberal, progressive America stands for. And that includes an intense misogyny, a desire to put women back “into their place”. It’s horrifying, frankly. And the news media? Still trying to put the blame for her “loss” onto Hillary Clinton. Never mind that she got 3 million more votes than he did. Never mind that she got more votes than ANYONE ELSE in the history of the Presidency, except Barack Obama in 2008 (and the turnout was higher that year). And never mind that turnout was lower than previous years because of voter suppression efforts in precisely the states she lost but should have won if you look at Obama’s maps. And never mind that there was Russian interference in the election, and she STILL GOT MORE VOTES BY A HUGE MARGIN.

Despite that, we’re stuck with the Misogynist In Chief. It’s a hard thing to get used to, when you really believed a majority of your country had moved past this crap.

Culturally, then, the “being a woman” thing is also strange, because, in the U.S., white women, at least, have it better than any other women in the history of the world. We are, for MOST intents and purposes, regarded as independent, adult humans – which has typically not been true for women through most of world history. There are issues, yes – white men still meet in boardrooms to decide what sort of healthcare is appropriate for women, as if we’re children who can’t decide for ourselves. (Hint: if you believe someone is an adult, you GET THEIR OPINION about decisions that affect them. You even use that opinion as a key component of the decision-making process. Maybe by having lots of them on these committees of yours, assholes in Congress.)

We still face daily challenges that men don’t. The list is long, and annoying in the extreme. For example: women in my field still get told that, if they have children while on the tenure track, they might be seen as not taking science seriously enough. Or they’re advised to “plan to have their babies in summer” – like that’s a thing you can really do. Do you think men ever get these sorts of comments? (Hat tip to Janet Stemwedel, of SJSU’s Philosophy Department, for bringing this incredibly obnoxious aspect of academic culture to my attention again this week.)

We still can’t walk safely alone at night, and if we are assaulted, people are still apt to ask, “Why was she walking alone at night?” Again, dudebros, a tip: people should be able to walk alone any time without fear. The real question is why you think women should be appropriately considered targets and should have to live in fear.

There are numerous other examples, which I’m not going to discuss here. I have other posts you can probably read about this.

So, yeah. We are in a good place, historically, the women of America, and that makes the ways in which it still sucks to be a woman all the more obvious to us.

Pop culturally…there’s an interesting trend the past couple of years. Almost a backlash, in some ways, against dudebro culture. Lots of feminism pervading movies and television. Lots of attempts to begin to balance movies and TV out. (Did you know that only 17% of women in crowd scenes in films and TV are women? Did you know that 75% of speaking parts in movies and TV go to men?) And, yeah, it’s sad that attempts at balance automatically read as “feminism”. If you try to make your art resemble the real world, you’re a liberal, a feminist, even “pandering”.

So. This past couple of years, there have been two Star Wars films with female leads (though it should still be noted that women are still massively underrepresented in these films). The new Ghostbusters was gender-flipped. (All of these choices, especially the Ghostbusters thing, caused massive dudebro hurt feelings on the internet. Which made me love the movies all the more.) Supergirl (the television series) is unapologetically feminist. The Handmaid’s Tale is a grim view of where a large part of the American government (the GOP, let’s be frank, here) would like to put women, with a side of, “Oh, by the way, you can’t oppress people without having some of the oppressed population helping you.” Oh, yeah…even The Walking Dead has a “women are going to save the world” thing going on lately.

Which brings us to Wonder Woman. You will have noticed that most superhero movies are dude-heavy. (Or you may not have noticed – that’s the thing about cultures with baked-in biases – you don’t notice them until you start looking for them, often.) When there is a woman in a superhero movie, she’s one woman surrounded by five or six men. (See for example: The Avengers. I love The Avengers, but they have the usual dude-to-chick ratio problem.)

Wonder Woman will eventually be subsumed in the same way – she IS part of the almost-all-male Justice League, after all. But Wonder Woman, the current movie, is all about the women. Strong, confident women abound, from our hero, to her family (the all-female Amazon culture from which she comes), to Etta Candy (Steve Trevor’s secretary and, in the comics, Diana’s best friend), to, yes, one of the two major villains (Doctor Poison).

Also, the way in which Diana is “feminist” is striking. She simply is who and what she is, and she has no time or patience for the “rules” of WWI London society. She was raised not to know about her perceived secondary status in most of the rest of the world, and she’s not having any of it – to the point of not even acknowledging that “it” exists. She’s an adult, and she’s going to be making her decisions as an adult, and nobody is going to tell her otherwise.

She isn’t “resisting” sexism. She’s impervious to it. And it is glorious to watch.

Because isn’t that how we all want to be? I know I would love to simply reject the crappy misogynistic soup I walk through on a daily basis, and substitute my own, better version of reality. And, to a degree, that’s exactly what I do. But you can’t always just pretend it’s not there…unless you’re Diana of Themyscira.

So, yeah, a long digression to get around to: it rocked, for all the usual reasons, and for a few that are specific to being a woman in 2017.

It’s an interesting time to be a woman in the United States. We’ve progressed a long way in just 100 years, and there’s a cultural backlash that’s profound and painful. And then…there’s the pop cultural backlash against that. “You’re unhappy about women having power and personal agency? Here’s some art I just know you’re gonna hate. We made the Ghostbusters women and ruined your childhood!”

I have nowhere else to go with this. I just find it interesting. Now, I gotta go. I have experiments to design, papers to write, and the patriarchy isn’t gonna smash itself, you know.

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Happy Birthday To Me

Not yet. Not for a week. But I have had One Of Those Semesters, and may not find the time to do this in the next seven days, while I do have a few minutes right now.

So, I will be 44 years old next Wednesday. Out of college for a full half of my life (somehow that seems relevant as we approach graduation here at SJSU).

How’s it gone, so far?

Overall, pretty well.

Since I finished college, I:

Met the love of my life, earned a Ph.D, got married, completed a postdoc, had two amazing kids, got a tenure track job at a place I generally love, bought two houses (sold one), funded my lab to a level that’s pretty uncommon at SJSU, and was tenured.

It’s a lot, even for 22 years.

A few not-so-great things have also happened, of course. We lost my dad far earlier than we should have. Friends have died or been widowed (mercifully few, but nonetheless). We elected an incipient authoritarian dictator President of the United States. Climate change is a thing we should really look to.

But…to quote Joe Walsh (the good one, not the psycho deadbeat dad former Congresscritter), life’s been good to me (so far).

There is ONE thing that I’ve done recently that I wouldn’t have predicted 22 years ago, though. When I got tenure, I promised myself I’d start exercising again. I hadn’t exercised regularly in…almost 7 years, since my daughter was born.

Exercise for its own sake isn’t part of my personal culture, or at least it wasn’t until recently. I have always been tall and thin, and so the “exercise to keep fit” argument didn’t really affect me when I was younger. When I was in graduate school I played Ultimate Frisbee for a few years, and quite seriously some of the time, but let’s face it: that was REALLY about spending time with/sharing interests with my future spouse, not because I wanted it for my own sake. Yes, yes. Shut up.

Anyway. The benefits of exercise, even if you don’t need it for weight maintenance, are well-established, and I was entering middle-age. Also, I wanted to do something for me…just for me. Not for my kids, or for my job, but for myself.

In August of last year, the week my kids started school, a few months after I was notified of tenure, I started running. At first, I could run only 3 or 4 minutes at a stretch, and for a total of 20 minutes even with walking intervals. I managed maybe two miles on a good day.

I kept at it, using an app designed to take couch potatoes like me and train them for a 5K. I completed it in eleven weeks (it was designed for nine), just before the holidays set in.

So, here we are, nine months later. Nine months later, and I have run 3 days a week for the vast majority of the intervening 39 or so weeks. I had some downtime for a nasty cold in February, and take a week off here or there to avoid shin splints and other injuries. But I’ve done it: exercise is a habit.

I don’t hate it anymore. I look forward to it. Which, hello, super weird.

I now run at least a 5K three times a week, and I do it in about half an hour. I have no doubt that I could train up to a 10K if I could spare the time…but I can’t spare the time for an hour three days a week, unless I want to get up at 5 a.m. Which, no.

But, hey, I figure that 15-16K per week is more than enough to keep my middle-aged bones and cardiovascular system in good shape.

What I’m most proud of is this: I didn’t stop when work tried to stop me. I’ve tried to do this before, and always, always, work would become overwhelming and I’d stop. Like clockwork, week 8 of the semester would roll around and I’d just give up. But not this time.

I triaged other things instead. Stuff at work didn’t always get done exactly when it should have.

So, yeah: my exercise story dovetails with my work-life balance story. Balance is important.

So, my Big Accomplishments of Year 44: Moving to a new house, getting tenure, and running a 5K three times a week.

Now, if we can just get out of this Schrödinger’s Cat of a political situation: is it a collapse into authoritarian rule, or is it the early dissolution of a truly inept attempt at fascism? Feels like it could go either way. Not comfortable, me, with the GOP getting to decide which way it goes.

How was your year?

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Tolerance

Of late, I’ve had more than a few bigots present me with the argument that their bigotry is merely a difference of opinion, and that, as a liberal preaching tolerance, I should have equal tolerance for that opinion.

Nope. Noooooope.

This is one of those “your argument is logically flawed, and I think you know it but have decided to pretend it’s not” moments. Here’s the flaw, in case you are of this particular mindset and come by it honestly:

The notion that bigotry of the sort that would drive one to, say, vote for Donald Trump, or root for the Supreme Court to overturn the legalization of marriage equality is “just a difference of opinion” is false. A difference of opinion is this:

Me: “I think gay people are, you know, people, and the right to marry is a fundamental civil right.”

You: “I don’t think gay people are normal, and the right to marry only applies to people in normal relationships, so I don’t think they should get married.”

Me: “You’re a bit of a douchebag, but whatever.”

That’s a difference of opinion. However, when you say this:

“I think that gay people shouldn’t have the right to get married, and I’m going to vote for a dude who is going to do his best to enshrine my particular prejudices in law and force everyone to believe what I do…”

That’s beyond opinion. You are taking action to force your opinions on the behavior of others.

“But, but,” you say, “You want to force ME to believe that being gay is normal! And to act like your opinion is the right one! You want to make laws, too!”

Well, yes and no. Yes, I do want to make laws to protect others’ civil rights. Got me there. But those laws don’t force you to be gay. They don’t prevent you from getting married. They don’t force you to be nice to your married same-sex neighbors. They don’t force you to not be a douchebag.

You are, in fact, completely free to keep acting like a douchebag. You’re just not allowed to interfere with the choices of others while doing so.

This is the difference: when your “opinion” extends to making policy, then it’s not “just” an opinion anymore. It’s an action.

I am not tolerant of actions I disapprove of morally. My liberalism doesn’t say I need to be. I don’t have to be okay with you wanting white supremacy enshrined (even further) into law. I don’t have to be tolerant of you wanting a racist to be Attorney General. I don’t have to be tolerant of you voting for a pussy-grabbing grifter to be President of the United States. I don’t have to be tolerant of the Rules of the Senate applying only to women who are Senators.

What you’re not getting, people-who-think-tolerance-extends-to-every-damn-thing-you-say, is that actions have consequences, and that tolerance of those actions helps the fascists and the racists and the sexists.

When it comes right down to it, everyone believes their opinions are right, and differing opinions are wrong. Otherwise…there’d be no opinions. So, yeah, I do think I’m right, and you’re wrong, when we differ. But if it’s because you like sushi and I don’t…whatever. But it’s it’s because I like black people and you don’t…well, the level of wrong I think you are increases by an order of magnitude.

And you’re damn right I am intolerant of your attempting to force that wrong opinion on me and everyone around me. And I will fight to force you to keep your damn opinions off of my body and my country.

TL, DR version: Opinions start being actions when you start electing Nazis based on them.

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Gilmore Girls, Part III: Emily

Wow, it’s been a while. Remember back before Trump was inaugurated? That was nice.

But I have a series to finish here, and also I have a movie review AND a book review waiting in the queue. I can’t be all politics all the time.

So, when last I blogged, I discussed the embarrassment that Rory Gilmore had become in “Gilmore Girls: A Day In The Life”. Bad at her job, bad at relationships, bad at being an adult…not doing well, at all. Today, we have a happier story: Emily.

So, again: SPOILERS! Big, honkin’ spoilers for “Gilmore Girls: A Day In The Life” (if you haven’t seen it yet, though, this is likely because you don’t have Netflix streaming and are borrowing it from a sibling of mine. (Hi, Mom.)

So, it seems a bit strange, maybe, to say that Emily’s story is a happy one. After all, the story here begins with the death of Emily’s husband of 50 years, Richard. (Made necessary due to the death in 2014 of Edward Herrmann, the fine actor who portrayed Richard.)

You might expect Emily’s life to be a mess…she was, after all, a professional wife. She married Richard straight out of college, and made his home for him. She ran the “social” side of his business, and maintained their high-caliber social life. That was her job, and she was very good at it. So, when Richard died, so did most of her life as she knew it. You might therefore expect her to be rootless and floundering once he was gone.

You’d be right…at first. Emily spends a lot of the first couple of episodes of the miniseries trying to figure out who she is. She starts seeing a psychologist (which goes better for Lorelai than it does for her, honestly). She hires AND KEEPS a maid, who is not particularly competent by Emily’s standards, but who is a good person with a wonderful family  (this whole bit alternated between delightful and weirdly racist, honestly). She takes to her bed for a while, sleeping until noon. She decides to sell everything she owns, turning up wearing jeans and one of Lorelai’s old T-shirts. All of this screams, “Something’s WRONG with Emily!”

Except…there’s nothing wrong. Emily has been Emily GILMORE for 50 years, and she never really got to be Emily The Adult by herself, at all. We don’t even know what her last name was before she became a Gilmore Girl. What Emily is doing in these scenes is discovering that whole parts of her identity aren’t her, at all – they’re parts of Richard, parts that she has no further use for now that he’s gone. The house, the furniture, the clothes, the servants…suddenly, she’s not sure what it all means. Over the course of a year, she figures out that…it doesn’t mean anything.

This all culminates in my absolute favorite scene in the entire series: Emily’s Bullshit Moment.

Emily is at a meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution, interviewing a prospective member who is the…was it fourth?…wife of a dude who’s important in their social circle. The woman is clearly what we derogatorily refer to as a “trophy wife” – a third his age, with big hair and big boobs, which she doesn’t keep well-covered. The other DAR ladies lead the woman along, trying to be polite to get her out of the room before they start gossiping about her and reject her membership. And then…Emily lets loose.

“You’re not getting in.”

She then rips the DAR ladies a new one, about how they’re doing exactly that: stringing the woman along because they want her husband to be happy, but the entire thing is just a big pile of…wait for it…

BULLSHIT.

A word that she says several times over the course of the next two minutes. It. Is. Amazing.

The DAR ladies take their leave of her, and she takes a cookie and walks away, never to look back.

This is where Emily Gilmore becomes…Emily. Whoever that is. She does sell the house, and all its contents. By Fall, she is living in a new house in Nantucket, has a new man in her life, and is working as a docent in a whaling museum, scaring the bejesus out of the kids who visit. Oh, and she still employs the same maid and her family.

I loved Emily’s part of this. Her relationship with Lorelai isn’t really an issue here, for once. Her relationship with herself is. And Emily, alone of the Gilmore Girls, really does seem to know how to move ahead. She knows how to grow up. She’s done it a couple of times, now, and she takes her steps forward with confidence and grace, and just a little profanity.

I love Lorelai. She is my spirit animal (along, again, with Temperance Brennan). I have grown apart from Rory – she needs to do some serious work on herself, and is taking after her mother in ways that maybe she should have tried harder to avoid.

But Emily? Emily is my hero.

Okay, that was quick. For next time, I’m either gonna talk about Arrival, or The Last One (a novel I just finished). We’ll see…

 

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Gilmore Girls, Part 2: Rory

A few weeks ago, I wrote the first post in a series about the new Gilmore Girls series, A Year In The Life. That one focused on Lorelei, and you might remember that I was pretty okay with where she wound up.

Again, spoilers. Major, big-time spoilers. Don’t read any further if you haven’t finished it.

Today I’m gonna deal with Rory. And if that sounds like I’m a mom preparing to level consequences on a teenager who climbed out her bedroom window at night, there’s a reason. Rory is a hot mess.

And she’s 32. At 32, you should be getting your shit together. Ideally, you should have it mostly together. Rory finished college almost ten years ago. She graduated from Yale with a journalism degree. She was off to travel with Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. She’d just chosen herself and her career over marrying her boyfriend and moving to Palo Alto (where there is a perfectly respectable newspaper nearby, the San Francisco Chronicle). Rory looked all set to take over the world.

Except she didn’t. Nearly 10 years on, she’s floundering. She’s had (recently) one well-received article, which, if I understand correctly, was a short piece that isn’t what we expected from Rory when we left her in 2007.

So, let’s recap Rory. Rory Gilmore is the brilliant daughter of Lorelei Gilmore, born when her mother was just 16, and raised by Lorelei in the snow globe known as Stars Hollow. She  transfers, in the first season, to a very expensive private high school (Chilton), which is supposed to be her road to Harvard and the life Lorelei never had due to getting knocked up in high school.

Rory succeeds despite a few stumbles along the way, and is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a smart kid. She has some trouble adjusting to the expectations of a high-performing private school after being in public school, but manages just fine. She winds up valedictorian and accepted to pretty much every Ivy League college there is, and chooses Yale for its journalism program (among other things on an extensive pro-con list).

She also does well at Yale, with the expected mistakes. She takes too many classes early on and flounders in a couple of them. She has some trouble settling on her future, and a somewhat disastrous internship that ends so badly that Rory decides to steal a yacht (more on this in a minute), gets community service, drops out of Yale for a term, and moves in with her grandparents and joins the Daughters of the American Revolution, but, as always, she gets it together in the end, and seems set for a bright future.

As far as Rory’s personal life, she has bad taste in men. This is expected at the age of 16, though, so we cut her a break. Her first boyfriend, Dean, is a nice enough guy. He treats her well. As her mother says, he’s “just about the best first boyfriend you could ask for”. But he’s not even close to as smart as Rory, and he’s very needy, and so, when she meets Jess, the Bad Boy who is smart and needs nobody, she gets bored with Dean and dumps him.

Jess is…exactly the kid you don’t want your 17-year-old dating. He’s a little punk. He’s smart, but he thinks he’s better than school. He’s got no direction. He’s emotionally messed-up due to absent parents. He’s awful. And Rory totally goes all-in for that “he’s horrible to everyone but me” thing that teenage girls are known for.

The Jess thing inevitably implodes, but, again, this is all typical for a girl like Rory. Where things go off the rails for her is after she starts college and takes up with Dean again. Such a bad plan, not least of which because, well…he’s married by this point. She sleeps with a married man, breaks up his marriage, and then, months later, remembers why she broke up with him in the first place. He’s not smart enough for her. He can’t keep up. So she dumps him. Again.

For Logan Huntsberger. Who, full disclosure, is my choice of Favorite Rory Man from the original series. Yes, he starts out as a drunken, immature rich jerk, but he has hidden depths. He manages to change. To grow up. I always liked him (I guess he’s my type of Bad Boy), and I loved him once he became Adult Logan. Ultimately, though, Rory screws this one up, too. Because she doesn’t want to base her future choices on the dude in her life (solid choice at 22, even if I’m not sure I concur with her decision here), and also because, like Lorelei, she doesn’t EVER want ANYONE else to tell her what to do, or have any influence over the direction of her life. Seriously, the inability to merge their lives with another human is a serious deficiency for these Gilmore Girls. Of them all, only Emily has managed it (but Emily’s post comes later).

At any rate, Rory makes bad romantic choices. This is part of her established character, but, again, something we expect to have gotten better by her 30s.

Flash forward to the new series. Rory is trying to figure out where she fits in, for the entire series. She is homeless, having given up her apartment in New York, and is shipping her stuff to a bunch of places, places where she can crash for a weekend, or a week. Her mom’s house, her best friends’ places (Lane and Paris), and, as it turns out, Logan’s place in London.

So, at the age of 32, Rory is living as a roving, permanent houseguest? She tries to present this as independence, saying this is the time in her life for her not to have roots, but, honestly: no. Your thirties are a time for roots. The previous decade, that was when she should have been doing her rootless independence thing. We 40-something women who have watched from the beginning were not fooled.

Rory is trying to find work…at first, work that isn’t “beneath” her, by the look of things. There’s a somewhat trashy website that’s been pursuing her, but she’s not taking that meeting, because she wants to work for Condé Nast (after doing pieces for the New Yorker and the Atlantic, I guess she thinks that’s what she’s owed by life?). She gets a meeting with the editors of, apparently, GQ, and ultimately takes on a story idea they like…and she hates. She is, apparently, incapable of being professional after taking the story (she falls asleep during an interview, ferchrissake), and winds up sleeping with a source. So her bad romantic choices continue, too (and that’s not the worse of them by far).

She ultimately takes the meeting with the website, and doesn’t bother to prepare for it, leaving her at a job interview that she thought was some sort of coronation, it seems. Her lack of professionalism loses her that job, too, on top of the insult to the woman who runs the site.

This is pretty much where Rory is. She is not great at her job, but thinks (because she’s always been the Golden Girl) that certain types of jobs are beneath her. Her old headmaster suggests she might come back and teach at Chilton…oh, no. That’s not who she is. But apparently who she is, is someone who takes on the editorship of the local Stars Hollow paper for zero pay. Someone who spends money and time flying to London to pitch a biography to River Song (okay, not River Song, but a fascinating and annoying woman played by Alex Kingston), rather than preparing for an interview.

So, Rory, what 30-something women know is this: you take any job you can get in your field rather than be a rootless unemployed person. You work that job and use it as a way to move to the next job. You’re REALLY bad at this adulting thing. But you USED to be better at it. It’s weird.

On the other front, the thing she’s always been bad at: men.

Rory has a boyfriend. Sort of. For two years. Sort of. His name is Paul, and we see him for a few minutes in Winter. But she treats him so badly that you want to scream. She forgets about him – forgets he’s IN THE HOUSE, once. She’s been meaning to break up with him forever, but just can’t be bothered to take the time. It’s not clear what she ever saw in Paul, who, ultimately, is just a plot device and comic relief.

Rory is also sleeping with Logan. Her trips to London to see River Song are mostly just cover for her trips to sleep with her engaged ex. They’re clearly not really over one another…and just as clearly, he’s not gonna leave his fiancé to be with her. This is Dean Version 2.0 – maybe she thinks if she just has sex with Logan enough, he’ll leave his fiancé and take up with her again?

So. Rory is cheating on Paul, and in the process, enabling Logan to cheat on his fiancé. Awesome. In almost ten years, she hasn’t learned a single thing about relationships. This one is, frankly, less surprising. Her mom is terrible at relationships, so Rory had a really bad role model in this area. Rory also has no real interest in involving a man in her life (at the level of altering her life to suit the relationship), so what’s the point in having rules and investing emotional energy in a real relationship?

Oh, and she sleeps with a source. A dude dressed as a Wookie. Just as an aside, cheating on Paul again, with a random dude she met WHILE WORKING.  ARGH.

So, Lorelei improves. She…grows up. Finally. Does Rory?

She starts to. She decides to write a book (“Gilmore Girls,” ahem), and it is, apparently, pretty good. She starts talking to Jess again, which helps. (Did I mention that the new series made me Team Jess, a fact that I am not entirely comfortable with? But Jess…he grew up.)

But then…those Last Four Words. The Last Four Words that were intended all along, but were postponed for a decade. The Last Four Words that might have been acceptable for Rory The 22-year-old, but which just make Rory The 32-year-old all the more annoying and sad.

Rory is pregnant. We assume by Logan, who is her version of her father, Christopher. Instead of Getting It Together, she’s gonna continue to repeat her mother’s mistakes. And it’s just not that cute on a 30-year-old woman.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I know this was Rory’s destiny all along, but…I also feel like she deserved better than how they wrote her for this series.

Okay, so. Next time, I’m gonna tackle the third Gilmore Girl: Emily.

 

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