In anticipation of the new Netflix mini-season, I’ve been watching a lot of “Gilmore Girls.” And I mean a lot.
In the first few seasons of the feel-good show, we watch as a Bambi-esque, book-obsessed Rory lives alongside her eccentric and fun mother in a strange Connecticut town. The chemistry between the actresses is great, and the show gives you those warm fuzzies in a time where television’s goal is not to give you warm fuzzies.
But I also felt something a little more sinister while watching those seasons. I realized that I had begun comparing myself to Rory Gilmore. As a current English major, I wanted to compare how many classics I’ve read to what she’s read. I tried to compete with her intelligence to justify my own.
Which I realize is pretty ridiculous. I would tell myself that she’s a fictional character, written and created by adults who have probably spent a good chunk of time amassing their knowledge. I understood that when I was comparing myself to Rory Gilmore, I was comparing myself to the brain-child of well-educated adults who had many years on me.
But why did I care so much about being just as good, if not better than a fictional character? Why was my own pride threatened by Rory’s seemingly impossible accomplishment of finishing Moby Dick? Why is this affecting me so much that I want to write about it?
I tried to tell myself that it’s just the competitive nature infused in the water here at Stanford. We view each other as competition, so it’s not that much of a stretch to extend that to fictional characters. But the more I thought about it, I began to realize it goes deeper than that.
Rory Gilmore’s accomplishments as a young girl raised by a single mother seemed to devalue my own accomplishments because I’m supposed to view other women like me as a threat.
We’re told that there isn’t much room for women on the ladder to success. Only a select few of us will be able to make it, and the others… well, that’s too bad. We begin to view the other women as threats to our chances for success, because they’ll “take our spots.” Two girls that were raised by single mothers and love to read is one too many.
Instead of turning our competitiveness outward towards anyone who is competing for the same positions, we focus it on our own communities, whether that applies to race, gender, socio-economic background, sexuality or even interests. We turn our hate to those like us because we’re taught that the world only has a certain number of allotments for certain kinds of people.
This is true especially in our television shows and movies — there’s the token gay best friend, never in a couple form and never identifying anywhere other than gay on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. There’s the token black woman that must be sassy and act as the comedic relief; the woman in charge that needs to learn how to have more fun; the poor kid that’s brilliant and perfect at everything which grants him a seat in high society. There’s only one role for hundreds of people that fit the part. And in real life we subconsciously follow this idea, particularly when it comes to who can and cannot be successful.
But this isn’t right. I shouldn’t have to feel so insecure in my own chances that I begin to feel competitive towards a fictional character. There is more than just one space for the “Bookworm Girl Raised by Single Mother.”
So maybe we need to stop and look around — are we really competing against the people that we should be competing against, or are we tearing down our own communities in order to succeed? Because honestly, there’s room for all of us to be successful. Success may just appear in a different form than expected.
Contact Arianna Lombard at ariannal ‘at’ stanford.edu.