Anyone who has watched Gilmore Girls for more than one episode has strong opinions about the characters. There are team allegiances based on the boyfriends of the two main characters, anger toward certain plot lines, and passionate ideas about what some of the characters could have become. Those of us who are fans of the show are eagerly anticipating the Netflix revival so we can find out where our favorites are now.
And in the spirit of that anticipation, I decided to host a showdown between two characters who tend to elicit strong opinions from the viewers: Paris Geller and Rory Gilmore.
The two meet during their sophomore year of high school, when Rory transfers in to the private school Paris already attends. Immediately, a rivalry is sparked that eventually morphs into a complex friendship/competition that fascinates us all.
As she is one of the leads of the show, let’s start with Rory, shall we?
Oh, Rory. She’s like an earnest, smart puppy. She’s a sweet, dorky kid who’s unabashed about her love for books and her need to make stellar grades. She’s got great witty comebacks and she genuinely cares about people. Everyone likes her. What’s not to like?
But she’s not just likable—she’s accomplished too. She’s student council vice president at a prestigious private school and later becomes the editor of the Yale Daily News.
Pretty impressive credentials, right?
Sure. Except, when you examine those accomplishments, most of them can’t be attributed to Rory herself.
It isn’t Rory who thinks “hey, student council VP sounds like a great opportunity to gain leadership skills.” Nope. It’s Paris who, upon running for president, realizes she isn’t likable enough to win and needs someone more approachable on the ticket. Paris basically begs Rory to run. So sweet likable Rory agrees, as a favor to Paris.
(I have to wonder, though, how smart could she really be if she has no idea extracurriculars are important? As an overachieving student, let me assure you, every one of the top ten students in my graduating class was in at least two clubs.)
And then you have her position as editor of the Yale Daily News. Since journalism was everything Rory ever wanted to do, you’d think she’d be gunning for that editor spot. Except not. She got the position as a compromise candidate when the vote was split between three others and one of them recommended her.
So while it seems like Rory is ambitious, it’s more accurate to say she’s got people around her who help her achieve her goals, who push her toward great opportunities. And while she’s smart, she’s a bit of a delicate flower. When one person announces that she doesn’t have what it takes to make it in journalism, she doesn’t just have a mini, eat all the ice cream meltdown, she has a major felony-committing breakdown. (And I gotta tell ya, girlfriend, if you can’t handle the criticism of one man without breaking down, you’ve just proven him right.)
Although ambition may not be her greatest talent, she is undeniably kind, always participating in Stars Hollow’s wacky events and treating people with courtesy. She’s a good friend, sneaking her best friend books and music. She knows how to work hard, and she studies like nobody’s business. And she’s incredibly loyal to her family, including her Stars Hollow family.
And then there’s Paris Geller.
Oy, Paris is intense. And she’s mean to Rory at the start, so most viewers immediately dislike her. If Rory is a puppy, Paris is a panther. She’s not cute and cuddly—she’s smart and tough and she’ll rip apart anyone who gets in her way. She has dictator-esque tendencies that can occasionally spiral out of control, an abrasive honesty, and an intense level of perfectionism. And unlike Rory, she doesn’t have an entire network of supportive, loving people around her.
Paris is in high school when her parents get divorced. They don’t even show up to her high school graduation—it’s the nanny and the nanny’s kids who are there to cheer for her. Then her family goes bankrupt when she’s in college. And she powers through, in true Paris style.
Talk about ambition, there isn’t a leadership role Paris doesn’t want. She’s a strategist, sizing up the competition the moment she walks into a room. If she makes some enemies on her way to the top, so be it. And although she makes enemies quickly, she’s fiercely loyal to the few people she calls friends.
While Rory is having a breakdown during their senior year, crying on the bathroom floor about her future after graduation (because apparently it’s a complete surprise that she’ll soon be a college graduate with a major in journalism?), Paris is creating a ridiculously comprehensive plan/schedule for senior year. For both of them. So they both will have options for their future. Delicate flower, meet steel magnolia.
Speaking of her future, when Paris has to make an important decision about the direction of her life, she becomes afraid her boyfriend may unduly influence her decision. So she breaks up with him because she’s not about to make a decision based on a boy. (Major contrast to Rory who nearly didn’t go to Chilton because she was interested in a new boy at her school.)
Of course, Paris’s boyfriend comes back and makes it clear he’s there for Paris and he will adapt to her choices. (Smart man!) Paris is ambitious through and through, and she doesn’t care what people think of her. She goes for what she wants and she doesn’t worry about how other people will react.
Rory is sweet and likable. She’s incredibly kind. But if you ask me who I want in my corner, it’s Paris. No contest. Because while Rory may buy you a book and hand you a Kleenex when you’re crying, Paris will help you plan your life and take down anyone who gets in your way.
So yeah. I’m Team Paris.
What about you?