Gilmore Girls showdown: Paris vs. Rory

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.

Warner Bros. Television / Via

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?

Warner Bros. Television / Via

Warner Bros. Television / Via

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.

The CW / Via

The CW / Via

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?

A tale of two humans

At my core, I am a storyteller. I think in story. I see story. It’s my most instinctive language. And thus I have a story today, about you.

You work at a company you love and today you get to choose a new hire. You have two resumés in front of you. The two applicants have the same degree and graduated the same year. Thomas graduated from a state college with decent grades, but not a lot of extracurriculars. William graduated from an Ivy League with stellar grades supported by a solid list of internships and glowing recommendations.

William seems like the obvious choice, right? After all, he worked hard enough to earn excellent grades and invested in his future through internships. He’ll certainly be an asset to your company.

Let’s go back a little. Back to high school. Both Thomas and William grew up in two-parent homes, the oldest of three children. Were you to administer an IQ test, they would score about the same. They’re both intelligent and hard-working.

But there are a few differences.

William attended a private school where he excelled. Every night he studied and completed his homework. On the weekends, he did volunteer work, and in the summers, he participated in unpaid internships. When the time came for him to take the SAT, he had a tutor who helped him with the latest tips and techniques.

Between his excellent grades, stellar SAT score, and impressive internships, he had his choice of top-tier colleges. Because he had a college fund, William was able to focus on studying during college instead of working. Thanks to his grades, he was offered competitive summer internships. By the time he graduated, William had both excellent grades and the praise of his professors.

Thomas attended a public school. Neither of his parents had college degrees, so they both worked lower income jobs that covered basic expenses, but not much else. To help his family and earn some money for college, Thomas got a part-time job in the afternoons after school. On the weekends, he babysat his younger siblings any time his parents had to work.

Because of limited study time, his grades were decent but not extraordinary. When the time came for him to take the SAT, he studied on his own and earned a slightly above average score, enough to earn him admission to a state college and a small scholarship. To cover additional costs, Thomas worked part-time while attending school full-time. Because of his work schedule, he wasn’t able to take advantage of additional study groups or other extracurriculars, but he managed to make solid grades.

Two intelligent young man. Two incredibly different experiences resulting in unequal resumés.

It’s tempting to believe the U.S. is a meritocracy, that the smart and talented people have the opportunity to rise to the top. In some ways, that’s true. Both William and Thomas had access to education and the possibility of college. They were given access to the same mountain. The difference was, thanks to William’s family’s wealth and connections, William had a ladder to help him start the climb, and a safety harness, so he was able to go for what he wanted without risk. Thomas, however, had to start climbing from the ground and he was free climbing the whole way—no harness to ensure his safety.

That, my friends, is the impact of privilege. And it can be a perpetuated, and often invisible, cycle. If everyone looks at the resumés and digs no deeper, William will get an excellent job and Thomas will get an average one. If Thomas has any school loans to pay off, he’ll have even less to live on and if he hasn’t had a credit card, his credit score will be low or non-existent, meaning he won’t be able to buy a house. If he buys a car, his interest rate will be higher, which means even less money.

These two young men started the same climb with different supplies. And when the resources and tools are different, the entire journey can be different. What seems like a simple financial advantage—a private school education and a college fund—can impact an individual’s entire life.

And that’s before you even consider the impact of other discriminatory factors like race, gender, age, and appearance.

So then the question becomes . . . how can we fix the problem?

To be honest, I don’t have the answer. I’m not an expert in the impact of socioeconomic factors. But I do know we can’t fix a problem unless we see it, stare it in the face and acknowledge it. It starts with looking past the surface, past the resumés, past the summary points of a human. That’s something we can all do, an opportunity we all have the power to offer.

And maybe one day, generations from now, people will start climbing that mountain with roughly equal supplies. Heck, maybe they’ll even give each other a hand up that mountain. Now that would be something, wouldn’t it?