In college, “Gilmore Girls” was a staple for my roommate and me. Night before a final and too braindead to keep studying, or feeling an introverted Saturday morning? We’d hunker down with our morning coffee or evening snack as Carole King’s iconic vocals led off the opening credits. Intent on seeing our tradition through to the end, we watched every season as well as the 2016 “A Year In The Life” special.
As a sophomore bound and determined to earn every A and every extra credit point available, I related to early Rory. I admired her because everyone loved and respected her, and she was consistently the mature one beside her flighty and spontaneous mother Lorelai. But by the end of the series (and even more so by the end of “A Year In The Life”), I couldn’t stand her.
Rory took the love and respect of the people around her and squandered it. Used to being revered, she took for granted that her view was always right, opening herself up to glaring moral blind spots (like, infamously, sleeping with Dean and wrecking his marriage).
As her sense of self-importance grew, so did her sense of self-pity. Anytime she didn’t get what she wanted (even as a 32-year-old in the 2016 special), she threw a tantrum worthy of a spoiled teenager. With narcissism came painful smugness toward everyone who wasn’t in the elite, Yale-educated, pampered shoes of Rory Gilmore.
Rory dreamed of becoming a journalist, and the original show’s treatment of the media establishment’s atmosphere when it aired (2000-2007) is interesting because it’s a vestige of the self-serious, Walter-Cronkite-esque media world in which CNN was still assumed to be objective and fair. But the corporate media establishment is no longer Walter Cronkite’s turf, and its arc toward the self-inflated, pompous, and out-of-touch cabal it has become today is remarkably akin to Rory’s fall from grace.
Like Rory, the corporate press used to be respected. Just like Miss Patty and Taylor Doose and Babette and the rest of the town running to Rory for her opinion on the latest town festival, America looked to journalists for the final word on what was happening around the country and the world. Outlets were trusted, assumed to be knowledgeable, and taken as reliable.
Then, just as Rory took that respect for granted and stopped earning it, the corporate media got complacent. They still see themselves as the hallowed arbiters of truth they were once thought to be, but instead push politically efficient lies and propaganda with the smug assumption that Americans will buy it because they said so. The pages of Twitter are now just as much an echo chamber as Rory’s self-congratulating mind.
Just a few examples: Defenestrating conservatives for suggesting the Wuhan coronavirus could have come from a lab leak, only to (months later) quietly backtrack after realizing those suggestions might have been right. Covering up and lambasting as false news about Hunter Biden’s incriminating laptop right before the 2020 election, only (again) to eventually have to stealth-edit those claims. Standing in front of a burning city and calling the riots involved “mostly peaceful.”
Targeting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a baseless smear campaign that even the Democrat mayor of Palm Beach County called “intentionally false.” Cheering what a competent, expert job Joe Biden would do in withdrawing from Afghanistan, then looking like idiots when he completely botched the withdrawal. Lying about what happened in Lafayette Park in June 2020 and inventing scandal after scandal to bring down former President Trump.
The corporate press, like Rory Gilmore, will not be unconvinced of its own omniscience, even as example after example proves how wrong they usually are. Instead, they award themselves accolades. The corporate media, after all, are “democracy defenders” — just ask the Washington Post’s Perry Bacon Jr. Meanwhile, they touted as actual hard-hitting news the love affair they carried on with now-disgraced New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including the giggly segments with giant Q-tip props that Cuomo did with his CNN anchor brother.
Then, like Rory’s tantrums of self-pity when she decides she doesn’t want to go to Yale anymore or has boy troubles or shoots her own career in the foot or gets upset that the man she’s cheating with (Logan this time) is engaged to another woman, the corporate press has its meltdowns. There was the time a sitting U.S. senator wrote an op-ed in The New York Times calling for the military to help control the violent riots that swept the country for an entire summer, and NYT staffers complained so loudly about the article putting them “in danger” that the paper retracted the article post-publication. Just recently, there was the time the Associated Press put out a baseless hit piece on DeSantis and got Twitter to suspend DeSantis’s press secretary when the story met blowback.
Finally, there’s the noxious looking down on everyone else. Rory looks down her nose at everything from a solid job offer at a newspaper she doesn’t deem elite enough to the wisdom of the people around her. Meanwhile, the media establishment shrugs off as unenlightened rubes the hardworking Americans who either voted for Donald Trump, live somewhere between the coasts, still believe in God, acknowledge boys and girls are different, or — heaven forbid — all four.
They also get morbid glee out of mocking the deaths of COVID-19 patients who chose not to get injections, and haughtily appear to think taking selfies of themselves getting the shot is the key to convincing the rest of the country to do the same. As The Federalist’s Emily Jashinsky noted, “These sort of legacy media journalists think of their audience as sheeple who must take instruction from us.”
Unfortunately, that attitude permeates the corporate press far beyond the topic of vaccines. Like Rory, the media establishment sees itself as the golden darling, unfazed by the dumpster fires it’s constantly setting by its willful ignorance and brassy arrogance.
It was always Rory’s dream to become a journalist. Whether she succeeded, sitting at the editorial desk of the nearly-defunct Stars Hollow Gazette, is up for debate. What’s glaringly obvious, though, is that in the meantime, the modern corporate media became Rory Gilmore.