Friday, April 27, 2018

The Gilmore Project: "The Lorelais' First Day at Chilton"

The Project:

The Gilmore Project is an experiment in composition form. As a huge fan of the show Gilmore Girls, I have watched and rewatched the episodes several times over. During my last full viewing in early 2018, I noticed myself watching the show differently than I had in the past and realized that there was a lot of personal reflection being stimulated by the events of the show as well as the music and cultural references. As a result, I decided to start a journey in blog form...exploring each episode and how it resonated with me personally. 

Disclaimer: If you have not watched Gilmore Girls but plan to, you'll want to watch each episode before reading these posts. There will 100% of the time be spoilers. I'd be doing this wrong if there weren't. That's the nature of the beast.

The Episode:

Rory: So, why are you insisting on doing this?
Lorelai: Well, because you’re starting private school tomorrow.
Rory: Yes, but I’m going to be wearing shoes. Nobody’s going to see my feet.
Lorelai: Okay, but everybody knows that private school girls are bad, and bad girls always wear red nail polish.

It's Rory's first day at fancy private school Chilton and Lorelai wakes up late due to a malfunctioning fuzzy alarm clock (yes, fuzzy). This results in her inability to make it to the dry cleaner before dropping Rory at school and ultimately puts her in the situation of meeting the headmaster while wearing a pink tie-dye shirt, denim cutoffs, and cowboy boots. And of course her mother, Emily, is also there...because, why not?

The day's awkwardness continues for both Gilmore girls as Lorelai faces off multiple times against Emily, who is consistently trying to "help" with getting things for Rory for school. Meanwhile, Rory's transition to her new school is not going very smoothly. She is given a disheartening speech from the headmaster, is met with hostility from highly competitive classmate Paris, and faces a day full of annoying advances and being repeatedly referred to as "Mary" (as in the virgin) by flirtatious Tristan.

The Lorelai Angle:

There wasn't a lot for me in this episode from the Lorelai perspective. Sure...we've all had crap days where we wake up late, can't find the right thing to wear, or the day just seems to be full of speed bumps. But...there wasn't much I connected to from a specific issue. This is bound to happen from time to time. 

The Rory Angle:

It was the Rory storyline that clicked with me this time around. Ah...high school. I think for a majority of people high school just...well...sucked. It's not something that most would care to repeat (though trading adult responsibilities for teenage ones could sometimes seem appealing). It's kind of a rite of passage.

On this initial exposure to Chilton, Rory has run ins with Paris (who begins to set herself up as something of a nemesis from this very first day) and Tristan (an incredibly annoying bad boy Lothario). I don't have experiences that line up exactly with hers, but I can definitely say that high school was no picnic for me. I, for the most part, kept my nose in a book. I was sometimes ridiculed for this (though bullying was certainly a bit less forthright than it seems to be these days and my teasing or hazing experience was comparatively minimal). I enjoyed learning, but I didn't enjoy the cliques or the feeling of being on the outside. Despite this, I can readily say that I wouldn't likely change anything about how I approached high school itself if given the chance for a do over. There are some minor choices here and there that likely would change, but I wouldn't suddenly go from wallflower to social butterfly. It's just not my style.

The big, fiery moment of the episode for me was earlier on. Rory's day at Chilton begins in Headmaster Charleston's office, where he spouts a litany of warnings about how difficult Rory's transition will likely be. He focuses on everything terribly negatively and even has the gall to state that Rory will likely fail. I sincerely hate educators who have such a pessimistic way of approaching students. Not only is a situation a bit of a hot topic for me, I can see it from both the Lorelai and the Rory perspectives. First...let's discuss the Rory side.

When I returned to college a few years ago, I had an accounting professor who seriously discouraged me. I had been considering the field of accounting since I was in my first few years of undergraduate education...nearly twenty years prior. The professor did nothing but make the entire class feel stupid and worthless with his constant disparaging comments and the fact that he acted surprised (and sometimes overtly disappointed) that we couldn't all understand the concepts within the quick few minutes he introduced it. As a result, my grade in that class reflected how much I was doubting myself and I lost the interest I had in a subject that had considered for a career path for nearly two decades. I think it's incredibly important, as an educator, to be a good one. Teachers should lift up and encourage their students, not destroy their loves and dreams.

I can also understand this situation from the perspective of a parent. It most strongly resonates me in terms of how Darian (my now 15-year-old stepson) has been faced with a difficult instructor. I’ve been repeatedly angry at his approach to his students. He doesn’t seem to understand how much they have going on in their lives, nor what their priorities should be. The class in question is an elective and yet this teacher seems to think that his students' time should be 100% focused on this sole class. It's not a realistic expectation at any level of education, but these impressionable teenagers especially should not be faced with such excessive pressure. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't expect instructors to coddle their students. I'm all for making sure that students are being responsible and devoting ample attention to their studies, but one elective course can't require such a focus. This instructor expects that his course is important enough to be superseding all other academic pursuits while simultaneously forgetting that these children also have to balance time with their families and (sometimes) jobs...oh and maintaining a bit of a semblance of childhood. 

As with my experience, the result of this constant pressure and his teacher's unrealistic expectations has been that Darian has lost his love for this particular elective...something that honestly pains me to see as he has a great amount of talent in the field. It's frustrating, but I can understand Darian's feelings (though I hate to see him give up a skill that he shines in) there's no sense in convincing him to continue to pursue it under the current circumstances.

Back to the Lorelais...Charleston’s words are cruel and unnecessary. He knocks Rory down before she is even given the chance to start. Why start a child off with such a bad taste in their mouth? Why give them such a negative outlook on their possibilities and their capabilities before even getting to know who they are? There is a time and a place to stress the responsibilities required of something challenging, but this was not it. He could have easily presented to her the reality that her transition could be difficult without being so discouraging. My anger seriously does not fade with repeated viewings. In fact, I simply find myself wishing to reach through the screen and slap him...or at least yell at him sternly.

The Gilmore Project continues...


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