I thoroughly enjoyed Swells’ analysis of the strengths and weaknesses between 5th seed Rory & Paris and 12th seed Jenna & Tamara.
In fact, I agree with many of her points. There definitely is an issue with both friendships being less than two-way. Although, I think that this is an issue we will encounter time and again. The nature of story-telling usually entails a single leading character. While many stories (television series included) are ensemble acts, a single, or few, characters emerge as the primary focus. For representations of women, we are lucky to have one multidimensional leading figure.
But, I digress. Rory and Lorelai obviously get top-billing in Gilmore Girls, and, adding further competition, they are surrounded by a memorable supporting cast—many of whom actually have fully developed personalities, as well. But, Paris (even among the Stars Hollows denizens) is a force of nature.
While initially appearing on stage as a somewhat one-note antagonist, over the course of the series she manages to endear herself (frustrating traits and all) to the characters in the show and, I believe, the audience at home.
I mean, think of her some of her best lines:
[Rory and Paris are running inside to get out of the pouring rain]
Paris: Out of the way! Move, move, move!
Girl in the dorm: Is it raining?
Paris: No, it’s National Baptism Day. Tie your tubes, idiot!
And, then, there’s that speech heard ’round the world:
Paris: I’m not going to Harvard. I had sex, but I’m not going to Harvard.
Oof, and her neat take-down of both Jess (the original annoying hipster, amiright??):
Paris: The Beats’ writing was completely self-indulgent. I have one word for Jack Kerouac: Edit.
Paris: Typical guy response. Worship Kerouac and Bukowski, god forbid you pick up anything by Jane Austin.
And then there’s her relentless ambition and the conviction that she is the one writing her own story. Not luck, not family, not anyone. From the first, at Chilton…
Paris: So I told her, “Look missy—”
Rory: You called your advisor “Missy”?
Paris: It was attitudinal.
…to the end, as she figures out her next move after undergrad.
Rory: You don’t need this. You’re going to be a doctor!
Rory: And a lawyer.
And there is Swells’ favorite quote (if I recall correctly):
Paris: No, Rory, this great man was not brought down by my vagina.
But, alas, this is not about Paris. It is about Paris and Rory. While Lane is set up as the life-long, child-hood friend (and will appear in a later match-up), Paris and Rory develop together such that they are constantly bumping together, grating and ill-fitting, and, then, before they know it, they fit together once more. They are never the same, despite pursuing similar paths. They are never entirely opposite, though, either.
Paris is definitely presented to the audience as needing Rory time and again, whereas Rory seems to approach their friendship with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. (Though, one could argue that that is just Rory being Rory, floating through life, focused on her personal goals, engaging with others when they are in front of her face, but forgetting about them once they are not present or are not critical to her immediate life.) I mean, and this echoes Swells, as well, Rory “tries” with Paris in the sense that, when Paris is constantly thrown in her path, she doesn’t, I don’t know, trip her or something. For the most part, however, Paris is doing the real heavy-lifting of their friendship.
For Rory, Paris is eternally there. As in, surprise, I arranged for us to be roommates! And I’m not sure Rory deserved all the accolades people seemed to shower her with simply for being Paris’ (only?) friend. Like, congrats? Here’s your halo? No. I’m not down with that. But, still, they do have each other’s backs when no one else does. They support each other’s ambitions. They share intellectual interests. They share disdain for much of the population (this is my favorite). And, after Tristan, they never shared love interests again (which is nice for two female characters).
In fact, as another writer, Shirley Li, has observed over at The Atlantic, “Ambition, not men, more often drove their fights.”
Yet, they were not really frenemies, either.
In fact, Mallory Ortbert over at the Toast, wrote a convincing manifesto that Rory and Paris were the true epic love story of Gilmore Girls. Far from fanfic (though that exists for the two, as well), she argues in a nuanced manner that:
“The mutual respect, admiration, and trust that sprang up between Rory Gilmore and Paris Gellar was hard-fought and slowly earned; theirs was a friendship forged and refined slowly over the years… Watching them hurt and forgive and betray and restore one another throughout their time at Chilton is one of the most hard-earned redemptive arcs on any show I’ve ever seen.”
In fact, she compares the two to Anne and Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables,in that they begin as adversaries and end in love, and, more convincing to me, Ortbert writes that, “competing with each other academically was still just as important to both of them as that love.” In addition to this, lest we forget (#neverforget), they even don the garb of star-crossed lovers early in the show.And, as Ortbert reminds us (not once, but twice): “They play Romeo and Juliet opposite one another. They play Romeo and Juliet.”
Yes. So good. Like many of those in Gilmore Girls, their banter was great. I always felt that both Paris and Lorelai provided the manic-antics that allowed Rory’s dry comedic timing to really shine. This quick response by Rory was just so… Rory.
Paris: I slept with Jamie. Last night, after we talked.
Rory: Was it something I said?
Though that exchange could also be read as typical of Rory’s seeming prudishness or sexual repression. I mean, she really seemed to struggle discussing anything physical, sexual, or romantic. I frequently felt that she was rather asexual. I can’t count the number of times she refused to discuss something with another character. But that could be another post.
Moral of my story, is…
As much as I love Awkward. and Tamara, in particular, because, gawd, her manipulation of language is really a thing of wonder. (In that vein, she reminds me of Penny on Happy Endings, who is likewise responsible for ridiculous catch-phrases, pronunciations, and performative-valley-girl-ness.) Jenna and T, like many high school friends, fight over boys. That isn’t really a mark against them. Honestly, in the most recent season, I was fairly annoyed with their friendship. In one of the later episodes, T basically leaves Jenna hanging out to dry among their classmates for something that they both (or mostly T) did. She finally, finally, stands up beside (and for) her friend at the prompting of Jake (Jake?!). She almost redeems herself in my books by telling everyone to stop being such “harass-holes.” Harassholes! Classic, T. But, mostly, I don’t think they have enough in common to sustain a lasting adult friendship.
I’m going to come down HARD on the side of Rory and Paris.
VOTE MY WAY! RORY + PARIS = TRUE BFFs.