The CW Network’s Gilmore Girls came to a warm and inoffensive conclusion this past Tuesday. The finale gave everyone pretty much what they hoped for: a chance for the wide pastiche of character actors to take a bow, another windfall of a cameo (Christiane Amanpour), a big kiss, and a goodbye.

Like most fans of the series, I enjoyed the frenetic pace of the dialogue—I have an aunt who loves the show both because of and despite of that, being that she generally has no idea what they’re actually talking about through the tirades of “cultural references.” Indeed, it’s hard to think of a program that rewards watchers more for being plugged-in consumerists.

Like everyone else, I also enjoyed the interplay between the two leads.

When they were together.

Rory was always a touch too perfect to be interesting on her own.

I think Paris was a deliberate commentary on that perfection, or at least its unattainable nature for women: she was the person Rory would have been were it not for the necessities of network marketing. (Liza Weil had originally auditioned for Rory.) If Gilmore Girls was a show about characters, tragically, Rory was never allowed to be one: she was more of a vehicle, a blank slate of quiet, effortless perfection for launching one boring romance after another. That’s what female “stars” exist for, after all; it’s the female “characters” who get to have all the fun.

Her perfection—and the utter imperfection of her suitors, all cast from the underbellies of various fourth grade princess fantasies—made the prospect of any relationship for her an ugly impossibility. As the show was a drama, and mother and daughter could never be lucky in love at the same time, it meant for a lot of adolescent romance that is best fast-forwarded through.

It’s disturbing to think that a show celebrated for a mother and daughter relationship often didn’t really have a daughter in it, but rather someone to set up punch-lines. Some like to blame Alexis Bledel for that. But it wasn’t her fault that Rory was the consistently least interesting female character on the show.

If I were to blame anyone or anything for that, my finger would point first to the ideal of feminism that supposedly progressive types are peddling on cable these days.

Joss Whedon, especially, gets a lot of credit for crafting “feminist-friendly” fare. And to a good extent, it is, even if scare-quotes are still necessary. Thematically, cinematic “feminism” has to differ from its real-life inspiration. Yes, some of these contortions are necessary to get female-centered programming onto the screen at all.

But men like Whedon also have their own ideals of what a “real” feminist is. Whedon’s friend Rob Thomas drives that stake even deeper with his Veronica Mars, where his feisty girl-detective is out tasering the bad guys while the school feminists are navel-gazing over theory and leveling false accusations against frat boys.

Back to Gilmore Girls:

Paris Geller is the ugly feminist, just funny and vulnerable enough to be palatable, enjoyable in short doses only with Rory as a foil. She is selfish, venal, and pursues her perfection with ruthless diligence.

Rory Gilmore is the post-feminist, plucky like some flapper heroine, who can make the world right just by being herself and bootstrapping her way through it. Somehow she always winds up on top by putting others first.

reading is sexyGilmore Girls’ creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, notwithstanding, it seems like a lot of men have a vested interest in promoting Rory as the ideal feminist. “Reading is Sexy, ” after all. (A hipster t-shirt design she sported on the series once.)

Thankfully, they at least gave Rory the dignity of avoiding a marriage to her gadfly prince-charming, even if the end result made the final few episodes feel more than a little bit like a middle school career-day film: you too can join the fast paced world of journalism! It was sad enough to watch Lane sit on the sidelines of her own dream.

And by “they, ” I mean the season’s producer, David Rosenthal, who replaced Sherman-Palladino and her husband. In contrast to Rory and her effortless perfection, always sitting still in class with the posture befitting a Good Girl, Rosenthal is proof that a man can be a living train wreck and still receive the very best of second chances.

Prior to his installation as Gilmore Girls’ show-runner, he reportedly had a past of intense misogyny.

Televisionary.blogspot.com recounts his story as follows,

“The guy quit Spin City in order to concentrate on writing a play about his desire to have sex with Heidi Klum, ” Julia told me. “Dropped out of TV completely to do this. He pretty much had a breakdown, dropped out of society, and became the madman writing a misogynist play. He lived like this until his dad read the play and actually had him committed.”What?!? After speaking to Julia, I did some more digging. Rosenthal had in fact written a play called “Love” about his quest to get supermodel Heidi Klum to have sex with him. Reviews of the play, which apparently contained so many profanities that it rated an NC-17, were not kind. The New York Times called Rosenthal’s play “not only offensive but incompetent” and said that the way that Rosenthal talked about Klum—whom he had met during a guest stint on Rosenthal’s show Spin City—was “as cruel and disgusting as actual stalking.”

The New York Times reviewer wasn’t the only one perturbed by Rosenthal’s play. Rosenthal had sent copies to his then agents at Endeavor—Ari Emanuel and Richard Weitz—who promptly dropped him as a client. His rabbi father, after reading the play, had Rosenthal briefly committed at UCLA Medical Center. Wait, what?

….

In 2001, Rosenthal appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show and spoke about the incident.

This is the guy they brought in to give Gilmore fans their happy ending.

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