Now, on to Gilmore Girls!
Structurally, this triangle’s about as classic as they come, your standard Girl/Good boy/Bad boy setup. I have a soft spot for it because it was the first one like it that I connected with as a girl, but to this day I think it’s one of the best handled of its kind.
The exceptionally written dialogue of Gilmore Girls certainly helps a lot. Admittedly, it often causes me to overlook the show’s flaws, but in this case, it adds a lot to Rory as a character, a lot that’s often missing from characters acting as the apex of a love triangle.
She’s sharp, funny, and all-around cool enough to make it uncommonly understandable what both boys see in her. And as exceptional as she is, she’s still a believably confused and inexperienced teenage girl, making it also uncommonly understandable how long she allows this unfair, uncomfortable situation to drag out.
Okay, okay, enough about Rory. We all know what people watch this kind of love triangle to see. We’ll start with the good boy, Dean.
Even though their relationship is still in the fairly formal, nonphysical phase, Dean responds very clearly by wrapping his arms affectionately around Rory during the girls’ questioning.
How could anyone compete with that? Meet the bad boy, Jess.
Sure, he’s got that charm, and he’s genuinely, passionately in love with Rory, but he’s also unreliable, forever wrapped up in his own problems. He gets into fights without provocation, alienates Rory’s friends and family without a thought, and generally acts almost entirely on id-driven impulse.
Easy choice, right? Jess is the guy you lust after on TV, Dean’s the one you want to marry. Except…
Dean recognizes Rory’s intelligence and potential and tries his best to respect it, but he can’t relate to it. The best he can do is display angelic patience while she pours over college prep material and spends recreational hours browsing the bookstore. He can’t talk to her on her level about most of what she does.
Guess what? Jess can.
As hard as Dean tries not to, at his lowest moments, he resents Rory’s ambition. It’s a problem she thinks she can overlook, until she gets a glimpse of what it’s like to be understood.
In the end, it’s a deal breaker. Not that that cancels out all of Jess’s problems. It doesn’t.
So who does Rory end up with?
Neither of them. The deep flaws that make the triangle so balanced and intense also make both relationships impossible. After all, if either of them had been the one, it would have been a lot harder to believe that the other one had a chance.
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