Gilmore Girls and Two Faces of Giftedness

May 1, 2016

by Nicole LaChance

As a die-hard Gilmore Girls fan dating back to the show’s original run, its coming revival has me very excited. It seems like there is a new article on some aspect of the show every day, from fashion choices to boyfriend debates to behind-the-scenes trivia.  While re-watching a favorite episode, it hit me that one thing I have never seen addressed is the giftedness of two of the characters and the contrasts in how it is manifested.

Rory is a teenager who would be considered “gifted” by most traditional definitions of the word. She craves knowledge and grasps concepts easily. As her grandfather put it, “This girl could name the state capitals at 3, recite the periodic table at 4, (and) discuss Schopenhauer’s influence on Nietzsche when she was 10.” Rory clearly has an advanced ability.

In the first episode of the series, she leaves the local public high school, Stars Hollow High, to attend the prestigious, academically-challenging Chilton school. After initially struggling (especially socially), we see Rory find her place and thrive among students of similar ability and drive before eventually moving on to Yale University. Rory ends the series having had many opportunities to pursue her interests, both academically and personally, in a stimulating environment.

In contrast, we meet her eventual high-school boyfriend Jess. He demonstrates an ability to learn quickly, is constantly reading and always seeking out new knowledge, characteristics that attract Rory. He also has an apathetic attitude toward school, is socially isolated and shows a lack of long-term goals, all signs of a gifted underachiever, according to the 2e Newsletter. He eventually drops out of high school due to boredom, spending years achieving way below his potential.

So what is the difference between them? Why does one gifted student thrive and the other flounder? Perhaps it is their support systems, or lack thereof.  A paper by Sally M. Reis of the University of Connecticut notes that family problems and home environment can affect the achievement of gifted students.  Rory comes from a home with an extremely supportive mother and grandparents willing to do anything they can to help her succeed. Her gifts and interests are encouraged and celebrated by those around her. Jess, however, comes from a tumultuous home where he is often overlooked. He lacks the same opportunities and support to find his “tribe” that are available to Rory. Would Jess have thrived if he, too, would have had the chance to learn in an environment like Chilton?

Unfortunately, Jess’ situation is all too real for many gifted students. So much potential has been wasted in children who may not even realize their true ability and lack guidance in discovering their unique gifts. We as a community must help identify and nurture these children to reach their full potential before it is too late, whether that be through classroom intervention, mentoring programs or a change in how we measure giftedness. Perhaps one day we will live in a world where gifted children like Jess only exist in fiction.

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Nicole LaChance graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in Journalism before moving West in pursuit of milder winters. Prior to joining the IEA team, she spent time working in marketing for an architecture firm and completed two years of national service in the AmeriCorps program. Over the past few years she has worked with nonprofits to communicate their message and impact to the world around them, work she is excited to continue at IEA. When not at the office, she enjoys reading, cooking, traveling wherever she can and making bad puns.

This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop Giftedness in Pop Culture. Please click the image below to keep on hopping!

Gilmore Girls

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