The #TeamJess Phenomenon

Since the regrettably disappointing revival of Gilmore Girls last November,there has been a surge of fanfiction, montage videos and Instagram accounts constructed to make up for the woeful lack of Milo Ventimiglia’s Jess Mariano in the highly anticipated return. The four part mini-series claiming to be ‘a year in the life’ of the beloved mother and daughter duo in leafy Connecticut town Stars Hollow was underwhelming and self-indulgent, not to mention a little riling when the forever intelligent and ambitious Rory was ultimately made a product of her romantic decisions. And, more importantly, when those romantic decisions did not include the fans’ favourite bad boy.

jess mariano
Milo Ventimiglia as Jess Mariano

#TeamJess is undeniably the most passionate group of shippers, and that seems to be simply justified in the ‘bad boy’ theory – also in the ridiculously attractive smirk of Ventimiglia that has earned the actor places on multiple ‘World’s Sexiest Man’ lists. That is a vote I’m sure the entire GG fanbase will agree with.

In terms of their relationships with Rory you can also go more black-and-white: she outgrew Dean, her all-too-perfect first boyfriend, and he cheated on his wife to take her virginity – nice. Logan was intellectually mature in comparison, yet the audience (and Lorelai) always struggled to believe that he was passionate about Rory – an opinion also voiced by Keiko Agena here. Not to mention that Logan and Rory often lacked chemistry, a possible result of the fact that Matt Czuchry was the only one of the three that Alexis Bledel (Rory) did not date in real life.

In comparison, Jess and Rory had a lot in common, you could not doubt his passion for her, merely his cluelessness of how to be the boyfriend Rory wanted him to be – an ignorance Rory also seemed to share so you can’t really blame him. And no one can ignore or deny the sizzling sexual chemistry the two shared.

rory and jess
Milo Vantimiglia and Alexis Bledel as Jess Mariano and Rory Gilmore

But I think there’s a less thematic and perhaps more deliberate element to what fuels the fire behind the indignant – and often smutty – deluge of #TeamJess fanfiction: they simply did not get enough time.

Jess and Rory’s relationship did not last very long, spanning most of the third season before Jess jumped ship to California, marking the shortest romance out of Rory’s three boyfriends. If you include them flirting and pushing the boundaries of their relationship while Rory is still with Dean then go ahead and count the best part of the second season as well, but it still won’t get you that much more screen time of Jory. Because even when they are in an official relationship you never get to see them together for more than a kiss and an awkward greeting; you see more of Jess and Luke’s relationship and far more of Lorelai complaining about Jess than you ever see of him with Rory.

A lot of this seems, despite accusations of Jess being a deadbeat boyfriend, to be more a result of Rory than her bad boy beau; for one thing, she is constantly running away from him. Whether that is to see Dean, to go back to her mother, or run back to Sookie’s wedding, everything and everyone else seems more important to her than Jess. You never see them hug, or watch a movie or sit around reading together, they never spend any real time in each other’s company. She is flighty and skittish the entire time they are together, so you can’t entirely blame Jess for not knowing if he has her or not – he still feels like he’s trying to win her.

Rory also cares far too much what other people think; if other people are watching, what Dean thinks, what Dean’s family thinks, whether her grandparents would approve. The only person’s feelings she seems not to care about is Jess himself; she is more than happy to leave him feeling bewildered and inadequate just so everyone feels comfortable. She takes advantage of the fact that he will stick around to be made to compete with everyone else in her life.

And don’t get me started on why she wouldn’t call him to make plans (oh the hypocrisy) and then whined for an entire episode about it. It is her fault that we did not get enough Jess and Rory dates. That and the rest of the town’s preoccupation with interrupting their makeout sessions (*cough* Luke *cough* Lorelai).

But despite the fact that this has somehow turned into a ‘why Rory was in the wrong’ tangent, I think that Amy Sherman-Palladino (pictured right) knew what she was doing by giving us snippets of Rory and Jess where she gave us reams of Dean and Logan – and even of Jess’ ex Shane.

amy sherman palladino
Amy Sherman-Palladino, Creator of Gilmore Girls

For Rory, her relationship with Jess is the first time she considers having sex. He is obviously more experienced in the bedroom department, and their brief moment in the sun held more sexual intensity than the entire 7 seasons put together. And, by the looks of the mature content in these #TeamJess fanfictions, he is just as much of a sexually awakening character for the hoards of teenagers that watched the show when it first came out, and those who are only just discovering it on Netflix.

So by giving us soundbites and five second interactions, Sherman-Palladino not only paints us a picture of two teenagers absolutely clueless of how to be together when they don’t fit into the patterns of their previous relationships, she also teases us, leaving generations of #TeamJess supporters as frustrated as Rory and Jess are in the short time they’re together.

It’s clever, but slightly unforgiveable. Especially when, as so many fans have complained, unecessary stretches of musical numbers took up the revival when we could have been getting the closure and fulfillment of seeing Jess and Rory together without the torturous flirt-kiss-bolt scenarios that made up their original relationship.

So well played, Gilmore Girls, well played. But the internet will continue to write those Jess and Rory scenes that every teenage girl wanted to see – and then some.


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