Unpopular Opinion: Lorelai Gilmore Is Actually One Of TV's Worst Moms
Don't be a cool mom, be a regular mom.
Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls fame is often hailed as one of the best moms on television. Even today, 18 years after the show premiered. But let’s not confuse “best” with “coolest.”
When you have a baby at 16, you’re only in your early thirties when your kid is in high school. Chances are you like the same music and wear the same clothes, which automatically ups your cool factor. Couple that with the fact that Lorelai raises her daughter, Rory, for most of her life without the help of Rory’s father or grandparents, Lorelai is Rory’s everything. She's a nonstop beacon of coolness in her child’s eyes growing up.
I, too, fell into the I-wish-Lorelai-was-my-mom trap when I first watched the show as a teenager. She orders takeout pizza for nearly every meal, drives a Jeep Wrangler, decorates her family room with a semi-pornographic monkey lamp, and is inarguably really hot. When Netflix acquired all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, I rewatched the series during a quarter life crisis, and my opinion of Lorelai soured.
My first inkling that Lorelai wasn’t actually Mom of the Year from 2000 to 2007 was during the fifth episode of Season 1, when she starts dating Max. Lorelai sets all these “rules” to keep Rory at a safe distance from the men she dates — and then breaks those rules by forcing Rory to greet Max at the door because she isn’t finished getting ready upstairs. Oh, and Max happens to be Rory’s high school English teacher, but I’ll save Lorelai’s horrifying romantic choices for another article.
Almost all of Lorelai’s bad parenting decisions stem from her running away from home after having Rory. She considers herself fiercely independent because of the fact that she made a life for the two of them at only 16. Even as an adult, she won’t accept help from anybody and pushes everyone away.
No matter how old she gets, Lorelai begrudges her parents, Emily and Richard Gilmore, for giving her such a terrible childhood filled with debutante balls and hand-painted portraits — never mind the endless money, opportunities, and advantages they provided. Emily and Richard are evil parents for wanting young Lorelai to go to an Ivy League college, and Lorelai would rather work as a maid and live in a potting shed with her baby than deal with such horrors.
This sort of behavior isn’t acceptable, but it’s slightly more understandable at age 16 than at age 32.
I started to get an idea of just how bad Lorelai’s independent streak is when her Stars Hollow house gets damaged by termites and she can’t secure the financing necessary for the repairs. She’d sooner have the house fall down on Rory’s head than allow Emily to co-sign a loan with her. Just co-sign! Thank god she values Rory’s education enough to borrow money from her parents to pay for her private high school.
I know I said I’d leave Lorelai’s romantic life out of this, but it does have a repeated effect on Rory’s life, so it’s worth mentioning.
Skipping over the fact that Max is Rory’s teacher (and that she once hooked up with him in his classroom), Lorelai backs out of their rushed engagement in fear of getting hurt. The two fight over her not giving him a house key, and she then realizes how strange it feels to live with a man.
Strange because he’s almost a stranger. Suddenly, it all starts to feel very serious, very fast to Lorelai since they’re, you know, planning to wed.
To make matters worse, Lorelai drunkenly calls and flirts with Rory’s father, Christopher, during her bachelorette party — if that gives you any indication of how seriously she took her relationship with Max. But again, this isn’t about her terrible dating choices, like when she only dates Jason because her mother hates him.
Or when she sleeps with Christopher the same day she breaks up with Luke.
Or when she doesn’t tell Rory she’s eloping in Paris.
Rory tries to talk to Lorelai about the ending of her engagement with Max, but Lorelai shuts her out. The fact that their relationship is a blurry combination of mother-and-daughter and best friends confuses Rory as to how much of her mother’s personal life she’s entitled to, but it’s also unfair of Lorelai to deny Rory any sort of explanation. Rory was expecting the addition of a stepfather in her life after having nearly no father figure growing up. It’s a big deal, and Lorelai brushes it under the rug.
Was it really any surprise that, with an example like that, Rory cheated on Dean with Jess and Tristan?
Once I wrapped my head around the fact that Lorelai isn’t the exemplary mother I once thought her to be, her attempts to teach Luke how to parent Jess really got under my skin. Lorelai's only experience parenting is with Rory, a naturally kind and gifted student who never gets in trouble, but somehow Lorelai thinks she has the expertise to advise Luke on handling a troubled teen with abandonment issues? Luke’s just trying his best to help out his family, and he doesn’t deserve Lorelai’s constant criticism.
When Jess crashes Rory's car while she's in it, swerving to avoid an animal and hitting a pole, Lorelai acts like Rory was in a fatal rollover collision. Rory gets a hairline fracture on her arm from hitting the dashboard, and Lorelai goes postal on Luke as if Rory lost her arm entirely. She reacts more calmly when Rory gets arrested in college for taking a joyride on someone else’s yacht than she does after that minor car accident.
Looking back on it, Rory’s lucky she got into Harvard, Princeton, and Yale at all. Lorelai does her no favors during applications. You can’t blame Lorelai since she never went to a traditional four-year university (except you can, since she easily could have). She doesn’t understand the Ivy League process, despite having given Rory her first Harvard sweatshirt at age four, and she doesn’t want Rory to go to Yale — purely because Richard and Emily did.
Richard tries to explain to Lorelai that it’s not easy to get into Harvard, and that Rory has a distinct advantage when it comes to getting into Yale because she is a Legacy applicant, but Lorelai refuses to listen. Thankfully, Rory goes behind Lorelai’s back and applies to schools other than Harvard, thus giving herself options.
A lot of sneaking goes on in the Gilmore family as everyone tries to avoid Lorelai’s irrational wrath. This leads to a lifetime of communication issues — the biggest of which happens when Rory wants to take time off from Yale. Unlike the cool mom I once thought her to be, Lorelai’s reaction is wildly out of proportion with what Rory proposes. Instead of asking Rory why she wants a break from school since she’s always being such an excellent student, Lorelai flies off the handle and escalates their conversation into a fight. It’s their biggest fight in Rory’s 20 years of life.
Since that ruins the line of communication between Lorelai and Rory, Lorelai is forced to uncharacteristically turn to her parents for help. Rory does exactly the same thing, and Richard and Emily end up helping Rory take time off rather than helping Lorelai convince Rory to stay in school. Lorelai feels betrayed, but if she handled the situation rationally, all four of them could’ve worked out the best solution together. Instead, her failure just reinforces her idiotic desire for complete independence.
Once again, Rory manages to succeed despite Lorelai. She takes the time off that she needs, returns to school, gets a writing job, and even manages to graduate on time. I’m sure Lorelai would like to take credit for that.
Regardless of my feelings about Lorelai’s parenting, I still get teary during the final episode of Season 3 when Rory gives her high school valedictorian speech. She calls her mom her “ultimate inspiration,” her “best friend, the dazzling woman from whom [she] received [her] name and [her] life’s blood.”
“She filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to Eudora Welty to Patti Smith,” Rory says. “As she guided me through these incredible 18 years, I don’t know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her.”
It’s all rose-colored glasses.
At the end of the day, Rory is graduating from one of the top high schools, and four years later she also graduates from one of the top colleges. But Rory’s successes are a team effort between Rory, her parents, and her grandparents. It takes a village. Things might have gone a lot smoother along the way had Lorelai stopped trying to be the cool mom and started letting other people into her life.
It's not Gilmore Girl, after all.