The Problem With The Father-Daughter Relationships Of ‘Gilmore Girls’

By Avanti Giridharan
·  6 min read
The Problem With The Father-Daughter Relationships Of ‘Gilmore Girls’

Surprised at the title? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Yes, it’s a show about mother-daughter relationships, however, there’s a lot to learn about father-daughter relationships in the show as well.

From the very beginning, Gilmore Girls has been considered a popular classic that emphasizes the bonds of closeness with family. It does so through Lorelai Gilmore, who became a single mother at 16, her teenage daughter Rory Gilmore, Rory’s father Chris Hayden, and Lorelai’s parents, Richard and Emily Gilmore.

Richard and Lorelai’s Relationship

In the very first episode, we find out that Richard is a strict, stubborn, and rigid man who is obsessed with his status. He’s also an irritable workaholic who has tons of expectations for his only daughter.

Richard Gilmore

Psychologist Diana Baumrind has classified parenting styles into three distinct types: permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative.

  1. Permissive Parents: They’re too soft, make no rules, spoil their children, and let them do or get away with anything. This produces antisocial and poorly regulated children who have no self-control and who have higher behavior problems.

  2. Authoritarian Parents: These parents are very hard, overly critical, punitive, and emotionally detached. Their children grow up to be under-confident, close-minded, and afraid, with psychological problems.

  3. Authoritative Parents: Such parents encourage independence and set boundaries. They’re firm but calm, as well as nurturing, loving, and helpful when the child needs it. Their children become confident, self-reliant, balanced, and good communicators.

Richard falls under the authoritarian category, with too much focus on discipline and not enough love. 

Undoubtedly, Richard falls under the authoritarian category, with too much focus on discipline and not enough love or appreciation. The children of such parents often become rebellious, headstrong, and resentful of any authority. So does Lorelai when she becomes a single mother at 16, drops out of school, and runs away from her family, which strains their relationship terribly. It ends up with her living in a shed and taking up an unfulfilling job. 


If Richard had been a little more easy-going and available, and had instilled a sense of confidence and comfort in his daughter, would she have gotten into such a situation? It’s safe to assume that the situation wouldn’t have been this bad.

The Effect of a Father on Parenting and Life

The relationship that a girl has with her father affects the kind of parent she becomes later in life. This can be observed as Lorelai is ultra-permissive, sets few rules, and has very little semblance of structure in her life. This happens to be in direct contrast to the parenting style she received from her father. It’s possible that her own parenting style was a rebellion against those aspects of her father’s that she disliked.

In contrast, Lorelai is ultra-permissive, sets no rules, and has no semblance of structure in her life.

However, having and mending her relationship with a concerned and providing parent at home did have a positive impact on Lorelai as she obtains her GED, graduates from business school, and runs her own successful business. She had a complete family at home which is why she’s able to work hard, mix with people, and form attachments. But she isn’t very secure and is unable to commit or communicate well. A woman’s relationship with her father can set the tone for her future relationships with men as well.

Chris and Rory’s Relationship

Lorelai’s daughter, Rory, was fatherless for the first 12 years of her life until she and her mother gained Luke Danes as a father figure. However, a father figure is not the same as a father, even though they’re important and beneficial role models in their own ways.

Rory’s father, Chris Hayden, is irresponsible, careless, and lazy, waltzing in and out of his daughter’s life as he pleases. He lived off his entitlements, had no drive, commitment, or order, and was never present in Rory’s life. Even though Lorelai did her best to raise her daughter completely on her own, Rory naturally wishes that her father would marry her mother and live with them as a complete family. She’s ecstatic when he visits and disappointed when he leaves.


A father figure is not the same as a father, even though they’re important role models in their own ways.

Rory is a rational and level-headed girl who is focused on her future, but in the later seasons of Gilmore Girls and A Year in the Life, she slides down a slippery slope and becomes just like Chris: stealing a yacht, dropping out of Yale, sleeping with men who were already taken, and becoming a single mother without knowing the father of her child. She goes on to be a lazy, entitled girl who doesn’t care about the consequences of her actions. 


Had her father been present as a dedicated, supportive, and a loving parent, Rory’s future might not have been so dismal. He could have been a symbol of strength and structure who would’ve counseled her appropriately. In that case, she would have been a successful and mature professional with a sorted relationship along with a stable home and income. Daughters often imitate their father’s behavior through the inherent value system passed down to her by him, just like Rory does.

The Importance of Having a Father 

A father complements a mother’s parenting of her children by adding another dimension to her perspectives and molds his daughter’s sense of self. The presence of a father greatly affects the social and cognitive development of children and reduces the frequency of behavioral and psychological problems. Conversely, daughters growing up without a father are more likely to have health problems, economic deprivation, and lower academic and professional skills, with a larger tendency to commit crimes.

Support for single mothers is absolutely necessary, but they must be recognized without dismissing a father’s role.

Single mothers are brave, hardworking, and resilient. The support and respect for single mothers are absolutely necessary, but it must be balanced without dismissing a father’s role or importance.

Interestingly, Lauren Graham (Lorelai Gilmore) has stated that she modeled her character’s relationship with Rory on her close relationship with her own father. Another cool fact is that Scott Patterson (Luke Danes) said the show and his portrayal of Luke Danes inspired and helped him to fix his relationship with his own father.

Closing Thoughts

The importance of the role that fathers play in their daughter’s lives is irreplaceable. At its heart, Gilmore Girls is a show about the poignancy of relationships, especially those with parents. We as women must be grateful for our fathers and seek out good men who will be great fathers to our children in the future.