“I smell snow.” Lorelai’s classic quote comes to mind as I snuggle beneath a cozy blanket, hot cocoa in hand, watching the snow swirls blur the view outside my window.
Something nostalgic about the Gilmore Girls show – the outfits, the love for different seasons, the banter, the unique relationship between Lorelai and Rory – keeps addicts like me coming back, resisting the urge to hum along as the strains of “Where You Lead” float from the screen.
Yet after multiple viewings, certain aspects of Lorelai and Rory’s relationship and characters are concerning. Lorelai’s troubled upbringing with overly strict parents forms her determination to raise Rory completely differently. Casting off the vestiges of parenthood, Lorelai assumes the role of a friend and confidante, only putting on the “authority” hat when she and Rory disagree on major life choices.
How well does this parenting style work out?
Unfortunately for Rory, though this style is fun and exciting in youth, it has devastating consequences as she matures in adulthood.
How Does Lorelai View Relationships?
As a viewer who can’t help but love Lorelai, Rory’s demise is hard to watch. Lorelai and Rory’s fun relationship is one of the reasons that Gilmore Girls is so captivating and heartwarming. On closer look, however, it’s hard to miss the secret ingredient that turns Rory from a cute little nerd into the promiscuous, self-centered, and flighty woman many have come to dislike.
Of course, we can’t disparage Lorelai’s parenting style without acknowledging the absence of Rory’s father Christopher, who undoubtedly affects the way Rory views relationships and family life in general. Christopher is unreliable; Lorelai is headstrong. The combination leaves them in a miserable on-off relationship cycle that is devastating to their daughter, who admits in one episode that she’s always wished for her family to be together as one.
Christopher is not the only man in Lorelai’s life. Lorelai’s passionate romance and engagement to Rory’s teacher Max Medina leaves her daughter hopeful that she will finally have the family life she’s dreamed of – only for Lorelai’s commitment issues to flare up, prompting her to call off her engagement just days before the wedding. Prior to breaking off her engagement, Lorelai’s impulsiveness and lack of discretion in her relationship with Max utterly humiliate Rory. At one point, a student catches Max and Lorelai making out at school. Rory is mortified to learn about her mother’s escapade through the school gossip mill.
Sadly, Rory is embarrassed but doesn’t seem too surprised by this incident. Perhaps this is because Lorelai is pretty frank about the sexual nature of her relationships with her daughter. She doesn’t seem to care if Rory has sex outside of marriage – or even a relationship – as long as Rory tells her “when she’s ready” and uses protection.
Love is merely fun and games to Lorelai, who stubbornly prioritizes herself in relationships. When Max asks what his role would be in Lorelai’s home and family after they’re married, she freaks out. Similarly, after eloping with Christopher in Paris, Lorelai begrudges every minor change he adds to her life. Her immature and obsessive prioritization of self consistently sabotages her relationships, leaving Lorelai trapped in a self-inflicted cycle of excitement and depression. Dependable and thoughtful Luke Danes is overlooked by Lorelai in the show’s early episodes as she searches for meaning and affection in all the wrong places.
Rory’s image of love and relationships is thus formed by her mother’s lighthearted flings, replete with sex, fighting, and an eventual ripcord when things get too serious. Rory acknowledges as much in one episode when she nastily comments that she doesn’t need details about each of Lorelai’s relationships: they never last anyways.
Rory Struggles with Healthy, Lasting Relationships
We see the impact of Lorelai’s example in Rory’s own relationships throughout the show. Rory’s relationship with Dean starts out well – at least it seems to be going well until Rory cheats on him with Jess, and then fails to tell Dean about this key detail. She proceeds to string him along for months, as Dean miserably watches “Jory” play out on the sidelines. When Dean eventually dumps Rory, telling her to stop dragging him through the mud, he is the “bad guy.” I never liked Dean, but I was wholeheartedly cheering him on at that moment.
You’d think we were done with Dean – but in a bizarre turn of events, after Jory ends in a miserable plop, Rory eventually goes weeping back to her ex-boyfriend, who inconveniently has a wife. It only takes one discussion about Dean and his wife’s “irresolvable” issues for Rory to fall in bed with her ex. It doesn’t matter that he’s married, she tells a rightfully horrified Lorelai, because they love each other!
Here I feel for Lorelai, who is scandalized at Rory’s actions, and aghast that Rory fails to understand the severity of what she has done. Yet despite Lorelai’s condemnation and shock, viewers can’t help but feel that Lorelai’s own relationship ethos confused Rory as to where lines must be drawn.
Rory doesn’t stop there. After ruining Dean’s marriage, she proceeds to ruin his life. Free from the "miserable constraints" of marriage and an adoring wife, Dean moves back in with his parents and resorts to casual car hookups with Rory. What a miserable trade-off.
Nobody is surprised when Rory and Dean don’t work out. Cue Logan, a rich Don Juan who Rory eventually persuades to be exclusive with her. We’ll skim over Logan’s cheating and love-bombing to his miraculous conversion into a loving boyfriend. We were all shocked when, after finally bagging the big fish, Rory rejects Logan’s marriage proposal, despite the fact that they’ve been dating for several years at this point and are supposedly deeply in love. One can’t help but see Lorelai’s commitment issues making a cameo as Rory hands the ring-box back to a devastated Logan.
Lorelai’s commitment issues and egomania are not the only problems she passes on to Rory. Lorelai’s “friend” parenting style makes Rory extremely entitled – she is used to getting what she wants and is very upset when she does not. After cheating on Dean with Jess, Rory doesn’t break up with Dean or tell him about her infidelity. Instead, she leaves for a three-month internship and is outraged to return and find Jess hanging out with another girl. After a life of getting everything that she wants, Rory is absolutely shocked to discover that kissing a man and then ignoring him for several months isn’t exactly a recipe for love.
When Dean finally breaks up with Rory over the Jess drama, Rory refuses to let him move on with his life. Climbing his roof, she pathetically asks if his mom hates her. Dean says what we were all screaming at the top of our lungs, “Big deal, somebody doesn’t like you for once, Rory!”
When Rory receives one negative review of her internship performance, she throws her career aspirations to the wind and dramatically rushes off to steal a boat with Logan. On top of that, she drops out of college, since apparently, her confidence is too weak to withstand one man’s criticism.
Lorelai, who has spent the past 20 years slaving away so that Rory would have a future, is devastated to see Rory’s life coming full circle with her own. Putting on the parent hat, she attempts to force Rory to go back to college. Unfortunately, years of teaching your daughter that you’re her friend, not her parent, doesn’t work. Rory moves out and moves in with her grandparents, despite the pain she knows this will inflict on Lorelai.
Lorelai is thus forced to watch her pride and joy become a college drop-out living off her wealthy grandparents, spending her time hosting stuffy tea parties, completing community service hours for stealing the boat, and drinking with her friends in her spare time. Did someone say fulfilling?
Most mothers want a healthy, loving relationship with their daughters – and they should have that! Lorelai’s cold upbringing understandably drove her to seek a radically different approach to raising Rory, and as viewers, we might envy the Gilmore girls’ abnormal relationship.
Yet as their case demonstrates, young women mimic the role models in their life, for better or worse. As the primary role models for their daughters, mothers have an obligation to lead by example. By trying to make themselves their daughter’s “equal” or simply their “friend,” they risk repeating Lorelai’s mistakes. Little girls might enjoy their friends, but they need their mothers.
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