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Miss Independent: Lorelai Gilmore

Lorelai (Lauren Graham) of Gilmore Girls is a character that stands out in a multitude of ways. No one on TV talks quite like her, or her daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel). They talk fast, have a million pop culture references at the ready, and Lorelai especially isn’t one to hold back on the sarcasm, much to her parents’ chagrin.

Lorelai was born into wealth but she wanted no part of her parents’ world. Instead, she took a hard road in which she earned everything on her own, refusing help from anyone. She built herself up into the successful woman and mother that she is, and it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get there, but she stands proud at the top of the mountain, so to speak, as she overcame it all and made the life she wanted for herself.

She was that “cool” mom on TV in the early 2000s. She was younger than the other moms in Rory’s classes, obviously, and so she was more in tune with Rory and her peers. She was always honest with Rory and expected the same from her. There were no secrets and no restrictions; they were best friends first, mother and daughter second.

Two decades later, Lorelai is still a beloved character.

Early Beginnings

Lorelai frequently expresses her unhappiness with her childhood. She had money and privilege, but what she really wanted was to be understood by her parents, who couldn’t have been further from Lorelai’s world. It’s no wonder she connected with Christopher; she was young and craved that kind of understanding from someone else, and though she did not end up with him, he was there for her at a time in her life when she needed to be heard the most.

Flashback episode of Gilmore Girls, Lorelai in a white dress, Emily in a yellow dress

Lorelai became pregnant with Rory at only sixteen; her childhood ended there. Perhaps her childhood ended long before that. She gave Rory a completely different childhood experience—part of that was because Lorelai didn’t have the money her parents did, but a lot of it had to do with Lorelai wanting to be there for Rory, to know her daughter and to spend time with her doing silly things and just having fun. Lorelai’s childhood was more serious and uptight; she just wanted to be free.

Lorelai did choose the hard way to earn her freedom; raising a child so young certainly isn’t easy, especially when she went about it alone, choosing not to marry Christopher. She was right in that their relationship probably wouldn’t have worked out in the long run had she done that, but I think the other thing was that she wanted to cut ties to her former world, and that included leaving Christopher behind. Christopher, for his part, seemed fine with that—he obviously wasn’t ready to take on parenthood like Lorelai was.

Lorelai’s fresh start was difficult, but I believe it’s what she needed. It’s definitely what she had always wanted, though I’m sure she envisioned cutting ties to her old world very differently. Nonetheless, Lorelai made the best out of her circumstances, and lived in the potting shed with Rory at The Independence Inn, a fact which later disturbs Emily (Kelly Bishop), Lorelai’s mother, when Rory gives her a grand tour of their early years. Lorelai worked her way up from maid to running the inn, finishing high school and later taking college courses. She bettered her life year by year, especially as more resources became available to her.

Rory giving the grand tour of the potting shed in Gilmore Girls

The impressive thing about Lorelai was that she made everything work at such a young age. At 16, the last thing teenagers are thinking about is parenthood or jobs or real life. Lorelai didn’t get to go to college or gradually grow up; she pretty much had to do that overnight. And instead of being irresponsible, she took on her new role as mother wholeheartedly, which truly shows her character. She matured fast and did what she needed to do to live, and to provide for Rory. She didn’t expect anything from anyone, though she undoubtedly placed a considerable amount of pressure on herself. Lorelai knew she had gotten herself into the mess she was in, but she never expected to be bailed out—instead, I think she saw it as a blessing in which she could start over, and raise her child the way she wanted to without input from her overbearing parents.

Her strained relationship with her parents is something even Rory doesn’t understand, but it’s because Rory’s never known what it’s like to be misunderstood by her parent. Lorelai even jokes with Emily that she encourages her disapproval for a laugh—it became her coping mechanism. She even answers the phone with a cheery “Major disappointment speaking” on one occasion. It’s sad, but Lorelai makes the best of it—she can laugh about how ridiculous it is that her parents don’t know who she really is, and have never really accepted her as such. Sometimes you have to create your own humor, and this was a valuable lesson Lorelai taught to audiences.

Lorelai Throughout the Show

Lorelai is always herself. She doesn’t pretend to be someone she’s not, and she doesn’t care about impressing people. She doesn’t care if they think she’s wacky or “off her rocker.” She’s even admitted that her “brain is a wild jungle of scary gibberish,” and then had quite a monologue which clearly represented what that meant with a wild jumble of random thoughts. Honestly, I could relate.

Lorelai in a purple shirt, Max in a suit standing beside her in Gilmore Girls

Lorelai also had an incredible taste in fashion. I didn’t love all her outfits but, like her, I appreciate a cute pair of boots, the perfect accessory, and color coordination. Of course, one of her most memorable outfits is that Daisy Duke look she sported when she took Rory to her first day at Chilton—only Lorelai could handle that so delicately without dying of embarrassment.

Lorelai was a good mom; she always knew what was going on with Rory, and she was there for her. She was always trying to better their lives, and be a good role model. Lorelai fears her capability to be a business owner in the beginning, heavily relying on Luke’s (Scott Patterson) advice when she and Sookie start the process to open their own inn. I admired that, in the end, she and Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) agreed that even if their business failed, at least they took the risk and would enjoy what time they did have with their venture. Yet, the fact that Lorelai took that risk and wanted to further her career provided a good example for Rory; there were plenty of life lessons in the process that Rory undoubtedly picked up.

However, there were a few things that bothered me about Lorelai. She always struggled to accept help—even when her house was threatened by termites, she refused help from everyone, even Luke. Her staunch belief that she must always be independent, no doubt derived from her mindset as a teen mom, also made her irritatingly stubborn at times. Lose her house and retain her pride, or suck it up and accept some assistance? Lorelai could choose poorly when her pride was factored in, so I didn’t blame Rory for telling her grandparents of their situation despite Lorelai telling her she couldn’t.

Lorelai had pride in what she had accomplished for herself, and she certainly didn’t want her mother cosigning on a loan to fix her home—I understood that. But at the same time, sometimes pride doesn’t count in situations such as Lorelai’s, and it was a hard lesson for her to learn.

Her love life was certainly complicated enough. She and Christopher were good together back when they were teenagers, but it seemed so clear that they had grown apart from one another, having grown up differently and having turned into entirely different people with separate goals and lifestyles. It seemed like Lorelai was hanging onto the past there, and while it’s good to have a functional relationship given he’s Rory’s father, a romantic relationship should have always been out of the question.

Lorelai and Luke dancing at Liz's wedding in Gilmore Girls

It killed me when Lorelai decided not to marry Max. They were so good for and to each other. It seemed to me that Lorelai was afraid of opening that new chapter, and both she and Max expressed regret that they didn’t follow through with their wedding day. Even Rory would have loved to have him for a stepparent. I suppose it’s because she was meant to end up with Luke.

Luke is good for her, too. It seemed there were unnecessary obstacles in their relationship, and it took them longer than it should have for them to finally realize their feelings for one another—both in the original series and in the revival.

Luke is more grounded, and Lorelai needs that. He knows how to fix things when she freaks out, and for Luke, Lorelai is his world away from the world, where he can be fun and lighthearted and not take everything so seriously. She may spike his stress level from time to time, but she also decreases it.

Lastly, there’s her relationship with Rory. It was usually good, and they loved hanging out, whether it was movie nights, concerts or whatever. She’s a mom when she needs to be—like immediately pointing out to Rory how wrong it was to sleep with Dean, who was married at the time, and when she was concerned over Rory’s relationship with Jess. In the latter, though, I think Lorelai projected her own experiences onto Rory, which is why she failed to see Rory’s connection with Jess.

Lorelai and Rory looking at each other angrily, each holding a baby in Gilmore Girls

One of the most tragic things to ever occur on the show, however, was the dissolution of her relationship with Rory, beginning when Rory decided to drop out of Yale. The two were fighting, then didn’t speak—Lorelai didn’t even tell her she’d gotten engaged, which obviously hurt Rory. At that point, that was just Lorelai being spiteful, as if to say—look at what you’re missing by doing what I don’t want you to do.

Rory was hurt after being told by Logan’s father that she didn’t have what it took to be a journalist, which is all Rory ever wanted to do. Rory begins to question everything, and instead of being there for her, Lorelai took the opposing side because she didn’t understand. Lorelai had never been to college the way Rory had, and she couldn’t understand Rory’s plight because she didn’t have any way to relate to it. I think that’s part of why she took the opposite side. That, and Lorelai primarily had the opinion of Rory always being perfect—if Rory isn’t perfect, Lorelai steps back. That seemed wrong on a lot of levels, and though mother and daughter eventually made up, I think it would’ve taken a while to really establish that trust again—for Rory, wouldn’t she fear doing anything else her mother didn’t like for fear of things turning out the same way?

However, from Lorelai’s side, I could see she was concerned Rory was giving up on her dreams and going down a wrong path. She wanted Rory to have an easier life than she did, and she had watched Rory work hard to get to where she was for years. I understood that, as a mother, Lorelai felt responsible for steering her daughter in the right direction, and when Rory dropped out, Lorelai was on unfamiliar ground. No one gives you a manual when such things happen, but still, at some points, their estrangement from each other was pretty brutal.

No one is perfect. Lorelai has a lot of great traits, but she’s made her fair share of mistakes too, and she usually does a good job of owning up to them. She’s honest about problems—as she’s stated, she doesn’t like them, she avoids them when she can, and she doesn’t care for it when someone points them out to her. Then again, who does?

Lorelai smiling, wearing pink cardigan in Gilmore Girls pilot

However, one of my absolute favorite quotes from the show, naturally spoken by Lorelai, is this: “Reality has no place in our world.” Lorelai’s been handed plenty of reality, but she has a tendency to live outside of it, which seems to help her process. A lot of things like that with Lorelai seem to be opposites, and that’s part of her comedic aspect. Though you’d think she’d be fixated on reality, she really isn’t—and it certainly drives Luke crazy.

Nonetheless, it’s one of my favorite parts about her. I need my own break from reality, and sometimes, it just doesn’t have a place in my world. I’m sure plenty of viewers would agree with me. Lorelai has her moments where she’s definitely relatable—and this quote is one of them.

Conclusion

The thing about Lorelai is that we can learn a lot from her. Relationship woes, being independent, taking charge of your own life, assuming responsibility, et cetera. We can learn from her mistakes and gain inspiration from her successes.

Plus, she’s proven it’s possible to have a wild brain of scary gibberish, live outside of reality from time to time, come out of obstacles in one piece, and take risks when necessary. I’ve been a part of conversations in which fellow Gilmore Girls fans feel a kinship with Lorelai because they feel like she was a part of their life, guiding them and entertaining them at once.

It’s an apt description for the beloved character, and I’m sure she’ll continue doing those things for another 20 years—and beyond.

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Written by Kacie Lillejord

Kacie is a freelance writer versed in various forms. She loves pop culture, screenwriting, novels, and poetry. She has previously written for The Daily Wildcat, Harness Magazine, Cultured Vultures, and Screen Rant, with 25YL being her newest writing venture.

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