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Lorelai Gilmore is what many of us aspire to be: beautiful, quick-witted, able to eat whatever she wants and still fit into those tiny jeans. She’s the cool mom who overcame teen pregnancy, as well as a self-imposed exile and an emotionally stifling, utterly dysfunctional relationship with her parents. It’s this dysfunction that frequently paints her mother, Emily, as a deserving villain in the world of The Gilmore Girls. Sometimes, though, Lorelai’s knee-jerk reaction to her parents makes her less-than-sympathetic. Sometimes it makes her a downright jerk.
No matter how much you love Lorelai or Rory (or Emily, the original Queen of Thorns), the show portrays them as human, and therefore, occasionally not great. Here’s to Lorelai, and the times she gave Emily a bunch of undeserved attitude.
The Max Engagement
In season two, Lorelai got engaged to the poetry-reciting, tweed jacket-wearing dreamboat that is Max Medina. The whole engagement was a mess from start to finish, from the forbidden fruit aspect of their parent/teacher relationship down to Lorelai being utterly unprepared to handle big relationship stuff. It’s no wonder the engagement fell apart. But for one bright, shiny moment, there was an engagement, and it was good.
Lorelai’s reluctance to let her mother in is well documented. There’s even evidence to back up her fear of telling her mom about the engagement in the form of the fight they had over Max in the episode “Paris is Burning.” She let her fears get the better of her and hid the engagement until it was too late, and the secret was spoiled. Emily, who isn’t above guilt and blackmail to get her daughter back in her life, was understandably heartbroken. After all, they’d made such progress since the days of only seeing each other at major holidays. It’s easy to see why Emily was so hurt, and how Lorelai’s subsequent drunken screaming is something she really did not deserve. Even Lorelai had to admit that one was her fault.
Pride, thy name is Lorelai. The house is termite-infested to the point that no one can sleep there, and yet Lorelai can’t bring herself to do the one thing that can help her fix the problem: accept help. Hey, humbling yourself is no small feat, and it’s something Lorelai struggles with throughout the series. When her mom offers to help, Lorelai not only rejects that offer, she is offended by it. It’s as if the loan comes with a rider demanding Lorelai switch to decaf for the rest of time. In the meeting with the bank, she treats her mother like crap from start to finish. Emily, meanwhile, bides her time until the inevitable happens—Lorelai must accept her help—and she does it with a perfect cat-that-got-the-canary smile.
The Interior Decorator
Lorelai is so paranoid about her mother knowing things about her life that her big problem with hiring interior decorator, Natalie, isn’t that she’s played by Traci Lords. She can’t hire someone who once worked for her mother. This, naturally, gets back to her mother when Natalie tells Emily she can’t redecorate a bathroom for her. Lorelai’s business is effectively blacklisting Emily. What a jerk.
Things Lorelai forgot in this scenario: Sookie has worked for her mother, and leaked information about her private life to her mother (the Max engagement).
The Yale Trip
Oh Yale! So much of what goes wrong begins with those hallowed halls. Yale’s destructive power over storylines is so profound that it can make Paris a cheater, Rory a dropout, and Emily a villain when she did absolutely nothing wrong.
It’s pretty obvious things are going to go poorly with Yale when Richard is enjoying a jaunt down memory lane and Lorelai keeps bringing up the trash can, almost as if she has Tourettes (as Emily asks in season five’s “You Jump, I Jump, Jack”). She spends most of the hour being weirdly childish. That’s offset by a sweet moment (for Lorelai and Emily) in the bathroom — they connect, they’re happy, and Emily even communicates how glad she is to be spending time with her daughter, and how important that is.
When Richard tricks Rory into taking the meeting, Lorelai goes from happy to barely containing her rage in seconds. It’s obvious Emily is ticked off too, but Lorelai won’t even speak to Emily until she’s had a chance to dress down her father. The argument with Emily spills out into the hallway, and instead of listening to her mother try to repair the damage so they can continue the really great day they’ve all been having so far, Lorelai ignores her, dismisses her, and storms out. She even acknowledges that Emily is also a wounded party, and can’t stop herself from treating her like crap.
The kicker of it all is, while Lorelai is busy having a tantrum, Rory drops the real reasons why what Richard did was poorly thought out and potentially detrimental to her college career.
And since we’re talking about Yale...
The Yale Application Meltdown
Let’s talk about the time Lorelai couldn’t stop herself from railing on her parents long enough to prevent ruining Thanksgiving dinner, embarrassing Rory, and generally making an asinine spectacle of herself. Lorelai’s meltdown over Rory applying to Yale is the height of her stupidity. Rory even acknowledges that Chilton made her apply to multiple colleges, but it’s not enough for Lorelai. She has a full-blown meltdown, embarrassing her parents during a holiday dinner in front of their close friends. Emily is still not a villain in this plot (which she points out when she tells Lorelai to come for dinner), but she gets to be embarrassed by her ill-mannered daughter anyway.
On the patio, Emily says, “You can’t let Rory have one piece of our lives, even if it’s her choice. You hate us that much.” Lorelai shakes her head and mouths the word “no.” Does she mean she doesn’t hate them, or she can’t let Rory have any piece of their lives, confirming that she hates them that much? It’s not clear, and it’s awful.
Lorelai also compares her mother to Stalin at the top of the episode, which brings us to...
Got issues with your parents? Why not ridicule them in a nationally circulated magazine?Air the dirty laundry! Compare your mom to Stalin! Sure, Lorelai didn’t know this would be published – she thought she was just charming the journalist. But who spends that much time mocking their mother to a complete stranger? Especially a complete stranger who has the ability to humiliate people on a national level?
Here’s the big one. This one is so painful it hurts to think about, much less rewatch. Of course, grief does crazy things to people. Grief plus the amount of alcohol drunk at a WASP-y funeral is a recipe for disaster. In the course of the series (plus revival), Lorelai has done some truly awful stuff: abandoning Max at the altar, cheating on Luke, ruining Sookie’s daughter’s christening… the list goes on. But this is the worst, most awful thing. It would take something truly awful (like the second stage of grief) to tell a bad story of her father, emphasizing points to drive home that he was a terrible father, in front of his friends, colleagues, and a grief-stricken Emily. Devout fans of the coffee-drinking, Hello Kitty-loving, Lifetime movie-watching Lorelai can’t even defend this one. It’s brutal, heartbreaking, and just part of why A Year in the Life is an uncomfortable watch at best.