Gilmore Girls, Part 1: Lorelei

So, if you haven’t watched “Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life” yet, stop here. Spoilers ahead. Seriously, just stop now. Come back when you’ve finished it. Mom, this means you.

Okay. I’ve been trying to decide how best to organize this post, but let’s be honest: this blog is writing I do for fun, and the organization of posts is minimal. So, stream of consciousness it is, then.

I’ll start with a bit of background: I am a Gilmore Girls superfan. I stayed for Seasons 6 and 7, and even enjoyed them. I love this show. It’s awesome. So don’t expect me to spend a lot of time thinking about whether it’s feminist or antifeminist (it’s not antifeminist enough to offend me), or the fact that it’s just incredibly white (yes, it is. I still like it.).

Gilmore Girls, for those of you who are basically babies, premiered in fall of 2000, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s old timeslot. Buffy jumped networks from the WB to UPN (are either of those still a thing?) at the end of Season 5, and Gilmore Girls was its replacement.

Which is to say that I didn’t watch Gilmore Girls until Season 3, because I had another love, and back then I didn’t have DVR. I still did Netflix as discs. I recorded stuff with a VCR in case I wasn’t home when it was on.

Yes. A VCR. Some of you are so very young.

My sister, though, was only a moderate Buffy fan, and she tuned in to the thing that replaced it. She said it was awesome. Me, I had attitude. But eventually, I watched.

Lorelei Gilmore may be my alter ego. I have a BUNCH of pop-culture alter egos (someday I’ll do a post on Temperance Brennan), so that’s no big deal. But she’s my fast-talking, sarcastic, hates the Great Outdoors, coffee-drinking 30-something alter ego. (I was 30 when I started watching Gilmore Girls. I am 5 years younger than Lorelei Gilmore.) We have a lot of personality traits in common.

So, I watched. I was, of course, Team Luke. But I also like Christopher. I was Team Logan, too, once he got his shit together. I hated Jess with a fiery passion (I was never really into Bad Boys with permasneers). Dean was nice enough, but, well…boring. Not smart enough for a girl like Rory.

So. Gilmore Girls ended on a cliffhanger, for Lorelei. She and Luke were…what? What were they? The show’s original producers/writers didn’t get the ending they wanted (they were replaced at the end of Season 5), and neither did the fans.

Which brings us to: now. Nine years later, we get A Year In the Life. Where are they now? Have they grown up? I considered two ways to organize this: by Season/Episode, or by character. I decided to go with character. Like 30 seconds ago, I decided. I’m gonna take each character and their total arc, from beginning (16 years ago) to now.


Lorelei Gilmore was a teen mother, knocked up at 15 by her boyfriend Christopher, ran away from home at 16 to raise Rory in Stars Hollow. While she is very lovable, she is not always likable. She’s flighty. She’s prickly. She’s immature. Throughout the series, I went from identifying with her to being pissed off that she couldn’t seem to grow up. She did an amazing job building a stable life for herself and her daughter. And her emotional maturity arrested when Rory was born. In many ways, Lorelei kept showing us she was a 16-year-old girl. This is most obvious when she’s dealing with her mother, and with her boyfriends.

Lorelei’s relationship with her mother (Emily) is pretty much identical to what it was when she ran away from home. Emily has fairly fixed ideas about how things “ought to be”, and Lorelei feels like those rules are stifling. Lorelei wants to be sure her mom knows that Lorelei, not Emily, is “the boss of her”. And, in response, Emily spends a fair amount of time trying to control Lorelei. We’ll get to that later. Gosh, is this gonna require multiple parts?

Lorelei won’t take parental money, because if you take their money, they get to have some say in your life. Lorelei resists all attempts by her mother to reintegrate her (and Rory) back into the grandparents’ life. Eventually, this starts to annoy most viewers. For me, it’s mostly: Can’t you just BE an adult? Do you have to keep showing everyone you’re an adult? Just do what you want, and don’t do what you don’t want to do, for whatever your reasons are, and accept the consequences. Maybe, just maybe, if you stop reacting to your mother like a 16-year-old, she’ll stop treating you like one.

Or maybe not. But, regardless, you can only control your own behavior, not that of other people. That realization is one of the key components of adulthood, and we all have days where we’re better at remembering it than other days. Lorelei spends too much of her time making a point to people of how separate she is from her parents. Ironically, this effort just illustrates the ties she still has to them, and the hold they still have on her.

As for other relationships: Lorelei’s inflexibility and unwillingness to be controlled hurts her there, too. All of her “rules” about men in Rory’s life are fine, I guess, but mostly they appear to be constructed to keep Lorelei, not Rory, from getting hurt. And from having to cede control over any part of her life to anyone else.

Max Medina: Max was a lovely guy, a brilliant English teacher from Rory’s school. Lorelei screwed this one up twice. First, she flipped out because she was too attached to Max and decided to ignore him away (hello, 16-year-old’s method of breaking up). Next, she got engaged to him when she didn’t really want to…why, I’m not sure, but it illustrates a second pattern, which is that she sometimes just wants “normalcy” so badly that she fails to stand up for herself. Almost like a 16-year-old who wants to fit in…anyway, that breakup also went badly. She ran away from her wedding. Just got in a car and drove off. Very mature. Nicely done.

Christopher Hayden: Rory’s dad. Lorelei’s high school boyfriend. He ask her to marry him when she was pregnant, and she said, “No.” And then she cut him out of their lives. People who hate Chris tend to forget this part: Lorelei was the first to cut and run here, to (again) not let anyone have any say in how she runs her (and Rory’s) life. Yes, Chris did disappear. But can you blame him? It wasn’t like he felt welcome.

Lorelei’s feelings for Chris persisted for years – which isn’t a surprise. He’s the father of her kid. He’s her first love. So she fell back into bed (and relationships) with Chris repeatedly over the years. Ultimately, after a heartbreaking breakup with Luke, she married Chris.

Remember what I said, above, about bad decision-making and wanting things to be “normal”? Lorelei never wanted to marry Chris. Just like she never wanted to marry Max. But she did marry Chris. Why? Because she was heartbroken, and here was a guy she loved (not enough) and who loved her (more than enough, if you ask me), and who was her daughter’s father (thus providing an instant intact family). She had been planning to get married anyway (to Luke, see below), and wanted to be married very badly…so she went ahead and married the wrong guy. Understandable, but…immature. Irresponsible. And, ultimately, cruel. She has to leave Chris again, and he has to face up to the fact that he’s not the guy she really wanted to marry. His choices are also poor, but the dudes aren’t the subject of this post.

Luke Danes: Right, yes. Luke. Luke is The Guy. The one who waited for her forever, the one who had us all rolling our eyes and yelling at the screen at her over how blind (and stupid) she was. As a person who has always insisted on dating (and marrying) friends, I was all, “The guy who is your best friend is the one you’re supposed to marry, idiot woman!”

She messed this up, too. So did he, in the much-maligned Seasons 6 and 7, Luke mysteriously went from the guy who tells Lorelei everything to the guy who doesn’t tell her about his surprise daughter. The guy who waited for years for her decides to put off his wedding to her over the aforementioned daughter. That’s not Luke, and that’s bad writing. But I digress…

When Luke discovers he’s got a 13-year-old daughter he never knew about, he freaks out. (Understandable.) He starts shutting Lorelei out (out of character, but possibly understandable). He keeps secrets (out of character, unacceptable). Once she knows, he tries to wall that part of his life off from Lorelei. That’s both in and out of character, depending on what part of Luke’s character we’re looking at. He’s always wanted her input with hard decisions (Jess comes to mind), but he’s also emotionally reserved and tends to keep stuff to himself.

My issue with Lorelei here is this: she knows that Luke is this way. She has much to be upset over, yes. But she’s committed to this guy, unlike the previous Dudes I Want To Marry (but don’t really). She’s decided this is the guy she wants to spend the rest of her life with, right?

If so, then you don’t blow it up over even really big stuff. Luke kept a secret, yeah. It was a mistake. It was relationship-damaging. But it’s either a deal-breaker, or it’s not. Since it’s clearly not, then the right thing to do is to figure out how to move forward from here. It’s NOT suggesting, in a moment of emotional distress, that you postpone your wedding. It’s not stalking the mother of the girl to try to exert some control over the situation.

But what it’s really not? It’s not delivering an ultimatum to Luke that he either elope with you now, or you break up. Yes, it’s been a rough few months. Yes, it’s pretty much entirely his fault. But you either want to get married, or you don’t.

And you REALLY don’t run off right after he says he can’t elope right this second and sleep with Christopher. Seriously, who does that?

So, the relationship with Luke is the strongest of the three, and the most mature for Lorelei, in case you think I’m blaming her for this. The writers had to throw a lot of curveballs to mess it up. But there are still aspects of Immature Lorelei here. For example, her tendency to cut and run when things get hard. Her blowing up that relationship at the end? That was Lorelei cutting and running away. She knew, somewhere, that sleeping with Christopher would be the end. That Luke would change his mind and come running back (he did), and she wanted to just end it all before that.

Except she didn’t. She wanted to marry Luke. Just…not right in that moment. The show spends the next full year proving that this ISN’T what she wanted. The mature thing to do would have been to wait a day or two, talk it out. Rebuild. Keep what you know is valuable. That relationship wasn’t over, and her way of ending it was incredibly childish.

Something common to all of these relationships: Lorelei is a control freak. Here’s where she’s my spirit animal. How life and relationships are run are based on Lorelei’s Rules, and there are no exceptions. The big, repetitive example of this: she doesn’t want to move out of her house – all men must move in with her. That house is emblematic of Lorelei’s rigidity. She’s stuck being 16, and that house is a symbol of it.

So. My opinion of Original Gilmore Lorelei: hasn’t really grown up, emotionally.

Does she, by a Year in the Life?

I think so, yeah. Though she JUST gets it done by the end.

Lorelei has been with Luke for the past 9 years now. Seems stable, right? In my circle of friends, I refer to this as “married equivalent”. But…this is Lorelei. If she’s not married, it raises red flags for those of us who know her well. Including her mother. Emily makes much, over the Year, of how Lorelei has a roommate, not a husband. And she’s not really wrong.

Lorelei is still keeping Luke at arm’s length, and he’s doing the same thing to her. Their finances are still 100% separate. I know some married couples do this, but for me it’s always been a red flag. Marriage is, on some level, a gigantic leap of faith. You’re promising yourself that this is forever. If you keep your money separate…are you hedging? Making sure it’s a bit easier to get out when and if you need to?

Now, not all marriages are the same, and my “marriage model” needn’t apply to you. YMMV, and all of that. But I think the show intends, here, for my model to apply in this instance.

But we see other things, too. Lorelei is worried that Luke may not be entirely happy. Maybe her intense need to control her life has meant that he’s sacrificed far more of his own control for hers (it has, but, spoiler: he doesn’t really mind). Maybe she should be working to fix that.

Also, she begins to realize that, maybe, her own comfort doesn’t always need to be paramount. Maybe she can suck it up and be what her mom needs her to be once in a while. Maybe she can make some changes in her life in order to keep one of her best friends (Michel) happy. We start to see Lorelei realize that her absolute need to be the center of her own existence 100% of the time may be hurting the people she loves.

And then she flips out. Has a personal crisis and…decides to “Do Wild”. Apparently this is a book of some sort. Okay, I looked it up. The short synopsis: the author’s mother died, and her marriage broke up, and she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone in the hope that it would help. Sort of a midlife crisis book, though the author was actually quite young.

Lorelei heads for California, leaving Luke (who’s sure she’s REALLY leaving him, again) behind. And, when this happens, we all groan, sure it’s Max Medina all over again. She’s running. Admit it, you thought she was running.

When she gets to California, she finds out what we all knew, which is that her life is actually pretty good, and also that she hates hiking. Instead, she finds a diner, and, while trying unsuccessfully to buy coffee, has her epiphany.

Lorelei calls her mom, and we’ll discuss that in a later post. Then she goes home. To Luke. Who is still desperately afraid she’s leaving him, and who gives the speech we’ve wanted to see forever.

Here’s the thing: she’s not leaving him. She wants to get married. Partly, I think, for him: it’s what he’s always wanted. But, also, for herself: it’s what she wants, too, but she’s been too afraid of giving part of herself away to someone else to do it. Ceding control over her life in any small way. She’s also gonna expand the Inn, to make Michel happy. And she’s going to use the money her dad left Luke, to make her mother happy. (Oh. And she and Luke are going to spend two weeks in summer and a week at Christmas with her mother. Because of course.)

Lorelei does grow up. She manages to realize that not everything is about making the world see that they aren’t the boss of you.

So, Lorelei. Yay. Next time, we’ll talk about Rory. Less yay.


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One response to “Gilmore Girls, Part 1: Lorelei

  1. Pingback: Gilmore Girls, Part 2: Rory | Chili on the Bunsen Burner

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