The Forgotten Gilmore Girl: How Emily Gilmore Was Essential to the Show

Gilmore Girls tells the story of Lorelai, a vivacious young woman who became a mother in her teens, and her 16-year-old daughter, Rory. It is a heartwarming story about the bond between mother and daughter. But there is another mother-daughter relationship on the show of equal, if not greater, importance: that of the forgotten Gilmore Girl, Emily Gilmore

The embodiment of everything Lorelai doesn’t want to be, Emily Gilmore (played by Kelly Bishop) is stoic and reserved. She’s often ruled more by society’s standards than by her own heart. And though she is not nearly as likable as her fun-loving daughter or her spunky granddaughter, Emily’s character is just as essential to Gilmore Girls

Emily Gilmore is a key part of understanding Lorelai

Emily Gilmore
Kelly Bishop as Emily Gilmore in ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life’ | Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Lauren Graham’s Lorelai Gilmore is the fast-talking, fun-loving, free spirit of Gilmore Girls. But Lorelai is still her mother’s daughter. An incredible amount of her decision-making is spent trying to figure out the opposite of what Emily Gilmore would do — how not to be like her mother. And so, ironically, while Lorelai seeks to be nothing like her mother, Emily Gilmore is one of her greatest influences.

Fans can find multiple examples of how Lorelai and Emily are alike. Both are passionate about Rory attending a good school, though she eventually chooses Yale over Harvard. And both women take the reins in their relationships, be at work or in her dating life for Lorelai, while Emily hosts events and runs her household with an iron fist.

Rory’s relationship with Emily brought conflict to her storyline and Lorelai’s

Interestingly, there are still vestiges of Lorelai’s high-society upbringing in her parenting of Gilmore Girls’ Rory (played by Alexis Bledel). Rory attends Stars Hollow High in Gilmore Girls Season 1. But she soon transfers to an elite prep school, Chilton, and goes on to attend the IVY League after graduating. Lorelai’s parents, Richard (the late Edward Herrmann) and Emily Gilmore, are the ones who pay for Rory’s schooling. This creates a tether between them and Lorelai. And it allows viewers to see Lorelai struggle between who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be, both as a woman and a mother. 

There are also numerous storylines throughout Gilmore Girls that have Rory leaning more toward Emily’s influence than Lorelai’s. In this, Emily Gilmore’s character creates further conflict as Rory tries to figure out which side of the battle she is on. 

Emily Gilmore’s journey on ‘Gilmore Girls’ was 1 of the most meaningful

The true brilliance behind Emily Gilmore’s character on Gilmore Girls is the show doesn’t make her into the villain. Though Lorelai often sees her mother as her enemy or opposition, Emily Gilmore is a mother and grandmother who loves her family in the best way she knows how. Even if Lorelai doesn’t always understand or agree with her methods. 

Emily Gilmore’s character was overshadowed in the 2007 series finale by Lorelai’s and Rory’s storylines. But her character received greater prominence in the more recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. It dedicated a good amount of story to Emily’s grieving after the loss of her husband. Indeed, one of the most compelling parts of the revival was watching Emily Gilmore mourn and go from de-cluttering with the help of Marie Kondo to quitting the DAR to selling her mansion and moving to Nantucket.

It was thrilling to see Emily Gilmore come into her own in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. However, it is important to note Emily’s relatively unwavering character throughout the original seven seasons of Gilmore Girls was essential to the series. It also made her character’s evolution so poetic in the revival. So while the show focused on the stories of Lorelai and Rory, the beloved Gilmore Girls would not have been the same without the forgotten Gilmore Girl, Emily Gilmore.