Lorelai & Leslie: The Fierce Female Characters Who Have Been Filling My Life (And Should Fill Yours)

With the break between semesters in January, I took to Netflix, as do we all. Since their release on Netflix in October, I have been deep into Gilmore Girls, my absolute favorite show. I also discovered Parks & Recreation back in December, and wanted to binge-watch all six seasons before the final season began in January. Because of this, my life has been filled with the influences of Lorelai Gilmore and Leslie Knope – which are the best influences a gal could have. Here’s why:

lorelaiKiller Career Ladies

Lorelai rose up the ranks of the Independence Inn, starting as a maid and becoming its executive manager before opening her own inn, The Dragonfly, with her best friend. She’s well respected in the town of Stars Hollow for being a successful local business owner, even being called “our spunky entrepreneur” by Miss Patty. Leslie Knope started as Deputy Parks Director of Pawnee’s parks and recreation department, and through her hard work and vision, becomes head of the Midwest branch of the National Parks service. She ran for city council – and won – and it looks like she’ll be off to D.C. to become Deputy Director of Operations of the Interior (and, as hinted at by the finale, perhaps the President). These ladies haven’t been handed anything (and, in Lorelai’s case, she rejected the connections and privilege that came with her family) and have worked hard to achieve what they have. They are passionately committed to their career visions; they are business-minded, brilliant, know how to sacrifice for what they want, and know how to lead and inspire others around them.

leslieThey Own It

Theses ladies are quirky! Leslie is perhaps too smart for her own good (“What if I get drunk and I talk about Darfur too much? Or not enough?! What if I don’t bring up Darfur enough?”), and all I have to say about Lorelai is “Monkey, monkey, underpants.” But they own their quirks. Leslie is unapologetic about her intelligence, and while she admits that she has quirks (hatred of Eagleton, love of Joe Biden), she allows them to give her personality color – and they don’t detract from her big heart. Lorelai’s intelligence in a tiny town is quirky, but it’s her strange bits (“Answer the pepperoni”), her odd humor-flirting with Luke (“Have you been diagnosed?”), and her semi-hatred of her parents (“Give me a burger, onion rings, and a list of people who killed their parents and got away with it. I’m looking for heroes.”) that flesh her out. At the end of the day they know who they are; they are completely comfortable in their skin, and put on no masks for anyone.

dinerDiners Are Best

J.J.’s or Luke’s? Waffles or burgers? What is it with strong women and diners?

Friendship and sacrifice

One of the ways Parks & Recreation evolved into one of the best television shows in recent time is the way the characters came to genuinely care about one another. Leslie knows what is to be a friend, and is unafraid to express it (maybe a bit too much; scrapbooks and binders, anyone?). She knows what it means to be a best friend to Ann, a mentor to April, and a friend and colleague to Ron, challenging, guiding, and appreciating them the entire way. Despite all the fast-talking selfishness, Lorelai fundamentally knows how to be a good friend, mother, and daughter. While Rory was pretty independent, Lorelai knew when she needed her mom, yet wasn’t afraid to challenge her in difficult ways. And despite the years of arguments and offenses, Lorelai would know when she needed to drop the act and be there for her parents (and buy her mom a DVD player).

Guy Equality

L&LBoth Lorelai and Leslie don’t settle, and find partners who are just as strong as they are. Luke is another business owner, and has a great friendship with Lorelai before, after, and during their romantic relationships. They both come to the table as independent selves (sometimes too independent), with no intention"A.C.O.D" Portraits - 2013 Sundance Film Festival of changing or compromising the other (despite the ambiguity of the Gilmore Girls series finale, we’re just going to assume Lorelai ends up with Luke). Ben and Leslie are the same way. Ben is another public servant with as geeky interests in life as Leslie, and their encourage one another in their aspirations and dreams, similar to one another as they may be. They both have solid, independent spirits, and work well together as lovers and friends (“I love you and I like you.”).

The Ladies Themselves

Lauren Graham and Amy Poehler themselves are amazingly strong role models. Lauren is reportedly as brilliant as Lorelai, and is starting a second career as a novelist (Someday, Someday Maybe was her break-out). She’s also done Broadway, guest-hosted a late night talk show, and is reportedly writing the pilot for her new series. Amy rose up the ranks of improv comedy to be one of the stand-outs on Saturday Night Live (please just watch the Sarah Palin rap). She also started an organization called Smart Girls at the Party, dedicated to “helping young people cultivate their authentic selves,” and is now a best-selling author as well.

Whether you’re in need of a little self-confidence boost, or whether you’re looking for some legit role models to influence your life, go check out Gilmore Girls and Parks & Recreation for some inspiration.

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