Some TV moms no longer fit neatly into the category of either good or bad cop. They can be well-meaning even when mean, or fun even when they act like the children they are raising. But one thing is true—most of them have the tenacity to act like mothers even when things get tough.
LORELAI GILMORE IN GILMORE GIRLS
“She can finally go to Harvard like she’s always wanted and get the education that I never got and get to do all the things that I never got to do and then I can resent her for it and we can finally have a normal mother-daughter relationship.”
Lorelai Gilmore’s wit is her best asset. It’s what makes her the cool, laid-back, fun-loving mom who is the stuff of dreams. Where will you find a mother who can tease you about ruining your life for a boy, noting that at least he should have a motorcycle? Lorelai is kidding, of course. It’s what she does when she wants to impart some life hack or to get out of a sticky situation. Most of the time her mile-a-minute jokes are the best attack. Other times, the wisecracking reveals that she, and not just her daughter Rory, has some growing up to do—not all moms, even the ones who let us be ourselves, get it right every time.
LOREEN HORVATH IN GIRLS
“We can’t keep bankrolling your groovy lifestyle.”
Uncensored honesty is the 21st-century virtue running through the episodes of Girls. Loreen Horvath kicks off this tradition in the first episode when she announces that she will no longer support her 24-year-old daughter financially.
“You are so spoiled!” Loreen says without apology, even citing her desire to have a lake house and a decent retirement. No motherly love in its sacrificial form here. Ultimately, this harsh decision gets her daughter Hannah, a talented, if not
CERSEI LANNISTER IN GAME OF THRONES
“Love no one but your children. On that
Cersei Lannister is a character of ill repute and monstrous intentions. But what she lacks in moral fiber, she makes up for in her fierce love for her children—the equally detestable Joffrey, weak-willed Tomen, and faraway Myrcella. Her motherly devotion is extreme. She is one to direct all her rage and power toward the destruction of anyone or any place that brings harm to her children. “I will burn their cities to the ground if they touch [Myrcella],” she once said. Be careful.
JOYCE BYERS IN STRANGER THINGS
“I don't care if anyone believes me. I am not gonna stop looking for him until I find him and bring him home!”
A parent whose child dies may find the peace to accept the tragedy later on in life. But a mother whose child vanishes mysteriously means may never stop wondering. Joyce Byers has this breakdown after her son Will disappears. She frantically installs Christmas bulbs all over the house and punches a hole in her wall in an attempt to communicate with Will, whom she suspects has been trapped in a netherworld. Everyone else thinks she is crazy, but a mother’s intuition can beat anyone’s logical assumptions any day.
LYNETTE SCAVO IN DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES
“If any of you acts up, so help me, I will call Santa and I will tell him you want socks for Christmas.”
Lynette Scavo has given up her corporate career to take care of four little boys. Sometimes, you get angels; other times, you get troublemakers who paint school mates blue. Lynette gets the unfortunate side of that equation. And though she is a strong woman with no shortage of antics to get her sons out of trouble, she eventually feels like a failure.
Desperate Housewives is a soap full of ethical atrocities, but it sheds light on the need to get mothers to talk about their problems: They don’t need to be perfect, and they don’t have to be alone.
KIRSTEN COHEN IN THE OC
“You don’t have to make the decision that makes the most sense.”
Don't underestimate this WASP mother whose privilege may seem like her best feature. She is, behind closed doors, a protective mother who prizes family more than anything.
BETTY DRAPER IN MAD MEN
“Only boring people get bored.”
Betty Draper has been regularly called a bad mom, but how often has Don Draper been called a bad dad? Hardly. All over the Internet, Betty has been branded cold and inconsiderate, and yet Don spends his many of his out-of-office hours with other women instead of his own children. Betty is a flawed person who eventually seeks helps—recognizing this need is a progressive step. Mad
VIOLET CRAWLEY IN DOWNTON ABBEY
“In my day, a lady was incapable of feeling physical attraction until she had been instructed to do so by her mama.”
Many of Violet Crawley's notions are old-fashioned and elitist. But she eventually plays matchmaker to Matthew (someone she used to dismiss) and Mary, even when it's all against proper conduct: Matthew is already engaged to someone else. Never underestimate the power of a matriarch to be moved by love.
MADELEINE MARTHA MACKENZIE IN BIG LITTLE LIES
“What people don’t tell you is that you’ll lose your children.”
There's a moment in the first episode of Big Little Lies when the feisty Madeleine Mackenzie looks out into the sea and asks her husband what she will be after her children go to college. She has always been a mom. Will she stop being a mom after they have gone? This has long been a legitimate fear of mothers everywhere, and
ELIZABETH MCCORD IN MADAM SECRETARY
"Everything is more complicated than you think it is right now, and the only way you come to know that is through experience. And that's what this whole process of growing up is all about."
Tea Leoni in the role of U.S. Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord in this political drama series is sheer perfection—she's tough, shrewd, and badass. What makes her stand out, however, is her character as a wife and mother-of-three, who balances the chaos of the political world she moves around in with a normal family life. Empathetic, imperfect, and well-grounded, she makes the ideal working mom who can keep her cool while dishing out