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A Ranking Of TV Characters I Love But Would Despise As MILs

I always knew the whole mother-in-law aspect of getting married would be the price I’d have to pay for happily ever after (or, like, settled and fine). I’ve seen enough romantic comedies and heard enough mother-in-law horror stories to know that even if my MIL was a total badass, we’d likely still butt heads. In fact, looking at some of my fave TV show characters, it’s clear even the best of ‘em would make truly monstrous mothers-in-law. I guess that’s just what happens when a mama bear watches her little cub leave the nest and shack up with some random girl from college who majored in communication and wears “dresses that are short enough to see her vagina” (a direct quote from my own MIL, TYSM). 

That said, as much as my own MIL and I haven’t quite worked out being besties, if I had to choose her versus, say, most of the moms on TV, I’d clearly pick her. Hopefully, she’s reading this now. Hear that, Sheila! You’re not so bad! 

In fact, after spending far too much time thinking about it, a lot of the TV show characters that I’d love to drink wine and bitch about life with would actually make the worst in-laws. Cool to chill or plot the demise of our enemies with? Sure. But enduring judgmental comments and hinting that your turkey is too dry at Thanksgiving? Eh, not so much. Ranked from the most insufferable to the least, here are the moms we adore on-screen but would probably make us gouge our eyes out if we had to deal with them as family IRL.

 

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8.) Cersei Lannister – Game of Thrones

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Image Credit: HBO

Fiercely protective? Savage AF? Guarantees you to have royal babies? Check, check, check. Let’s be real, though: Cersei Lannister is about as terrible of a mother-in-law as you could ask for. Sure, she’s basically always sloshed (which is a win for the family dinners), but there’s a decent chance she’ll burn you to the ground with scathing retorts or straight-up wildfire before you even get a decent buzz in yourself. Oh, and then there’s the whole your-kids-will-be-the-product-of-incest-and your-family-tree-will-basically-be-a-straight-line thing. Not ideal, but hey, at least she’s got great cheekbones and access to the Lannister bank account.

7.) Monica Geller – Friends

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Image Credit: NBC

From the moment you start dating her kid, she’s got a label maker primed and ready to organize not just her spice rack but your entire life. Not only will your wedding be planned entirely by her, but she’ll likely have a panic attack the day of, turning all of the attention on her. Post-I dos, her obsessive cleanliness and competitive streak will make family game nights feel like the Olympics and have you tiptoeing around your own home to avoid a lecture on coaster usage. Granted, she’ll whip up gourmet meals that make holidays a hit, but she’ll also likely count how many cookies you snag from the batch. On the upside, your baseboards will be immaculate, even if your marriage won’t make it out as spotless. 

6.) Gloria Pritchett – Modern Family

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Image Credit: ABC

Say “hello” to the kind of mother-in-law who sets the beauty and fashion bar so high you’d need a ladder to reach it. With her killer style and strong accent that makes everything sound slightly more intriguing, Gloria is that MIL who’ll make you feel like you’re always one step behind. Forget about ever being good enough for her kid—she’s already perfected the art of the subtle (and not-so-subtle) digs that remind you you’re just not cutting it. And while her lavish praise is reserved for her own offspring, you’ll mostly be getting tips on how to improve… well, everything about yourself. On the bright side, if you can get past the permanent intimidation factor, her epic closet and infectious laugh almost make up for the constant comparisons. Almost.

5.) Lorelai Gilmore – Gilmore Girls

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Image Credit: The WB

I know, you might think Lorelai Gilmore would be The Best Mother-in-Law Ever. But be smart, people! She’s the queen of blurring lines between friendly advice and outright managing your life, especially when it comes to her kid. Don’t be surprised if she’s texting you about dinner plans while already in your kitchen, laying out a spread of takeout that makes you wish you had a MIL who believed in a food group beyond coffee and Chinese food. Need a reminder to lock your doors? Lorelai’s love for “just popping by” should do the trick. Except, hi, she’s probably already moved in next door and made copies of your house keys “for emergencies” (AKA: every single night when she wants to offer a running commentary on whatever you’re watching). And if it gets too late, she might just crawl into bed with you! What can I say? For the Gilmores, boundaries are just an old-fashioned suggestion.

4.) Lynette Scavo – Desperate Housewives

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Image Credit: ABC

No, Lynett’s not necessarily going to judge you if you forget to use a coaster or sleeptrain your baby, but don’t think that means she’s letting you off easy. Armed with a can-do attitude and a slightly terrifying level of resourcefulness, Lynette is the kind of MIL who has mapped out your 10-year plan and meddled in your relationships (probably while multitasking a marketing meeting). She’s supportive, sure, but her helpfulness often comes with a heavy dose of micromanagement, making you feel like one of her many projects. While she might let you lead sometimes, make no mistake — she’s always got a backup plan for your backup plan. On the bright side, if you ever need tips on controlling your husband, raising insufferable mama’s boys, or outwitting a nosy neighbor, Lynette’s your girl… as long as it doesn’t interfere with her career, ofc.  

3.) Betty Draper – Mad Men

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Image Credit: AMC

The epitome of icy elegance, Betty is as cold as her signature martinis. If you thought your relationship could escape her scrutinizing gaze, think again. She’s all old-school grace, meaning every family gathering is decked out in pearls and laced with passive aggression. Sure, she’s not one for dramatic outbursts, but her disapproving glares can chill the room faster than her husband can down an Old Fashioned. She might overlook infidelity or smoking during pregnancy — as if they’re just out-of-fashion accessories — but bring home a bad haircut or criticize her sandwiches, and you’re in for a frosty winter. Expect every aspect of your life (your parenting skills, fashion choices, career moves, etc.) to be silently judged, usually followed by a sigh and a hypocritical shake of her perfectly coiffed head. Don’t expect any warm hugs or overt displays of affection, but at least she’ll keep her dislike of you contained to eye-rolling (and the occasional open-palmed slap). 

2.) Moira Rose – Schitt’s Creek

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Image Credit: Pop TV

Good news: If you’re worried about a MIL who will critique every aspect of your life, Moira ain’t it. In fact, you’ll be lucky if she remembers your name at your vow renewal. Fabulously eccentric, she’s not gonna press to be in the delivery room when you pop out your bébés or even offer to babysit. But! She will make sure you’re fully medicated and never run out of fruit wine for those times when motherhood stresses you out. Your quirky hairstyle or passion for karaoke won’t phase her, and every encounter will be a bewildering adventure in high fashion and higher diction, ensuring that even the most mundane family gatherings are never dull. Just don’t suggest that she skip the white dress at your wedding. Her gown will be creme. Her wig will be metallic. And her blood alcohol levels will be just high enough to toast eloquently to your future, probably in a language only vaguely resembling English.

1.) Lily van der Woodsen – Gossip Girl

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Image Credit: The CW

If you think marrying into the van der Woodsen fam means your MIL’s interference stops at gallery openings and high society soirées, think again. Lily might look like she’s straight out of Vogue, but beneath that polished veneer lies a mother-in-law all about control. She will scrutinize your every move, ensuring it aligns perfectly with the van der Woodsen family image. Forget any notions of personal freedom; Lily has already planned your grandchildren’s futures down to the last charity gala attendance. She won’t hesitate to use her socialite skills to meddle in your affairs, potentially leveraging her wealth to sway your decisions. And while she might not remember your birthday, she’ll never forget a slight. On the bright side, if your MIL is going to be a manipulative shrew, she might as well come with Ivy League connections, old money, and casual views on marriage and divorce. Just try to avoid a prenup!

Rachel Varina
Rachel Varina
Formerly one of the HBICs at Total Sorority Move (RIP), Rachel Varina has a long history of writing about things that make her parents ashamed. She's an avid lover of holding grudges, sitting down, and buffalo chicken dip. Currently, she lives in Tampa, Florida, but did not feed her husband to tigers. And even though she's married (with a *gasp* baby), she doesn't suck. Promise. PROMISE! Follow her on Instagram and Twitter (@rachelvarina) so she gets more followers than that influencer her husband dated in high school.