A family therapist explains why she'll never watch 'Gilmore Girls' with her daughter

A family therapist explains why she'll never watch 'Gilmore Girls' with her daughter
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Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham as Rory and Lorelai Gilmore. Mitchell Haddad/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images
  • Many millennials grew up thinking that Lorelai and Rory had the perfect mother/daughter relationship.

  • But Hilary Mae, a family therapist and expert in mother-daughter relationships, disagrees.

  • "I'm not going to watch this with my daughter," Mae told Business Insider of "Gilmore Girls."

"Gilmore Girls" is a childhood staple for many millennial women. Curling up on the couch alongside mother-daughter duo Lorelai and Rory Gilmore (played by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, respectively) in the fictional Stars Hollow, where every day there's a festival and the townspeople are all delightfully eccentric, was practically a rite of passage.

Many young viewers latched onto the central relationship between Lorelai and Rory, who modeled a relationship with few boundaries. The Gilmores behaved as best friends who shared everything and didn't have to walk on eggshells around each other.

But unlike Lorelai and Rory, who are stuck in amber on the small screen forever, millennial women actually grew up. And many of those women who are mothers today are realizing that emulating Rory and Lorelai's relationship with their own daughters is actually a terrible idea.

Licensed family therapist and mother/daughter relationship expert Hilary Mae, based in Philadelphia, is one of those women.

"When I was watching it back, I was like, 'I'm not going to watch this with my daughter.' I thought maybe I would," Mae told Business Insider.

"When you watched it as a girl, you thought, 'That is such a beautiful mother-daughter relationship," she added. But now, as the mother of a 9-year-old, she perceives the relationship differently.

While it's only natural for mothers to want to share pieces of their own childhood with their daughters by watching shows together, Mae explained why you might want to pick something else to binge on Netflix.

The flow of care is portrayed backward on 'Gilmore Girls'

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Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel on the "Gilmore Girls" revival.Netflix

According to Mae, one of the biggest problems at the core of Lorelai and Rory's relationship is what she calls the "flow of care." Logically, care should flow from a mother down to her daughter, even in the daughter's teenage years.

From as early as season one of "Gilmore Girls," care flows the opposite direction, in part because Lorelai doesn't have many boundaries about what she shares with Rory. Take her romance with Rory's English teacher, Max Medina (Scott Cohen), for example. At first, Lorelai tries to hide the relationship because she knows it will upset her daughter. But by the middle of season one, she's kissing Max in broad daylight during school hours. When Lorelai calls off her wedding to Max in season two, it's Rory she runs to for comfort and emotional support.

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"Gilmore Girls."The WB

"People say, 'Oh, that kid, she's an old soul.' Usually, it means they've been forced to grow up too fast. And so, I think Rory has been parentified — she feels this need to take care of her mom," Mae said.

Rory, in Mae's view, is the person in the relationship who grounds Lorelai in reality. But in a healthier mother-and-daughter relationship, that responsibility should be flipped.

"Rory should feel taken care of and safe, so she can depend on her mom, and she can be a kid," Mae said.

Rory and Lorelai don't have healthy communication styles

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"Gilmore Girls" stars Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel.Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Their quick banter and pop culture knowledge might be impressive to watch, but according to Mae, the Gilmores don't communicate well with each other.

Mae points to a scene in which Lorelai tells her best friend Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) that she and Rory don't fight. Viewers know that they sure do, right from the beginning of the series. But when they fight, they really just stop speaking to each other, so they aren't actually working through their conflict.

Healthy fighting allows mothers and daughters to express their feelings and needs, Mae says, though she acknowledges that this is difficult for many of her clients. The mutual silent treatment on "Gilmore Girls" might be relatable to many, but in real life, a healthy mother-daughter relationship requires talking through and respecting each other's feelings and needs instead of icing one another out.

Plus, according to the flow of care, Mae said that mothers have a responsibility to try to listen to their daughters, even if they don't agree with them.

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The "Gilmore Girls" revival, picking up Rory's life in adulthood, was released in 2016.Netflix

"That's how daughters feel loved — when they're heard and understood for the choices and decisions they make," she says. Mothers and daughters need to listen to each other with empathy and the goal of understanding, not with a defensive ear, according to Mae.

The perfect mother/daughter relationship doesn't exist

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Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel on Netflix's "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life'Saeed Adyani/Netflix

"Gilmore Girls" is in many ways a product of its time and its medium. It spawned a slew of copy cat shows with similarly unbalanced mother-daughter relationships ("Mom" and "Ginny and Georgia," to name a couple). If fictional characters knew what healthy communication was 100% of the time, TV would be less fun to watch.

If nothing else, "Gilmore Girls" is a case study in generational trauma. Lorelai mothers Rory the way she does to satisfy her own emotional needs that were ignored by her mother, Emily, according to Mae.

Mae suggests we knock Lorelai and Rory off of their pedestal and stop looking to TV for examples of what mother-daughter relationships should look like.

From Mae's perspective, there are no definitive answers about how to have the perfect mother/daughter relationship, and that's why her family therapy practice is flourishing.

For moms who want to share the show with their daughters, Mae advises waiting until their kids are teenagers. She also said it might be a good idea to pause the show periodically to point out its flaws and use Lorelai's mistakes as a catalyst for establishing boundaries in their own relationship.

Mae said that their relationship isn't all bad, either. For the most part, Lorelai clearly "thinks highly of Rory" and supports her daughter's ambitions, despite not getting the same support from her mother.

Like all mothers and daughters, the Gilmore girls are just doing their best.

Read the original article on Insider