For anyone who’s a fan of Gilmore Girls, Rory and Lorelai are more than just TV characters.
Between their witty, impossibly-fast banter and their exceptionally close BFF/mother-daughter relationship, we don’t just want to watch them, we want to be them. (Or is that just me and Jimmy Fallon?)
So, in light of the duo’s return to TV, via Netflix (let the countdown to November 25 officially begin!), I thought I’d take a second look at their relationship dynamic. I mean, now that I’m a little more grown up, too.
Sure, Lorelai was a super fun and cool mom who let Rory binge-watch movies while scarfing junk food—although the reality of a diet that consists exclusively of Chinese food, pizza, and pop tarts is a topic for another day. But Lorelai was also very young and could be pretty immature, leaving Rory to pick up the emotional pieces and even step into a parenting role while still a child herself. (Cue the season six, Yale-dropout PTSD.)
I’m not the first non-psychologist or mega-fan to recognize an unhealthy level of attachment between the two, which is why I consulted a professional to weigh in on their relationship.
Jill Lewis, MA, LCSW—and self-professed Gilmore Girls fan—says the mother-daughter dynamic portrayed on the show is like all relationships: complex and not totally black-and-white.
Scroll down to get Lewis’ two cents on the whole Lorelai-Rory thing—sometimes inspiring, sometimes maddening, and so watchable.
“Lorelai set up an incredibly healthy dynamic when it comes to Rory’s independence,” explains Lewis, especially as a young, single parent. “She fully allows Rory to flourish, develop relationship skills, and gain her independence—she never told Rory what to do.”
“Lorelai had to be both parents—the good and bad cop.”
Between allowing her to pursue Harvard (then Yale), date different boyfriends through trial-and-error (sigh, the Jess era), and exposing her to a ton of books, movies, and music, Lorelai was always Rory’s number-one fan and confidante, allowing her to explore, learn, and grow on her own terms.
As a single mom, “Lorelai had to be both parents—the good and bad cop,” explains Lewis. “She did a great job of setting up boundaries, while being open to Rory growing up and being strict when she needed to be.”
Yes, they’re adorable and may have had you wishing that you could spill all of your secrets to your mom when you were 15—but that’s not totally healthy, says Lewis.
“There’s a scene where Rory’s at college, doing her laundry, and she literally needs to drop everything and run to the aid of her mother, who’s suffering from heartache,” she says. “If a parent is seriously in pain or having a health issue, then of course it’s okay for a child to step in. But throughout her life, Rory has had to put aside her needs to help her mother out with relationship and personal problems—a child shouldn’t have that responsibility.”
“Throughout her life, Rory has put aside her needs to help her mother out with personal problems—a child shouldn’t have that responsibility.”
Lewis also is not down with Lorelai’s candid and frank sexual references about Rory’s father, Christopher. “While this could be chalked up to the writers, there are clear plot lines that discuss how Lorelai put her love life on hold for Rory. But then, it sort of flips and Lorelai begins to openly discuss her sexual encounters with Rory—that should never be the dynamic of a mother and daughter, especially when it’s her father.”
Another problem? The unhealthy level of attachment between the two, Lewis says. A perfect example of this is when Rory goes off to college and calls out her mother for making her miss her so much: “When a child goes off to college, the parent is supposed to let them go and thrive. But when Rory goes off to college you feel such a severe sense of attachment between Rory and Lorelai—they even count the nights they’ve been apart. Rory doesn’t know how to be without her mom because she never has had to.”
Despite a certain amount of self-absorption on Lorelai’s part and some unhealthy attachment between the two, Lewis says Lorelai’s great mom who raised an emotionally stable daughter. “I mean, she was 16 and estranged from her parents when she got pregnant and ultimately raised a really responsible child in Rory,” explains Lewis. “You have to give her credit.”
When Rory sleeps with Dean, who’s married at the time, Lorelai makes it clear to Rory that this was a really bad call.
Lewis credits a few episode highlights that stand out in her mind: When Rory sleeps with Dean, who’s married at the time, Lorelai makes it clear to Rory that this was a really bad call. In season six, when Rory quits school, Lorelai sticks to her parenting beliefs and lets Rory decide for herself when it’s time to go back to Yale. And when Rory wanted to go to a pricey prep school, Lorelai swallowed her pride and asked her parents for money.
And don’t forget, a lot of the Lorelai-Rory dynamic has roots in the original Gilmore girl: Lorelai’s mother Emily. “Because of how controlling Emily was, Lorelai crafted what she saw as the perfect solution: a friendship-based—and codependent—relationship with Rory,” Lewis says. Is it too much to hope for a Rory-Lorelai-Emily therapy sesh in the Netflix reboot?
One thing we do know: One of the Gilmore Girls has gotten into a super-popular wellness trend. And in terms of #familygoals, this real-life duo is arguably outdoing the Gilmores: Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar.