Max and Rory’s Code Names

When Rory says she is uncomfortable calling her teacher by his first name outside school, even though he is also her mother’s boyfriend, Max suggests they use code names for each other. He offers to call her “Rebecca” – probably just because it starts with the same letter as Rory, and was then a common name for girls of Rory’s age (it also has the same number of syllables as her full name, Lorelai).

From their ensuing conversation, we can tell that Rory immediately links the name with the 1940 romantic mystery film Rebecca, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the 1938 best-selling novel of the same name by Daphne Du Maurier. Rebecca was the #1 film of 1940, and won two Academy Awards, including Best Picture; it is still regarded as a classic of Gothic romance and psychological drama.

The character of Rebecca never appears in the film, as she is already dead, the first wife of Max De Winter (Laurence Olivier) whose memory continues to haunt him and his new wife (Joan Fontaine). Rory feels that, like Rebecca, she should never have been seen – her role was to disappear before Max arrived for his date, as per the “Gilmore Dating Rules”.

Disturbingly, Max De Winter in the film secretly hated Rebecca, who led a scandalous life, and was glad when a struggle between them ended with her death. You can’t help but feel that Rory subconsciously believes that Max would prefer it if she didn’t exist, and perhaps even that she is a “scandal” as Lorelai’s illegitimate child to another man – the cause of Rebecca and Max’s final fight was because she (falsely) claimed she was bearing another man’s child, who would inherit his estate.

Because Rory already has her mind on Hitchcock films, she offers to call Max “Norman”, saying that Psycho was on (television?) earlier that evening. (Note that she cannot call him by the film name from Rebecca, as he is already named Max).

Psycho is a 1960 thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. Filmed on a low budget, the film received mixed reviews on release, but was a massive box office success, and the #2 film of 1960. Now Hitchcock’s best known film, it is regarded as one of the most influential films of all time, and one of the greatest in its genre.

Rory calls Max after Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the murderer in the film. Norman Bates first appears to be a pleasant-looking, rather shy young man, but is subsequently exposed as a deranged killer who had a perverted relationship with his mother – one of his first victims. Rory could not make it clearer that she secretly fears Max wants her out of the way, and feels threatened by him dating her mother. Possibly Max’s pleasant manner to her is, in the depths of her mind, hiding something much more sinister.

Struggling to come up with another name, she can only think of “Alfred” after Alfred Hitchcock, the director of Rebecca and Psycho. Known for his voyeuristic camera style, his films often involve characters with a problematic relationship with their mothers, and beautiful yet icy women. Maybe Rory has already subconsciously picked up that there are problems between Lorelai and Max.

 

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