DEAN: As amazing as this whole thing was, I mean, the music, the outfit, the dinner, I hope you know that I don’t expect you to be Donna Reed. And I don’t want you to be Donna Reed. That’s not what I meant. This just totally got blown out of proportion. I’m actually pretty happy with you.
RORY: I know, and I appreciate that, but aside from this actually being fun, I did a little research on Donna Reed.
DEAN: You did research on Donna Reed.
RORY: Look. See, she did do the whole milk and cookies wholesome big skirt thing, but aside from that, she was an uncredited producer and director on her television show, which made her one of the first women television executives. Which is actually pretty impressive.
After her argument with Dean, Rory looked up Donna Reed on Internet Movie Database (IMDd); this was first formed in 1990, began as a website in 1993, and incorporated in 1996. By this stage at least, she must know Donna Reed was real!
Donna Reed and her husband Tony Owens had a production company named Todon (made from both their names) which produced The Donna Reed Show, and Donna Reed helped develop the show. I can’t find any reference to her actually directing any episodes, though presumably as it was her show she would have had a fair amount of creative control.
Rory’s research actually supports her original argument that The Donna Reed Show is sexist, since Donna Reed’s role as an executive producer was uncredited, with her husband receiving the credit. Oddly enough, she somehow seems to think it negates her argument.
However, this episode of Gilmore Girls wants to make an important point about the history of women in television which is generally overlooked. As a female producer herself, Amy-Sherman-Palladino often had to fight to get her ideas taken seriously, and people who had only seen her name on scripts sometimes assumed it was a female pseudonym adopted by a man – Aaron Sorkin was one suggestion.