“Chickie run down at the salt flats”

LUKE: Go. Stay out of trouble.
JESS: Guess that means calling off the chickie run down at the salt flats.

Jess references the 1955 drama film, Rebel Without a Cause, directed by Nicholas Ray and starring James Dean, previously discussed. It was a groundbreaking attempt to portray the moral decay of American youth and inter-generational conflict, focused on a Los Angeles teenager named Jim Stark. Released less than a month after James Dean’s death in a car accident, and the only film where he received top billing, it is now regarded as a cultural landmark.

At one point, Jim takes on Buzz, the leader of the local gang, in a “chickie run”, where two people drive headlong towards each other, or towards some object of doom – the first one to swerve away to save themselves is the “chickie” (chicken, coward). In the film, the chickie run is headed straight for some seacliffs, so that there is a serious risk of one or both ending up mortally injured, and indeed, it ends tragically for the gang leader, whose jacket becomes entangled with the door when he tries to jump out and save himself.

A chickie run at the salt flats is a reference to the 1984 dance movie Footloose, set in salty flat Utah and previously discussed. In a homage to Rebel Without a Cause, the film’s hero Ren takes part in a chickie run on tractors against a rival. Like Buzz, he suffers a technical glitch when his shoelace gets stuck in the vehicle’s pedals. Unlike Buzz, this causes him to win the chickie run and emerge triumphant.

It’s interesting that Jess references Footloose, one of Lorelai’s favourite films. It’s another reminder how much these two characters have in common.

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