The Contessa and the House Wench with the Talking Mice

LORELAI: And over here you have a tiny but annoying bell in case there’s something here that you need but you don’t have and you want to summon the common but lovely house wench who will promptly leave her talking mice and come to fetch the Contessa whatever she may require.

Lorelai compares Rory to The Barefoot Contessa, a 1954 drama film written and directed by Joseph F. Mankiewicz about the life and loves of a Spanish sex symbol named Maria Vargas, who is known as “the Barefoot Contessa”. Ava Gardner plays the title role as the glamorous Contessa. The film received mixed reviews, but made a big impact on popular culture.

Presumably Lorelai means that Rory, being in bed, has bare feet, yet will be waited on hand and foot like a great lady. Interestingly, the film has a major plot around infidelity and a love triangle, like that between Rory, Dean, and Jess. Like so many of these references, it ends in violence.

Lorelai compares herself to Cinderella, previously discussed. In the 1950 film, Cinderella is friends with a number of talking mice. Lorelai is saying that she is Rory’s humble servant and will get her anything she needs, just as Cinderella slaved away in the kitchen.

Lorelai behaves absolutely absurdly towards Rory. She has the most minor of injuries, and yet Lorelai acts as if she has two broken legs, at the very least. She not only gives Rory a bell to call her with, as if Rory is crippled, but actually sleeps in Rory’s room.

Why? Is she worried Rory will die in the night without her there, or does she think Rory needs help to go to the toilet with a cast on her wrist? It’s a callback to the years mother and daughter spent sharing a bed, their boundaries completely merged.

It’s almost as if Lorelai thinks she can justify her over-the-top demonisation of Jess by acting as if he has done terrible injury to Rory. She is also trying to make up for her failure to “protect” Rory from Jess by overcompensating now, when it is too late.

Lorelai’s instinct is always to smother Rory when she feels their relationship is threatened; whether this is good for Rory or not is never questioned. Her fussing over a barely injured Rory seems like confirmation that Jess was right – Rory is not cut out for the tough life of a foreign correspondent.

(Note that Rory has a Powerpuff Girls glass next to the bed, a callback to when Lorelai said they were going to buy some. Although they didn’t buy them that day, it’s confirmed they did eventually make the purchase).

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