RORY: Wax on, wax off.
Rory quotes from the 1984 martial arts drama film The Karate Kid, directed by John G. Avildsen, and written by Robert Mark Kamen, who had earlier success with his screenplay for the 1976 boxing film, Rocky. It stars Ralph Macchio as karate student Daniel LaRusso, and Pat Morita as his mentor, Mr. Miyagi. The film was a commercial success, becoming a sleeper hit, and the #5 film of 1984. It received positive reviews, and launched Macchio’s career, while revitalising Morita’s, who had mostly been known for his comedic role as Arnold on Happy Days. It has also been credited with popularising karate in the US.
Mr Miyagi is the handyman in Daniel’s apartment, and when he defends Daniel from bullies with his unexpected karate skills, Daniel asks him to teach him karate. However, to his dismay, at first all Mr Miyagi does is give him chores to do, such as waxing his car – instructing Daniel how to do so with the words, “Wax on, wax off”.
Only later does Daniel realise that all the chores (waxing, sanding, painting) are teaching him the hand movements for karate and giving him muscle memory. Thus he learns to trust his mentor, knowing that even the seemingly mundane tasks he is given are a valuable part of his training.
Rory says this line teasingly to Lane, to remind her that every line she puts in her band advertisement has to be paid for out of her wages, and that if she’s going to make the ad really long, she’d better start waxing more tables. Rory is being realistic – Lane’s advertisement is ridiculously long and expensive!
It’s possible that on a deeper level, this quote from The Karate Kid is also saying that Mrs Kim is the Mr Miyagi to Lane’s Daniel. Although Lane’s mother seems harsh and stern, she is actually teaching her daughter some valuable lessons. Lane is certainly not afraid of hard work, and has a strong work ethic, which can only be of help in learning and practising music. And the Kim’s house is filled with music – religious music, but at least Lane has been brought up to listen to it. This could be a tiny hint that Mrs Kim is not a complete monster, and has had at least some positive effects on Lane’s musical aspirations.