LORELAI: Okay. Well, do you remember the rowing scene in Ben-Hur? … I’m sorry, did that reference date me? Should I have gone with the “Express Yourself” video?
“Express Yourself” is a 1989 song by Madonna, a single released from her Like a Prayer album, witten and produced by Madonna and Stephen Bray. A tribute to funk band Sly and the Family Stone, it’s an upbeat dance-pop and deep-funk song about female empowerment. The song went to #2 in the US, and # 1 on the US dance charts, becoming the #55 song of 1989. It went to #1 in Canada, Italy, and Switzerland.
The music video, dircted by David Fincher, was inspired by the 1927 Fritz Langer film, Metropolis. With a budget of $5 million, it was the most expensive music video made until then, and remains the third-most expensive to this day.
The video portrayed a city full of tall skyscrapers and railway lines. Madonna played the part of a glamorous lady, with muscular men in chains acting as her workers (slaves?). Madonna is then shown as a masochist in chains. In the end, she picks one of the workers/slaves (played by Iranian-British model Cameron Alborzian) as her lover.
It’s interesting that Lorelai implies with both her references that Emily is gaining some sort of sado-masochistic sexual pleasure from her treatment of staff.
To me, Lorelai’s reference of “Express Yourself” dates her more than Ben-Hur. Ben-Hur is a classic that had been released on DVD only two years before this episode, while Madonna’s music video was 14 years old at the time – a hit song from Lorelai’s youth.