Joan and Melissa Rivers

EMILY: Lorelai, you’re being morbid.
LORELAI: I’m being morbid? … Joan and Melissa Rivers here think I’m being morbid.

Joan Rivers, born Joan Molinsky (1933-2014) was an American comedian, actress, writer, producer, and television host. She was known for her controversial comedic persona, which was often viciously insulting towards celebrities and politicians. Actress Melissa Rivers (born Melissa Rosenberg in 1968) is her daughter, who worked alongside her mother on several occasions.

Joan and Melissa Rivers appeared as themselves in the 1994 television movie Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story, which we learn in the next season is favourite viewing for a mocking Lorelai and Rory.

In the film Joan and Melissa recreate the anguish they went through after the suicide of Joan’s husband and Melissa’s father, Edgar Rosenberg – who had often been the butt of his wife’s jokes during her comedy routine, and whose death was also milked for humour by Joan.

Lorelai equates Richard and Emily’s glee at getting their hands on their dead acquaintance’s house at a good price as being in a similar vein of poor taste.

Joan Rivers was one of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s favourite comedians, and her later TV show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, is about a female comedian in the 1950s who is partly inspired by Rivers.

Valium

RORY: Can we go for a weekend [to stay with Richard and Emily]?
LORELAI: We’ll see how much Valium Auntie Sookie can lend Mommy, okay?

A possible confirmation that it was Valium that Sookie gave Lorelai when she hurt her back on the night of Rory’s dance.

It also confirms that Lorelai and Rory aren’t a “democracy”, as she told her daughter in the first episode. Here Rory wants to spend a weekend with her grandparents in Martha’s Vineyard, and they never go because Lorelai doesn’t want to. Rory could have gone by herself, but Lorelai doesn’t facilitate or encourage that either. Rory probably could have forced Lorelai, but if she did that she wouldn’t have been Rory (and she and Lorelai would never have had the close bond they valued so highly).

Touché

LORELAI: The both of you are going directly to hell, I hope you know that.
RICHARD: Well, at least we’ll be well rested.
LORELAI: Touché.

In the sport of fencing, touché is said to acknowledge a hit made by your opponent; it means “touch” in French. In colloquial use, it acknowledges during a conversation that the other person has made a good point at your expense. This is a slight callback to Richard’s fencing prowess in college, mentioned earlier.

The Rental in Martha’s Vineyard

LORELAI: What’s going on?
RICHARD: Oh, your mother and I have just secured a place on Martha’s Vineyard.

Richard and Emily are pleased at the price they got their summer rental on Martha’s Vineyard for, due to the unexpected death of the previous tenant. We don’t know what kind of house it is, except that it is said to be a fine property with a library, and larger grounds than they had before, suggesting something pretty fancy.

Today you could rent a very nice house on Martha’s Vineyard for around $5000 a week in the summer, but a luxury property might be $10 000-$15 000 a week, and one on the waterfront could easily cost around $40 000 a week.

Michael Douglas

LORELAI: Okay, so now the fact that I suggested painting Luke’s diner also means that I wanted to get him in bed. All of a sudden I’m trying to get any poor, unsuspecting person in bed with me. I’m like – I’m Michael Douglas!

Michael Douglas (born 1944) is a multi award-winning American actor and producer, with a long career in theatre, film, and television. He is married to Catherine Zeta-Jones, earlier discussed as one of the “pretty women” that Lorelai wonders if Luke’s ex-girlfriend Rachel resembles.

In 1993 it was widely reported that Michael Douglas was a sex addict and had entered rehab to be treated for his addiction (leading to much mockery). He refuted these claims, saying that he had gone into rehab to be treated for alcohol addiction, but the rumours persist – they were even published again in his 2012 biography by Marc Eliot, Michael Douglas: A Biography.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2010, Douglas told the public he had throat cancer caused by giving cunnilingus to many women, which did nothing to calm down the sex addiction rumours. In 2013 Douglas revealed he had actually had tongue cancer, and denied that there was any link with performing oral sex.

In January 2018, journalist Susan Braudy went public with claims that she had been sexually harassed by Michael Douglas in 1989 while working for him, including that he used inappropriate sexual language, and masturbated to orgasm in front of her. Douglas denies the allegations, although Braudy has shared corroborating evidence with the press. This has reignited the “sex addiction” rumours all over again.

Lorelai seems to have the common belief that people with “sex addiction” must be constantly trying to get random people to have intercourse with them, although such behaviour is probably rarer in real life than people think.

(Note: “Sex addiction” has not been accepted as a diagnosis by any mainstream psychological or psychiatric body, but there are support groups and treatment programs for it).

Imaginary Chick Booty Call

LORELAI: Well he got there and I was looking for Stella and he said, “Oh, you really do have a baby chick loose in the house,” like I made that up, or – I don’t know.
SOOKIE: … Well you call someone and you say, “Can you come over and help me look for my loose chick?” It’s a little …
LORELAI: A little what?
SOOKIE: It sounds a little like the code for, “I’m not wearing any underwear.”

Luke apparently thought that Lorelai’s cry for help to find Stella might have been made up to get him to see her, and Sookie explains that’s how she got Jackson to come over the first time they had sex: by pretending she had a bat in the attic and needed his assistance. The trouble is that it seems difficult to carry off an imaginary baby chick that is your daughter’s Biology project for the month.

Sookie could easily have said, “Well I thought there was a bat – maybe it got out on its own. I’m sorry to have dragged yout out so late at night for nothing; at least let me get you a glass of wine”, and that could lead to sex if both parties were agreeable. Smooth move, and shows again Sookie is good with relationship stuff; if Lorelai had taken advice from her, she and Luke would have been married by the end of Season 1 and the show over with.

But what could Lorelai’s line have been? “Please help me find my daughter’s baby chick that she is being graded on for her Biology assignment. I know there isn’t any cage, or feed bowls, or proof she ever existed, but just go with it. Well, we’ve been searching for hours now, and to hell with Rory’s academic future, let’s just stop looking and have sex while she fails Biology and has to repeat a year”. Even when they found the real Stella, your child’s school project just doesn’t sound like a very sexy start to the evening.

I just can’t see how Stella could ever have been a credible booty call, although Sookie makes a good point that Lorelai could easily have asked her, or Patty, or Andrew instead.

Vivien Leigh and Jessica Tandy

LORELAI: Streetcar Named Desire [explaining Stella the chicken’s name].
SOOKIE: Vivian Leigh or Jessica Tandy?
LORELAI: Hello – Tandy.
SOOKIE: Of course. Continue.

Vivien Leigh, born Vivian Hartley (1913-1967) was an English stage and film actress. She played Blanche DuBois in the 1949 London West End production of A Streetcar Named Desire, and was chosen to reprise the role in the 1951 film version of the play, which was directed by Elia Kazan, who had also directed the Broadway production. Leigh won Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her role, as well as from the BAFTA, The New York Film Critics Circle, and the Venice Film Festival. A Streetcar Named Desire was the #4 film of 1951, and won three other Academy Awards, while gaining high praise from critics.

Jessica Tandy, born Jessie Tandy (1909-1994) [pictured] was a British stage and screen actress who appeared in over 100 theatre productions and had more than 60 roles in film and television; she moved to the US in 1940 and lived most of her life in Connecticut. Tandy played the lead role of Blanche DuBois in the original 1948 Broadway version of A Streetcar Named Desire, for which she won a Tony Award. The play itself, which first opened in New Haven, Connecticut was awarded The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Best Play from the New York Drama Critics Circle.

Lorelai’s response indicates that she is privileging Broadway over the West End, and perhaps the stage over the screen version. Possibly there is a little local pride involved too. I can’t see how Lorelai could judge the difference in their performances as the Broadway production was twenty years before she was born. It is notable that Sookie immediately agrees with her, maybe suggesting the Connecticut connection is well known and a source of some pride.

Wild Kingdom

LORELAI: Well, it started with Rory’s baby chick getting loose in the house and ended with Rory and I up at one in the morning looking for Morey and Babette’s new kitten, who we found asleep in the piano.
SOOKIE: Wow, that’s very Wild Kingdom of you.
LORELAI: Yeah. I’m like the Marlin Perkins of Stars Hollow.

Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, often just called Wild Kingdom, is an American nature and wildlife show which first ran from 1963 to 1988. It was hosted by zoologist Marlin Perkins until he had to retire in 1985 due to ill health. Wild Kingdom helped raise ecological and environmental awareness, and its success led to other wildlife documentaries being aired on television, helping to pave the way for the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. The show was revived on Animal Planet in 2002, and ran until 2011.

“I can’t eat like that and look like her”

MICHEL: But I can’t eat like that and look like her. [gestures to Lorelai eating a rich omelette]

Michel surely speaks for most of the audience at this point: it drives many fans up the wall that Lorelai lives on sugary, fatty food and still looks amazing – thanks to the magic of television. In reality, Lauren Graham has reportedly been on a diet to stay slim since she was eleven years old (so if you want to look like Lorelai, start dieting at the beginning of puberty).

Sure it’s fiction, but sometimes people ask how Lorelai could eat such an unhealthy diet and remain slender in real life. The average person definitely wouldn’t, but here are some ways it might be possible, in any combination of factors:

1. Genes. Around 5% of the population are lucky enough to be genetically predisposed to remain slim no matter what they eat. Lorelai could be one of those fortunate few. These people tend to remain around the same size as adults as they did in high school, and Lorelai still wears clothes from when she was 17, so it seems possible.

2. Coffee. Lorelai drinks massive amounts of very strong coffee every day, and coffee is known to speed up the metabolism and suppress the appetite, leading to overall weight loss. Furthermore, it is a diuretic, so that coffee drinkers can keep off the “water weight” that doesn’t actually weigh much, but gives a bloated, puffy appearance.

3. She burns up all the excess calories. Although Lorelai rarely does any formal exercise, she walks a lot around Stars Hollow, and she is later said to have an extremely brisk natural walking pace. She is also a very busy, animated person who may be burning up excess calories through everyday physical movement without even thinking about it. This would also give her a reasonable level of very basic physical fitness – Lorelai seems to accomplish all her daily tasks with ease, and rarely seems tired.

4. Binge eating. Lorelai may binge on huge quantities of unhealthy food once or twice a month, but in between eat very little. To outsiders, it would look as as if she was eating 5000+ calories a day, but it could average out to as little as 1200 calories a day, and some days she might eat only eat 400-800 calories. Her fridge often seems to be empty, suggesting there’s a lack of food constantly at hand to tempt her. Those snacks that Sookie makes her at the inn, such as muffins and omelettes, could be all she eats on some days thanks to her appetite-suppressing coffee.

5. It’s all talk, no action. We constantly hear about Lorelai’s huge appetite, but we never actually see her eat anything much. She’ll sit down in front of a burger and fries, but be suddenly called away or storm off before she takes a bite. Or she and Rory will have a table filled with sugary snacks, then in the next scene the table will be cleared and the snacks are gone. Did they eat them all? Or just take a handful and put the rest away? Lorelai and Rory always have tons of leftovers from their junk food binges, suggesting they don’t really eat that much in one sitting. People with big appetites don’t usually have leftovers – they eat everything at once.

6. She’s “skinny obese”. Even if Lorelai is eating far less calories than it looks like, there’s no denying her diet is generally unhealthy (luckily she gets more nutritious food at Friday Night Dinners and from Sookie). People who eat poorly but maintain a normal weight by whatever means can have what is called “skinny obesity” – they look perfectly fine, but their internal organs are surrounded by toxic fat. Michel does warn Lorelai that her diet could kill her, but she isn’t concerned. On the other hand, there’s no evidence that Lorelai’s poor diet is making her unwell: she’s energetic, vibrant, looks healthy, and never seems to have any illness more serious than a headache or allergies.

(See here for more on the purpose of junk food in the themes of Gilmore Girls).