Hellman’s Mayonnaise

RORY: The other night when we were watching Julia, and Jane Fonda was playing Lillian Hellman.
LORELAI: Oh yeah, and I made the Hellmann’s mayonnaise joke.

Hellman’s is an American brand name for a line of condiments, owned by the British company Unilever since 2000. They are sold as Hellman’s east of the Rocky Mountains in the US, and around the world, and as Best Foods west of the Rocky Mountains and in Asia/Oceania.

The company was begun by Prussian immigrant Richard Hellman, who opened his first factory in New York City in 1913 to make Hellman’s Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise. It was voted the best mayonnaise in the US in 1920.

Lillian Hellman, The Children’s Hour, and Julia

RORY: You said you wanted to read The Children’s Hour.
LORELAI: I did?
RORY: The other night when we were watching Julia, and Jane Fonda was playing Lillian Hellman.

The Children’s Hour, 1934 play by Lillian Hellman. It is set in a girl’s boarding school run by two women, and when an angry student runs away, she tells her grandmother the women are having a lesbian affair to avoid being sent back. This false accusation destroys the women’s careers, relationships, and lives.

The play is based on an incident which occurred in Scotland in the 19th century, which Hellman read about in a 1930 true crime anthology called Bad Companions by William Roughead. The Children’s Hour was a financial and critical success, and was adapted into a film called These Three in 1936, then again under its original title in 1961; both versions were directed by William Wyler.

Julia, 1977 period drama film [pictured] directed by Fred Zinnemann, based on a chapter in 1973 Lillian Hellman’s controversial book Pentimento: A Book of Portraits. It is about Hellman’s alleged friendship with a woman named Julia, who fought against the Nazis prior to World War II. Jane Fonda plays Lillian Hellman, and Vanessa Redgrave is in the role of Julia. An image of the real Lillian Hellman is shown at the end.

Julia performed well at the box office and received generally positive reviews. However, it was felt, with good reason, that the supposedly true story must have been, at best, heavily fictionalised. At the time of her death, Lillian Hellman was still in the process of suing the writer Mary McCarthy for libel after she cast strong doubt on the story’s veracity.

In 1983, New York psychiatrist Muriel Gardiner claimed that she was the person the “Julia” character was based on. Lillian Hellman had never met Gardiner, but had heard about her through a mutual friend, so they couldn’t possibly have had the relationship or adventures together that Hellman had written about. This does seem the most likely explanation, however.

Muriel Gardiner wrote about her anti-Fascist activities in Vienna of the 1930s in a 1983 book, Code Name Mary: Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground.

Rory’s Date with Jess

LORELAI: Oh, hey. Where’ve you been? I thought Taylor auctioned you off to the highest bidder.
RORY: No, I just went to get some pizza and I, uh, wandered around the bookstore for a little while. Here. [hands her a book]

After the fundraiser, Jess took Rory out for pizza, as her picnic was inedible – a clear parallel to Luke bringing Lorelai diner food to replace her inadequate basket. They then wandered around Stars Hollow Books together. No doubt tongues were wagging in town over that.

Rory said it’s “tradition” to eat a picnic with the person who buys your basket, but sitting together on a secluded bridge for an hour, going for pizza, and then book shopping seems to be going above and beyond tradition. As Dean finds shopping for books boring and only goes with Rory so he can watch her, Rory would have enjoyed doing it with someone who shares her passion for reading.

Note that Lorelai makes the same joke about Rory being “auctioned off” that she made to Emily in regard to school dances.

Rory Loses her Bracelet

Rory walks away, not realizing her bracelet had fallen off while she was on the bridge (the bracelet Dean gave her as a sixteenth birthday present). Jess picks it up and puts it in his pocket – just like the “little boy” who picked up the lost love letter in the nursery rhyme, A-Tisket, A-Tasket.

It is unclear why Jess keeps Rory’s bracelet, but most likely just the sentimental pleasure of having something of Rory’s he can hold and touch. He probably intended to give it back at some point, the same way he returned her book. He may have also thought the handing back ceremony would be a flirtatiously teasing one – “Oh, you were looking for this? Another one of my magic tricks“.

Ernest Hemingway

JESS: Okay, tomorrow I will try again, and you will . . .
RORY: Give the painful Ernest Hemingway another chance. Yes, I promise.
JESS: You know, Ernest only has lovely things to say about you.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), author, journalist, and sportsman. He is famous for his economical and understated style, which had a profound influence on 20th century fiction, while his public image and adventurous lifestyle brought many admirers. He produced most of his work during the 1920s to the 1950s, and was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature.

Hemingway’s hard, lean prose style and strongly masculinist ethos (to the point where it sometimes seems misogynistic) seem at odds with the more diffuse, subtle writing that Rory seems to appreciate. The irony is that Hemingway was a journalist, which helped to hone his spare writing style.

I’m not sure exactly what Jess means by “Ernest only has lovely things to say about you”, but in his works, brunettes are usually good, while blondes are bad (hm, rather like Gilmore Girls). Hemingway married four times times, three times to fellow journalists, as Rory plans to be.

The Fountainhead

RORY: Really? Try it. The Fountainhead is classic.
JESS: Yeah, but Ayn Rand is a political nut.
RORY: Yeah, but nobody could write a forty page monologue the way that she could.

The Fountainhead, 1943 novel by Russian-American author Ayn Rand, and her first literary success. The novel is about a ruggedly individualistic architect named Howard Roark, who battles against conventional standards and refuses to compromise his ideals. Rand said that Roark was the embodiment of her ideal man, and the novel reflects her views that the individual is more valuable than the collective.

Twelve publishers rejected the manuscript before Bobbs-Merrill took a chance on it, and contemporary reviews were mixed. However, it gained a following by word of mouth, and eventually became a bestseller. It has had a lasting influence, especially among architects, business people, conservatives, and libertarians. It was adapted into film in 1949, and turned into a stage play in 2014.

We here learn that Rory attempted to read The Fountainhead when she was ten, without success, but tried again when she was fifteen and liked it. Jess is taken aback by her recommending a text beloved of right-wing libertarians and “political nuts”, but Rory says she enjoys it as a piece of literature. The Fountainhead is absolutely full of characters having lengthy monologues where they clearly explain their philosophies, plans, and ideals.

The character of Howard Roark (allegedly based on architect Frank Lloyd-Wright) is a brooding man of few words, rather like Jess. Could Rory be recommending the book to Jess for that reason, to let him know that she likes a book where the protagonist is like Jess? A literary flirtation, like Jess annotating her copy of Howl?

Jess’ later career has a few things in common with Roark – neither of them graduate because they can’t be fettered by a conventional curriculum, both believe themselves to be misunderstood, both would prefer to take any paying job rather than compromise their creative integrity, and both become successful in their chosen fields.

More eye-raising is the character of Dominique, Roark’s love interest, and said to be his perfect match. Their first sexual encounter is so rough that Dominique describes it as a “rape”, and yet comes back for more, again and again. It’s a risque (or even plain risky) thing for a teenage girl to recommend to a boy she likes, and if this is a flirtation-by-literature, Rory seems to have suggested that Jess make things physical, even without her explicit consent.

Lorelai’s Bid-on-a-Basket History

LORELAI: Well, last year Roy Wilkins bought it and I got my sprinklers fixed for half price … And this year my rain gutters are completely clogged, and I thought if I could get the Collins kid to bite, I’d get that taken care of.

We learn that the previous year, in 2001, a man named Roy Wilkins bought Lorelai’s basket at the fundraiser, and she was charming enough to him that he fixed her sprinklers and only charged half price for it. This year, she was hoping that “the Collins kid” might buy her and be inveigled into cleaning her gutters for cheap or free.

“The Collins kid” could be in his early twenties, I don’t suppose Lorelai would picnic with a literal child? Although considering how the town laughed at her for going on one date with someone in his early-to-mid twenties, you’d think she’d be wary of that now.

It sounds as if since becoming a homeowner, Lorelai has been using the Bid-on-a-Basket Fundraiser as a way to get free or cheap home repairs or home maintenance done. Hmm, you know who is really good at handyman stuff? Luke! And now she’s having a picnic with him.

The Dating Game

LUKE: I mean, before you knew Patty was gonna put you on The Dating Game, you did pack this disgusting lunch and bring it out here, so who did you want to get it?

The Dating Game, television dating game show which began broadcasting in 1965 and is still on the air. The classic format had a bachelorette who would choose from three bachelors, who were hidden from her view, by asking them questions. The bachelorette and her bachelor would then go on a date together, with expenses paid by the show. The current season, beginning in 2021, is The Celebrity Dating Game.

Miss Patty did find three men for Lorelai to choose from, as she was making a private Dating Game for her.

Miss Flexibility

LUKE: You’re Miss Flexibility over here?
LORELAI: Hey, I can be flexible.
LUKE: Please.
LORELAI: I can. As long as everything is exactly the way I want it, I’m totally flexible.

A keen piece of self-insight from Lorelai.

Lorelai and Luke eat their picnic in the gazebo, because Luke can’t stand sitting on the ground to eat (he enjoys hiking and camping – does he sit around the campfire on a deck chair???). He seems to have picked the most romantic spot possible, because it is still decorated with wreaths of flowers.