Directions to Hartford

LUKE: I was giving her directions for the quickest way back to Hartford. It was very romantic. I said you take a right at Deerfield, and you catch the I-5 and you take it south. Oh man, hot stuff.
LORELAI: That is so typical of you.
LUKE: What?
LORELAI: That is not the quickest way back to Hartford. Everybody knows that you take Main to Cherry to Lynwood and then grab the I-11. Everybody knows that Luke. Everybody, apparently, but you!

Neither of these directions are realistic. The I-5 is the main interstate highway on the west coast of the US, running along the Pacific coast between Mexico and Canada. Luke also says that you travel south to Hartford from Stars Hollow, even though everything in the show suggests that you would travel north-east to reach Hartford from the town. The I-11 is a highway in Nevada, running from the Arizona state line to the city of Henderson.

At least you learn a few street names in Stars Hollow. Main (presumably the main street of town they show all the time), Deerfield, Cherry, and Lynwood.

Sandra Day O’Connor

PARIS: And the connection you make with the Puffs, they last the rest of your life. My cousin Maddie got her internship at the Supreme Court because of Sandra Day O’Connor.
RORY: Sandra Day O’Connor was a Puff?
PARIS: Yes. She was Puffed in 1946, became the president in ’47, and in ’48 she actually moved the group to the very table you sat at today.

Sandra Day O’Connor (born 1930) is a retired attorney and politician who served as the first female associate judge in the US Supreme Court from 1981 to 2006. Prior to that, she was a judge and elected Republican leader in the Arizona Senate, the first female majority leader in a state senate.

O’Connor most often voted with the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court, and was sometimes named as the most powerful woman in the world. She retired in 2005, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2009.

In real life, Sandra Day O’Connor could not have gone to Chilton or been a Puff. She was born in Texas and lived on a cattle ranch, attending a private girl’s school in El Paso. For her final year of schooling, she took a 32-mile bus trip every day to attend Stephen F. Austin High School in El Paso (rather like Rory going to Hartford).

In 1946, aged 16, she enrolled at Stanford University, where she gained a BA in Economics in 1950, so she was far beyond the world of high school sororities by that stage. And even at university, she didn’t join a sorority, as they didn’t exist at Stanford at that time.

I think she was just too tough and sensible to ever bother about table allocation in the dining hall, or gossiping about Homecoming. I presume the ludicrousness of the idea is what gave it appeal as a joke.

We also learn that Paris has an older cousin named Maddie who interned at the Supreme Court with the assistance of Sandra Day O’Connor. Maddie must have been a Puff as well, and possibly has a career in law. In real life, membership of sororities and fraternities can gain you coveted positions, although I doubt a high school one would actually be that influential.

The Macarena

LORELAI: The Macarena. You and Lane for hours and hours, for weeks on end.
RORY: Hey, we were mocking. You can’t mock the mocking.

Macarena is a Spanish dance song by Spanish group Los del Río about a woman of the same name. Appearing on the 1993 album A mí me gusta, it was an international hit and dance craze in the latter half of 1996 and part of 1997.

In mid-1996, the infectious song became a worldwide hit roughly one year after the Bayside Boys (composed of Mike Triay and Carlos de Yarza) produced a remix of the song that added English lyrics. The reworked song spent 14 weeks at #1, and was the #1 song of 1996. The song stayed in the charts for 60 weeks, the longest reign of a hit song at that time. It is often considered one of the greatest of one-hit wonders, and one of the most enjoyable “bad songs”.

In the US, the song, and its corresponding Macarena dance, became popular around the time of the 1996 Democratic National Convention in August that year. C-SPAN filmed attendees dancing to the song in an afternoon session, something which might have attracted the young Rory to the song.

Homecoming Court

CHRISTOPHER: I saw the look. Same one you had that time you ended up on homecoming court.

LORELAI: Ugh, someone’s idea of a sick, sick joke.

Homecoming is an annual tradition in US towns, high schools, and colleges, to welcome back former members of the community. It’s usually held in late September or early October, and revolves around a central event, such as a banquet or dance, following a major sporting event, often American football.

The homecoming court is a group of students chosen to represent the school, consisting of a homecoming king and queen who are senior students, and sometimes a court of royalty, escorts, princes and princesses, or dukes and duchesses, from lower grades. Lorelai didn’t do her senior year at school, so she must have been one of the younger students in the homecoming court – an experience she obviously didn’t enjoy, although it shows she was a popular student.

“Move to California”

LORELAI: She’s been acting so weird lately. They’re fighting. Openly fighting. I don’t think they’ve ever done that before. I’m not sure what to do about it.
CHRISTOPHER: Move to California. That’s what I do when my parents fight.

This apparently explains why Christopher moved to California, to get away from his parents’ fighting. From what we saw of Francine, she was far too cowed to look as if she ever fought with her husband, but perhaps she’s been thoroughly brow-beaten into submission by now. Most likely, this is another of Christopher’s lies, used to justify his behaviour.

Lorelai has supposedly never seen her parents fight before – if so, they must have been very careful to keep serious conflict hidden from their daughter while she was growing up to give her a stable home environment. However, this is the same Lorelai who claimed she and Rory never had a fight until Rory was nearly sixteen. She’s possibly just forgetting all the previous fights her parents had.

Cotillions and the Children of the American Revolution

DEAN: So, how do you know how to do this? [tie a bow-tie]
CHRISTOPHER: Seventeen cotillions, a dozen debutante balls, and a brief but scarring experiment with the Children of the American Revolution.

In the US, cotillions are the classes given in dancing and etiquette to prepare girls and boys for society. A cotillion ball is given at the end, which is not only a celebration, but also a preparation for the debutante ball which will come later. This ball itself is often known as a cotillion. I’m not sure, but I think Christopher means that he attended seventeen of such balls while he was growing up, as well as twelve debutante balls.

The National Society Children of the American Revolution, founded in 1895, is a youth organisation for those under the age of 22 who are descended from someone who served in the American Revolution, or gave material aid to its cause. The Daughters of the American Revolution is thus one of its parent organisations.

Dowry

LORELAI: Well, you have a dress. You need a dowry, I guess. There you go.

A dowry is a payment of money or property given by a bride’s family to a groom’s family when the couple get married. It is an ancient custom, with a long history, which probably began with the idea of a dowry helping to give a married woman some level of financial security. It is still practised around the world, but not often in modern western countries.

As Lorelai says this, she passes Rory the pitcher shaped like a cow they have on their kitchen table – in some cultures, and certainly in the past, livestock could be part of a dowry. It’s a joke which is also a reminder that Lorelai doesn’t have much money with which to endow Rory.

The dress that Rory has is the one that Lorelai would have worn to her own debutante ball when she was sixteen, if she hadn’t got pregnant.

(Lorelai and Rory seem to like cow-shaped things – Rory bought Sookie a kitchen timer shaped like a cow which mooed when the time was up for Christmas in 2000).

Daughters of the American Revolution

VIVIAN LEWIS: Well you know, the Daughters of the American Revolution Debutante Ball is next week.

The Daughters of the American Revolution, previously discussed.

The Daughters of the American Revolution really do hold debutante balls. They are often held on patriotic dates, and as this episode takes place in September, the ball might be held around the date of Constitution Day, which is September 17. In 2001, it was a Monday, but the ball could be held the following Saturday. This is also around the date of the Fall Equinox, giving the ball a Harvest Festival feel, as if the young girls are ready to be “gathered” or “picked”.

In real life, the DAR chapter for Hartford is called the Ruth Wylls Chapter. It was founded in 1892, making it one of the oldest chapters. It has over 50 members.

We already know that Emily is a member of the DAR, which means that she is a direct descendant of someone involved in the American Revolution, meaning Lorelai and Rory are eligible to join too. In real life, the easiest way to join the DAR is to have a blood relative who’s already a member, as your ancestry is proven. This becomes a plot point later in the show.

“Lorelai had such a specific walk”

SUNNY: She looks just like Lorelai, doesn’t she?
NATALIE SWOPE: The eyes.
VIVIAN LEWIS: The nose.
SUNNY: Walk around sweetie … I just wanna see the walk. Lorelai had such a specific walk.

VIVIAN LEWIS: Fast.

Emily’s friends eagerly examine Rory, this seems to be first time they have seen Lorelai’s daughter, at least for many years. It’s also the first mention by another character of Lorelai’s fast paced walking, possibly one of the factors helping her stay slim. (I don’t think Rory has inherited it, to me her walking seems normal paced, or even slightly slow for a young healthy person).

“I wanted to be a clown”

RORY: Have you ever thought of doing something other than teaching?
MAX: Well, my father wanted me to be a doctor, and my mother wanted me to be President, and I wanted to be . . . a clown.

This backstory for Max Medina is based on actor Scott Cohen studying to be a professional clown at the State University of New York. After graduating, he worked briefly as a clown, but was fired from the circus for not being “happy” enough.