Gentleman Caller

CHRISTOPHER: Whoa! Hold it right there. A lady never runs out to meet a gentleman caller who hasn’t been announced.

A callback both to The Glass Menagerie, previously discussed, and to the advice Emily gave Rory, when she wanted to run out to Dean before he’d knocked at the door. Christopher lets Rory know that he’s lived in Emily’s world, and knows its rules, but that he also takes an ironic, playful attitude to them. He’s letting Rory know that he understands exactly how to behave at her debut, but will be an ally for her in not taking it too seriously, so that she’s relaxed about it rather than stressed.

Then again, Lorelai is running right behind Rory – is his teasing comment secretly aimed at Lorelai?

Boston

CHRISTOPHER: Yeah, Boston. Baked beans, cream pie, tea party, strangler.

Boston is the capital of, and largest city in, the state of Massachusetts. It was founded by Puritan colonists in 1630. It has a population of more than 600 000 people, is one of the economically most dominant cities in the world, and is known for its diversity of neighbourhoods. It’s about two and a half hours drive from where Stars Hollow would be, so Christopher is significantly closer to them now. It’s also 15 minutes drive from Harvard University ….

Note that Christopher has moved to Boston without letting Lorelai and Rory know, or even giving them the landline number for his new apartment. It seems he hasn’t spoken to them since Lorelai’s bachelorette party, with the excuse that he was giving Lorelai space after she broke her engagement. Which might be reasonable, except he has a daughter, and there’s no excuse for not phoning her. Once again, Rory is an afterthought in Christopher’s relationship with Lorelai, rather than the focal point she should be.

Christopher quickly rattles off a few associations for Boston:

Boston baked beans

Baked beans sweetened with molasses and flavoured with salt pork or bacon. It’s been a speciality of Boston since colonial times, and baked beans with frankfurters is a favourite dish. Boston is sometimes known as Beantown.

Boston cream pie

A sponge cake with custard or cream filling, glazed with chocolate. It’s said to have been created in 1881 at the Parker House Hotel in Boston by a French chef. It’s the official dessert of Massachusetts.

Boston Tea Party

A political protest by the an organisation called the Sons of Liberty in Boston on December 16 1773. It was in protest of the Tea Act, which allowed the British East India Company to sell tea from China in American colonies without paying taxes apart from those imposed by British parliament. The Sons of Liberty strongly opposed the taxes as a violation of their rights, with the slogan “no taxation without representation”. Protesters destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company, boarding the ships and throwing chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The British government responded harshly, and the episode escalated into the American Revolution. The Tea Party became an iconic event of American history.

Boston Strangler

The name given to the murderer of thirteen women in Boston in the early 1960s; most were sexually assaulted and strangled in their apartments with no signs of forced entry. In 1967 a man named Albert DeSalvo confessed to being the Boston Strangler while serving life imprisonment for a series of rapes; he was found stabbed to death in prison in 1973. Although his confession revealed some details of the crimes unknown to the public, and DNA evidence has linked him with the Strangler’s final victim, doubts remain as to whether he committed all the Boston murders. George Nassar, the prison inmate DeSalvo reportedly confessed to, is the major suspect; he is currently serving life in prison for murder. Several films have been made about the case, most notably The Boston Strangler (1968), starring Tony Curtis.

Christopher’s glib associations for the city bring to mind the way Rory summed up Chicago to Dean as “Windy. Oprah”.

“… some mice, a dog, a pumpkin”

LORELAI: And uh, you’ll need shoes, hose, gloves, some mice, a dog, a pumpkin.

Lorelai is referencing Cinderella, previously discussed. Cinderella’s fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a coach, and a dog and some mice into attendants so that she could go to the ball in style.

It’s interesting that the last time Lorelai compared Rory’s situation to Cinderella was for her sixteenth birthday party, organised by Emily. This is another formal, dressy occasion they are going to for Emily’s sake, where Rory will be primped and put on display for Hartford society. For both events, Lorelai did her best to help Rory, even though she didn’t fully approve.

Lorelai is casting herself in the role of the fairy godmother, who is going to help Rory transform into a fairy tale princess for one night.

Luke’s Program to Turn Jess Around

Give up smoking

No stealing

Pay people back for what has been taken

Attend school and graduate high school

Work in the diner after school until the diner closes

Homework will be done between the diner closing and bedtime

Weekends are for chores and pre-approved social outings

I wonder whether Luke’s plan of only allowing Jess to attend school, work at the diner, do homework at night, and chores on weekends, is an indication of how his father brought him up. It certainly gave Luke a strong work ethic, although it also drove Liz away. It might explain why Luke seems to lead a rather joyless existence, with a distrust or even dislike of having any fun.

Jess’ response is to immediately make like his mother and leave, and when Luke asks where he is going, he says, “Out”. Yes, he’s done a Liz and gone off to do “God knows what”.

Luke mutters, “Well, at least I asked”, showing that he’s not expecting to become the world’s best parental substitute overnight.

(Note that Jess is wearing a completely different outfit in this scene – because his other clothes got wet when Luke pushed him into a lake).

“You’ll get used to it”

RORY: Aren’t you happy?
LORELAI: Yes. I’m happy.
RORY: Well, then it’ll be fine. You’ll get used to it, having Max there.
LORELAI: I know. You’re right. I will. I will get used to it.

Lorelai has a freak out once Max is actually in her bed, in her house, and fears that she will completely lose the life she currently has. More importantly, she fears losing the “me and you secret special clubhouse no boys allowed” relationship she has with Rory.

Rory refuses to participate in Lorelai’s worries about how their life might change, and insists that she likes Max, and Lorelai will be fine about it too once she calms down. It is not clear whether she really has no concerns about adding Max to their household, or she refuses to be used as an excuse by Lorelai to end her relationship with Max.

Lorelai cannot return to bed with Max, and ends up sleeping in Rory’s bed for at least part of the night. This is a callback to how Lorelai and Rory shared a bed for a year or two when Rory was a baby/toddler, showing Lorelai’s need for bodily comfort from Rory, and a return to the complete physical closeness they had at the beginning of their relationship in Stars Hollow.

“Billy Jack” Movie

This is the movie that Lorelai and Rory watch with Max. It is one of their favourites: they have it on home video, and have watched it more than ten times; Rory says you cannot watch a Billy Jack movie too many times.

The movie they are watching is The Born Losers, the first of the “Billy Jack” films. It is a 1967 action film which was directed and produced by Tom Laughlin, who also stars in the title role. The film introduces the character of Billy Jack, a mysterious Green Beret Vietnam veteran who is of partial Navajo Indian descent.

The plot involves Billy Jack coming down from his peaceful abode in the Californian mountains to a small town, where he gets into several violent confrontations with the Born Losers motorcycle gang, and must protect others. It is loosely based on a real incident in 1964, when members of the Hells Angels were arrested for raping five teenage girls in Monterey, California.

(Incidentally, this was also the impetus for Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thomson, his first book, published in 1966. Could this have been the book that the motorcycle-loving Dean lent to Rory?)

Made on a shoestring budget, the film was a commercial success, and led to several Billy Jack sequels being made. It received generally negative reviews, mostly because of the violence, of which the show gives us a little taste.

The way that Lorelai and Rory watch The Born Losers with Max is a callback to them watching The Donna Reed Show with Dean.

In both cases, the male guest had to provide the food (Max cooked, Dean brought pizza), doesn’t get any choice in what show or movie is watched, and isn’t allowed to comment or voice an opinion on it. He can’t even hear it properly because the Gilmore girls talk all the way through it, which drowns out what they are watching. Any attempt by the male guest to assert his opinions, or even ask what is happening onscreen, is roundly attacked by Lorelai and Rory.

Just as watching The Donna Reed Show led to Rory and Dean having a major argument, watching The Born Losers prefaces a fight between Lorelai and Max.

It demonstrates to us how Lorelai and Rory watch their favourite movies and TV shows – they have a love-hate relationship with the medium, are celebratory and critical at the same time, and both focused on what they are watching, and easily distracted from it. Their viewing style is deeply ironic, taking a pleasure in bad taste which is considered “camp”. They are also highly participatory, giving a running commentatory on the show while adding their own dialogue to it.

You can tell that Lorelai and Rory are used to watching things together, and their viewing habits seem to have been formed as a way to exclude others. They both seem to take a malicious pleasure in forcing Dean and Max into the role of clueless outsider.

Quotes for the Wedding Invitations

Rory selects three quotes for Lorelai to choose from, one of which will be printed on the wedding invitations.

The first one is: “What is love? It is the morning and the evening star.” – Sinclair Lewis

This is a quote from Sinclair Lewis’ 1927 novel Elmer Gantry, a scathing satire on fundamentalist religion. The title character is a religious hypocrite and a fraud. Lorelai obviously knows very little about Sinclair Lewis, who she describes as “sappy”. In fact the Nobel Prize Winner was known for his biting wit and critical eye on American culture and materialism. The quote itself is from the title character, who is being entirely insincere. Rory may have read Elmer Gantry partly on Richard’s recommendation – Sinclair Lewis was a favourite author of H.L. Mencken, and he attended Yale, Richard’s own alma mater.

The second one is: And all went merry as a marriage bell. But hush! Hark! A deep sound strikes like a rising knell!” – Lord Byron

This is from Lord Byron’s 1818 long narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Semi-autobiographical, it describes a world-weary young man, looking for distraction by travelling through foreign lands. It made its author immediately famous. This section of the poem is about a grand party in Brussels, which is brought to a disastrous and sinister end by the Battle of Waterloo.

Lorelai’s comment is, “Byron and Lewis, together again”. She may be referring to Matthew Gregory (“M.G.”) Lewis, the author of the 1796 Gothic romance The Monk. He and Lord Byron were friends, and travelled together. Rory may have read Byron’s poem because it is mentioned in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. It seems like Rory to want to follow up on a literary work that is referenced in another.

The last quote is: “We have buried the putrid corpse of liberty.” – Benito Mussolini

The whole quote is, “The Truth Apparent, apparent to everyone’s eyes who are not blinded by dogmatism, is that men are perhaps weary of liberty. They have a surfeit of it. Liberty is no longer the virgin, chaste and severe, to be fought for … we have buried the putrid corpse of liberty … the Italian people are a race of sheep.” It comes from Writings and Discourses of Mussolini, a twelve-volume work published between 1934 and 1940.

The choice of Mussolini seems to be a callback to Lorelai calling Headmaster Charleston “Il Duce“, the title of Fascist dictator Mussolini. She said this to Max during an argument they were having about Rory’s education in The Deer Hunters. Amazingly, this is the quote which Lorelai chooses, an apparent acknowledgement that her freedom is now at an end.

As you can see, all the quotes are completely inappropriate for wedding invitations. The first one is an insincere summing-up of love by a hypocrite and fraud, the second one is about a celebration which ends in disaster, and the third one equates marriage with the death of Lorelai’s liberty, said by a fascist dictator, and referencing a fight between Lorelai and Max.

What message is Rory trying to send with her choice of these quotes? They suggest a deep cynicism in her about marriage in general, and Lorelai and Max’s wedding in particular.

Weston Bakery

The episode opens with Rory and Lorelai sampling cakes in Weston Bakery, owned by the elderly Fran Weston (Linda Porter). Although this is the first time we’ve seen inside it, the bakery featured in the Pilot episode; it was the bakery that Rory recommended to Dean when they first met as making “really good cakes” that were “very round”.

Fran tells Rory and Lorelai that her family have been selling baked goods for 112 years, so since 1889.

“Your head is much too big for a veil”

EMILY: Your head is much too big for a veil. You might consider a tiara.
LORELAI: Um, a tiara?
EMILY: That’s what I wore.

A callback to Emily believing that Lorelai had a head that was too big for her body when she was a child, with Lorelai’s first sentence supposedly being, “Big head want dolly”. Apparently Lorelai’s head is still “much too big” to wear a wedding veil.

Emily suggests a tiara instead, and says that’s what she wore as a bride, perhaps indicating that she also thinks of her own head as “too big”, and may be projecting that onto Lorelai. While neither Emily nor Lorelai have enormous heads, they both would look good in a tiara, so Emily’s taste may simply be correct.

Emily does not overtly indicate that she understood or forgave Lorelai after her apology, but answering her original question is a tacit admission that their fight is over. Emily is even worse at talking about her emotions than Lorelai is, but both women are trying to connect in their own ways. Lorelai smiles at her mother’s response, as if this tiny effort was the best she was hoping for.