Fireflies

RORY: I called the Fireflies. Do they need troop leaders? Yes. Good, I’ll be a troop leader. Great. The only catch is, it’s summer. Camping season. I need wilderness skills. Why did you never take me camping?
LORELAI: Camping? Are you kidding? I couldn’t get you to step on wet grass until you were three.

The Fireflies are a fictional organisation, perhaps based on the Camp Fire Girls, founded in 1910 as a sister organisation to the Boy Scouts of America. In 1975 it became for both boys and girls, and is now just called Camp Fire. It teaches camping and wilderness skills, just like the Fireflies, and Lauren Graham was a member when she was young. In real life, there are no Camp Fire groups in Connecticut.

The 1997 black comedy film Wag the Dog , with screenplay by Amy Sherman-Palladino’s favourite playwright, David Mamet, uses The Firefly Girls as a replacement for the Camp Fire Girls. This could be an homage (and a slightly naughty one, as in the film the young Firefly Girl receives inappropriate advances from the President in the Oval Office).

If Rory would not step on wet grass until she was three, no doubt that’s from Lorelai’s example – she notoriously hates nature and the great outdoors..

“I need to find a retarded kid”

DEAN: Well, Rory, it’s summer. I mean, summer’s the time to hang out and kick back.
RORY: I can’t hang out or kick back. I need to find a retarded kid and teach him how to play softball. Oh God, listen to me. I am horrible. I am under qualified and horrible.

This is the girl that Lorelai calls “the sweetest kid in the world”. Either Lorelai has rose-coloured glasses when it comes to her only child, or Rory has already been corrupted by her zeal to get into Harvard. Maybe both.

Paris and Volunteering

PARIS: When you apply to an Ivy League school, you need more than good grades and test scores to get you in. Every person who applies to Harvard has a perfect GPA and great test scores. It’s the extras that put you over the top. The clubs, charities, volunteering. You know.
RORY: Oh yeah, I know.

Paris explains to Rory what she should already know – to get into a top university like Harvard, you need something to set you apart from all the other excellent candidates.

Paris has been volunteering since she was about nine, and began by handing out cookies at the local children’s hospital (possibly the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford). By the age of ten she was running a study group for teenagers, probably through Chilton. She has also been a counsellor for a children’s summer camp, organised a literacy program for seniors, worked at a suicide prevention hotline (a truly terrifying thought), and a residential centre for runaways and homeless youth.

She has also adopted dolphins (you just send money to an organisation like The Oceanic Society), taught American Sign Language (perhaps through the American School for the Deaf in Hartford), and trained guide dogs (volunteers raise puppies and give them socialisation and basic training before handing them back so they can be trained as guide dogs; Paris may have done this through Guiding Eyes in Hartford.) We know Paris likes dogs, because her dog Skippy is said to have had a litter of puppies on Lorelai’s mini-dress that she borrowed: weirdly (or perhaps lazily by the writers) her dog has the same name as Rory’s unfortunate hamster.

Paris has done an insane amount of volunteering for a 16-17 year old girl, but in fact choosing this as a good method of getting into Harvard is almost certainly wrong. Colleges don’t seem to be really be that impressed by you doing huge amounts of random volunteer work (probably because anyone with half a brain and no life can rack up hours of unpaid work fairly easily).

What they really want to see is how your extracurricular activities demonstrate the kind of person you are, and the unique skills and interests that you have. For example, Paris wants to work in medical research, so the children’s hospital was a great start, but she didn’t stick with it. It would have been better to continue volunteering with just one or two organisations, and demonstrate that she had gained a leadership role and given real help to the community – maybe even won an award of some kind. Paris’ volunteering CV looks as if she’s desperately taken any role offered (and sending money to dolphins doesn’t look impressive to anyone).

Furthermore, it depends on the university how highly they rank volunteer work when assessing applications. It doesn’t seem to be extremely important for Harvard, which makes Paris’ efforts even more pointless.

“Keeps your halo shiny”

RORY: I will be assisting, I will be helping out those less fortunate than myself, I will be getting college credit and this is the end of this particular conversation.
LORELAI: You’re right. It’s a good thing. Nice, keeps your halo shiny.

As becomes increasingly clear during this episode, Rory is volunteering purely for college credit, and doesn’t really care about the less fortunate. She’s not quite as angelic as Lorelai thinks.

Rebuilding Together

 

MADELINE: There’s a Rebuilding Together thing going on tomorrow. You know, they fix up homes for the needy. It’s a total easy outdoor denim gig that looks really great on your college transcript.

In real life, Rebuilding Together is a non-profit organisation founded in 1988 which provides free home repairs and renovations for low-income homeowners. However, in the Gilmore Girls universe it seems to operate more like Habitat for Humanity, a Christian-based organisation founded in 1976 which builds simple, affordable housing with volunteer labour for people in need. In real life, both Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity have branches in Hartford, and ongoing volunteering projects.

Madeline here makes a little bid for independence – even after being reminded that she is not meant to be talking to Rory, she invites her to join them on a volunteer project. It’s the closest she gets to protesting Rory’s treatment.

“You’re not talking to me”

RORY: Uh, you’re not talking to me.
MADELINE: I’m not?
LOUISE: Tristan.
PARIS: PJ Harvey.
MADELINE: Oh yeah.

This conversation is a nice reminder of the events of last season which caused Paris to (once again) hate Rory, and force Louise and Madeline to join her in solidarity. It is typical of Madeline that she can never remember why she is supposed to hate Rory – partly it’s ditziness, but also a genuine liking for Rory; Madeline is noticeably always pleased to see her. And Paris’ reasons for hating Rory are so silly that’s it’s no wonder Madeline can’t remember them.

Taffeta and Cotillion

RORY: Why don’t you go to a wedding dress place and try a real veil on?
LORELAI: No way.
RORY: Why?
LORELAI: Too much taffeta, it gives me cotillion flashbacks.

Taffeta is a smooth plain-woven fabric made from silk. It is considered a luxurious fabric suitable for ball gowns and wedding dresses.

In American usage, a cotillion is a formal ball, often for presenting debutantes to society. However, Lorelai is most likely talking about cotillions as a class for younger girls, perhaps aged 10 to 13, to prepare them for their future debut in society. Such classes teach social etiquette, followed by a formal party where they put what they’ve learned into practice. We later learn that Emily teaches these classes, and probably taught Lorelai when she was younger.