Neptune and Ancient Greece

LORELAI: Um, guys, hi, there’s a lady up there with a rock the size of Neptune around her neck talking about the debutantes of ancient Greece. It’s a lot easier to fall asleep if you’re sitting down, trust me.

The planet Neptune, the eighth planet from the Sun, was officially discovered in 1846, although it had been previously sighted and thought to be a star. It has a mass of 1.0243×1026 kg, making it 17 times more massive than the Earth. It is named after the Roman god of the sea, who interestingly, carries a trident, which Rory referenced earlier.

Symbolically, Neptune is associated with dreams and fantasy, suggesting that the debutante ball is creating an illusion, and there is little that is solid or genuine behind it. Notice that Emily despairs that the elegant ballroom is not all that it appears, the debutantes are “false” in that they have artificially changed their appearance, and that there is something insubstantial about the proceedings – which we barely manage to see. Not to mention that the ball itself takes a rather surreal turn, as if it is all just a dream. (Is it pure coincidence that Lorelai immediately talks about falling asleep?).

Lorelai’s statement about “the debutantes of ancient Greece” can be taken as nothing more than a joke – as if the MC’s reminiscences about her own debut must be positively ancient. However, the ancient Greeks did hold puberty rites for girls, of which you could say debutante balls are the spiritual successor. It seems very unlikely the MC would really mention ancient puberty rites, but the ball is just bizarre enough for this to be taken at face value.

“You are totally getting married”

LIBBY: Oh my God, is this [Dean] your escort?
RORY: Yeah, it is.
LIBBY: You are totally getting married.

Obviously, idiot characters like Libby cannot be trusted to give accurate predictions. Although Rory and Dean do get symbolically married at the ball itself.

Note that Emily told Lorelai the girls needed elbow-length white kid gloves for the ball, but they are clearly wearing elbow length white satin gloves instead. Honestly, without Emily supervising everything personally, this ball is going to pot. Also, Emily obviously managed to get Rory to put her hair up.

“Lonely seaman, hello sailor”

MISS PATTY: Now remember, one of the most important things in ballroom dancing is to remember to spot, otherwise you’re gonna get dizzy. So, what you wanna do is you wanna pick out something to focus on. I usually like to find a lonely seaman. Then when turning, whip your head around and find your spot again. [spins around] Hello sailor, hello sailor, hello sailor.

One of the show’s more groan-worthy sexual jokes. Note the reference to “hello sailor”, used again.

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).

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).

“This coming weekend”

EMILY: And why would you go out of town now so soon before your wedding? Didn’t your fiancé mind?
LORELAI: Oh, well …
EMILY: I mean, you act as if this coming weekend is just going to be business as usual and not the most important day of your life.

As it’s Friday Night Dinner, Lorelai and Max were actually meant to be getting married the very next day – Lorelai leaves it until almost the last minute to tell her mother the wedding is off.

“Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown”

LORELAI: There has not been one moment over our entire stay when she [Sammy] has not been right there.
LADAWN: On the stairs?
LORELAI: Yes.
LADAWN: Oh, she’s hardly ever on the stairs.
RORY: Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.

Rory is referencing the 1974 mystery film Chinatown, directed by Roman Polanski, with screenplay by Robert Towne, and starring Jack Nicholson as private investigator J.J. “Jake” Gittes. Set in 1937, the film was inspired by the Californian Water Wars, disputes over southern Californian water where Los Angeles interests gained water rights in the Owens Valley (in actuality, these occured at the beginning of the 20th century).

At the end of the film, the antagonists force Jake to drive them to Chinatown, where his love interest Evelyn (Faye Dunaway) has sought temporary refuge at the house of her butler. Police are already waiting to arrest Jake, and during the confrontation, they kill Evelyn. The police free Jake, and his associate Lawrence Walsh (Joe Mantell) advises him, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown”.

Chinatown is regarded as a classic film, and Robert Towne won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The screenplay has a legendary status among film makers, and is often cited as the greatest example of film writing.

In this scene, we discover that Sammy the cat is actually a female, with her name presumably short for Samantha.

Seneca

RORY: That’s because Stoicism was not about giving up things, of money and luxuries and stuff.
PROFESSOR: That’s right. By the time he was in his early forties, Seneca had earned enough money to acquire villas, farms, he ate well, he loved expensive furniture, but he didn’t consider that a non-philosophical way to live.

Seneca the Younger, born Lucius Annaeus Seneca, usually just known as Senca (c4BC-65AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, and playwright. A tutor and later adviser to the Emperor Nero, he was forced to take his own life for allegedly taking part in a conspiracy to assassinate Nero; Seneca was most likely innocent.

Senca was a prolific writer on Stoicism, a popular philosophy for upper-class Romans of his era. He wrote about the need to control the destructive emotions, to confront one’s own mortality, and be willing to practice poverty and use wealth wisely. His plays however, are all tragedies, and filled with intense emotions. Even while he was alive, Seneca was accused of hypocrisy because he was essentially a wealthy and powerful man advocating the simple life.

Highly popular in his day, Seneca’s enduring reputation is most likely because he was greatly admired by the early Christian church, which led to him becoming a favourite in the medieval era and during the Renaissance. Today he is seen as an important part of Western thought.

Note that Rory is very quick to grab onto the idea that wealth and luxury don’t preclude one from living an intelligent, rational, philosophically rich life.

Room Mates

LORELAI: They just force someone on you?
RORY: It’s all part of the socialising experience.
LORELAI: What if it’s a lemon?
RORY: Then I’m stuck with a lemon.
LORELAI: Hare Krishna banging a tambourine all night?
RORY: Then I have to get earplugs.
LORELAI: Serial murderer?
RORY: Then I sleep with a gat strapped to my ankle.

In American slang, a lemon is a worthless person or object. It dates from the early 20th century, and was originally criminal slang meaning “loser, simpleton” – perhaps with the idea that they were people that the criminal could “suck the juice from”.

In American slang, a gat is a gun. It is short for Gatling gun, the early machine gun invented by Richard Gatling for use during the American Civil War. The criminal slang was especially prevalent during the Prohibition era of the 1920s.

It is perhaps apt that Rory and Lorelai use criminal slang while trespassing.

In a later season, Rory does indeed get a college room mate forced upon her unexpectedly.