“I didn’t mold her”

DARREN: She’s a very impressive young lady … You molded her well.

LORELAI: Oh, no, I didn’t mold her. Rory popped out that way.

Lorelai has been very careful during the meeting with Darren to portray herself as a naive and uneducated small town girl, to make it seem as if Rory has attained everything without any family help. She doesn’t let Darren know she’s from a wealthy family, and went to private school until she got pregnant. She doesn’t tell him she’s an avid reader who loves musical theatre and classic films. She most certainly doesn’t share with him that going to Harvard was her dream, and that she’s been pushing Harvard onto Rory since she was a toddler.

Everything she does at the Springsteens is designed to convince Darren that Rory has had to struggle to succeed and needs special assistance to get into Harvard; that she’s from a “non-traditional” background that will increase diversity. It’s not really honest or transparent, but she hasn’t told any actual lies (except of omission), and she really wants Rory to get into Harvard.

Harry Potter

RORY: I’ve dreamt of going to Harvard since I was a little girl.

CAROL: Yeah, a lot of four year olds dream of that. It comes right after meeting Harry Potter.

Harry Potter, the schoolboy wizard who is the protagonist of the popular Harry Potter book and film series, the novels written by English author J.K. Rowling, previously mentioned. In the films, he is played by English actor Daniel Radcliffe.

Rory was four years old in 1988-1989, and the first Harry Potter book was published in 1997, so Rory could hardly have been interested in him as a toddler anyway. Presumably Carol is thinking of her young clients in the present day.

There’s a little mistake in the writing here. Rory never actually tells Carol that she’s been dreaming of Harvard since she was four – only that she was a little girl. We know she was four because Lorelai told Max in Season 1, but somehow Carol knows about it too.

“I’m not on the conveyor belt”

CAROL: My brother and sister got stuck on that conveyor belt. I, however, escaped somewhere around the eleventh grade, thank God … Oh, hey, but no offense. I mean, that’s just me. If you like being on the conveyor belt, then good for you.

RORY: I’m not on the conveyor belt.

Rory is definitely on the conveyor belt. Lorelai has been psychologically grooming her for Harvard since she was a toddler, and enrolled her at a private prep school that is a feeder school for Harvard.

Carol says she “escaped” the conveyor belt around eleventh grade, when she was sixteen or seventeen (about the same age Lorelai got pregnant and had to leave school). It’s not clear whether Carol means that she left school around that age to start working, or if she means she refused to begin applying to colleges, and made it clear she wasn’t going to attend university.

Carol Springsteen

Rory meets Carol Springsteen, the middle daughter of the family who is a year older than Rory and Jennifer, when they run into each other on Rory’s trip back from the bathroom. Rory had earlier seen a photo of Carol and heard her name, but Darren said she was on her “own path” in life. Note that being the middle child is once again posited as being marked out for being “different” in Gilmore Girls.

Rory now discovers that being on her own path just means Carol isn’t attending university, like Jack is and Jennifer will be, but works at a variety of jobs, including waitressing and dressing up as a bunny for children’s parties. Rory says that Carol has a “cool” bedroom – despite not being academically inclined, Carol’s room is filled with serious-looking hardcover books.

It quickly becomes apparent that Carol is another version of Lorelai, who rebels against her upbringing and begins her working life as a teenager. Unlike Lorelai, she didn’t get pregnant in high school, and hasn’t moved out – Darren and Marie don’t really approve of her life choices, but they still support her financially, and she isn’t unhappy enough to run away from home.

Carol is portrayed by Tinsley Grimes (later Webster), who had most recently been on That 80s Show and had a small role in the film The Banger Sisters. Unlike her character here, Tinsley is highly educated. She has a BA in English from UCLA and a Masters of Education in Child Studies from Vanderbilt University. She is currently a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh, and plans to specialise in psychiatry.

“It might even be to Rory’s benefit”

DARREN: In fact, it’s refreshing [that Lorelai doesn’t have an academic background]. It might even be to Rory’s benefit. Good things didn’t come to your family in one fell swoop, you struggled for it.

Darren is suggesting that Rory’s background might be enough to make her stand out from the crowd in the college application process, to make it seem as if she had to struggle for everything she’s attained (it’s really more that Lorelai has had to struggle for most of what Rory’s attained). Lorelai and Rory are carefully leaving Richard and Emily out of the narrative, and not mentioning the financial assistance Rory has had to attend Chilton (a good thing which came in one fell swoop).

You can see that this is the angle Darren himself is probably planning to use in his chat with a Harvard admissions officer – he’ll be putting in a good word for a girl from a middle-class single-parent family in a small town, with a mother who had become pregnant in high school, had to work hard to support them both, and doesn’t have an academic background. Again, the fact that Lorelai went to private school and is from a wealthy upper-middle class family where both parents attended Ivy League universities is not going to be mentioned!

AA Degree

RORY: But [Mom] took night classes and graduated last year. She has an AA degree in Business.

An AA degree is an associate degree, an undergraduate degree awarded after a course of post-secondary study lasting two to three years. It is a level of qualification above a high school diploma, and below a bachelor’s degree.

Associate degrees first began in the US in 1898, and there, completing an associate degree can allow the graduate to transfer to the third year of a bachelor’s degree – you’ll remember that Lorelai’s former classmates Liza and Zach were going to continue their studies at universities after graduating from business class at community college.

Lorelai’s degree is most likely an Associate of Applied Business (AAB).

Alma Mater

DARREN: So, Lorelai, what’s your alma mater?

Alma mater, a Latin phrase used to identify a school, college, or university that one has attended or graduated from. It literally means “nourishing mother”, as if the student has gained intellectual nourishment from their school. It is related to the word alumnus, previously discussed alumnus literally means “one who is nourished”.

The Latin phrase was originally a title for mother goddesses such as Ceres and Cybele, later given as a title to the Virgin Mary. It was first used academically in the English-speaking world in 1600, referring to Cambridge University, as part of the emblem for Cambridge University Press. You can see in the picture it was portrayed quite literally, with milk pouring out from the breasts of Cambridge – the milk of knowledge, I suppose.

Yearbooks

DARREN: Here’s some of my Harvard yearbooks, peruse them if you like.

Yearbooks are published annually to commemorate the past year of a school, college, or university. They came out of the personal scrapbooks students put together in the 18th century, and the first formal yearbook was produced in 1806, at Yale.

The picture is for the 1974 Harvard yearbook, the year that Darren graduated, meaning he was born around 1952 and is about fifty years old in this episode. Notice that it is actually for both Harvard and Radcliffe – Radcliffe College was a women’s college founded in 1879, designed to be an all-female counterpart to the all-male Harvard. Harvard became fully co-educational in 1970, and in 1999, Radcliffe merged with Harvard.

Jack and Jennifer

DARREN: Jack’s pre-med at Princeton and Jennifer is bound for Harvard, like you Rory.

Jack is in a pre-medical program, an educational track that undergraduate students pursue before they go to medical school and study to become doctors. Their undergraduate studies typically focus on subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, neuroscience, and behavioural sciences. He is attending the same university that Christopher was supposed to attend.

Jennifer can’t really be bound for Harvard at this point – notifications to applications haven’t been sent out yet. She has already applied, or will apply very soon, and Darren is obviously confident she will get in. He seems very confident Rory will as well, unless he’s just being polite – he hasn’t even seen her transcript yet.

Jack and Jennifer are played by Matt Newton and Jeanette Brox – they had both been in Judging Amy and Family Law, although not in the same episodes. Granville Van Deusen, who plays their father Darren, was also in Judging Amy, and like Jeanette, had been in General Hospital spin-off, Port Charles.

Harvard Paraphernalia

DARREN: I collect memorabilia, too. I’ve got each year’s Harvard team pennant going back to 1927 … It’s all over the walls at the rec room.

LORELAI: See, see, lots of paraphernalia.

Lorelai is crowing because Rory felt upset when she was told that having Harvard paraphernalia on her walls was a sign of being immature and desperate. Now she can see that Darren, a real Harvard graduate, has masses of Harvard memorabilia all over the walls of his recreation room. She had the real Harvard spirit all along!

Of course, Darren waited to graduate before he started collecting Harvard memorabilia – Rory has been putting it on her bedroom walls since she was a young girl. I’m not sure you can say she and Darren are exactly the same, although he is clearly a bit of a Harvard tragic as well.