RORY: So does that mean that you might reconsider my suspension? HEADMASTER: You’re an excellent student. You deserve to go to Harvard. I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of that.
Utterly, utterly ludicrous. No headmaster would ever tell a student they deserve to go to Harvard, especially one who’d just been caught in his office in the middle of the night. There are many excellent students, Harvard is very difficult to get in to, they won’t all make it. Yet in only her second year at Chilton, Rory is more or less told it is her right to be there.
The writers of Gilmore Girls never seemed to understand how schools and colleges actually operate. Considering how much of the show revolved around Rory’s secondary and tertiary education, it seems like something they maybe should have brushed up on.
LORELAI: I’m gonna join the Booster Club, mmkay? The Booster Club, I’m going to boost. EMILY: Well, the Boosters are a very fine organization.
Booster clubs are common at high schools and universities in the US. They are run by parents as fundraising efforts to boost the school’s coffers, especially to pay for supplies, equipment or trips that the students need.
Chilton seems unusual in only having one booster club. Many schools have two – an academic booster club, and an athletics booster club.
PARIS: No, they’re the Puffs, the most influential sorority at Chilton. RORY: Chilton has sororities?
PARIS: Only ten worth mentioning, and the Puffs, they have been number one for at least the last fifty years.
A sorority is a women’s social organisation at a college or university, the female equivalent of a fraternity. They were once common in US high schools as well, but these days many schools ban them. However, they are still in existence, and some schools are willing to turn a blind eye to them while not recognising them officially.
We learn here that Chilton is the sort of school which tolerates this practice, and that it has at least ten major sororities! The Puffs have been the most powerful and exclusive of them since at least 1951.
The current Puffs seem to consist of Francine “Francie” Jarvis (President), Ivy, Dijur, Lily, Celine, Lana, Asia, Anna, and Lemon. The name Puffs could have been chosen in-universe because of powder puffs, suggesting a fashionable femininity, or even that they are delicious little morsels, as puffs are such a favourite food in Gilmore Girls. However, it suggests being filled with their own importance (“puffed up”, “puff piece”) and full of hot air.
There’s something insubstantial about the Puffs, as if a puff of wind could blow them away – remember that Rory even pretended a draft of air is what drove her to their table, taking her on a trip to another world just as weird and bizarre as Oz.
Coming Home is a 1978 romantic drama war film starring Jane Fonda and Jon Voigt, in a love triangle story between Sally, the wife of a Marine Corps Captain deployed in Vietnam (played by Bruce Dern), and Luke, a young man who has returned from the war a paraplegic. He and Sally meet at the veteran’s hospital where Sally is volunteering. It has an excellent soundtrack of late 1960s songs.
The film received good reviews, and was popular with audiences. It is still regarded as one of the best dramatic films ever made.
LORELAI: Oh, look, the Chilton Cheer Society wear matching hats. Eh? Go Harvard.
A school’s Cheer Society exists to financially and practically support its cheer squad. Presumably the parents wear matching hats to identify themselves, and will also cheer for the team from the bleachers.
Lorelai is reminding Rory that everything they’re doing is so Rory can attend Harvard.
Indignant that the school has dared to suggest her daughter is less than perfect, Lorelai marches into the headmaster’s office in high dudgeon to put him straight on the Gilmore Girl philosophy of not doing anything you don’t feel like.
Headmaster Charleston pulls the wind from her sails by immediately getting out her file (really? Schools keep files on parents? What kind of school is this?). The file is worryingly thin, denoting a lack of parental involvement. Lorelai has only been to one bake sale a year ago, and was observed to not stay afterwards to talk to other parents. Seriously, how does he know all this stuff? Why does he care?
Perhaps tactfully, Headmaster Charleston does not bring up the fact that Lorelai got rather too involved in the school by having a serious relationship with Rory’s teacher. That’s all forgiven and forgotten, but failing to hang out after a bake sale? That’s on your permanent record, Missy!
Now, usually when Lorelai is told to do something, she gets stroppy and calls everyone a Fascist, but this is Rory’s future, so after a few futile attempts to explain she’s too busy, she meekly leaves with a list of organisations at Chilton she might join.
Just as the school wouldn’t listen when Rory was slightly late to a test because she lives out of town and got hit by a deer, there is no attempt to understand that Lorelai is a single mother who works and studies, and is also doing about a million volunteer jobs in Stars Hollow already. Do fathers have to do any of this volunteer stuff for Chilton, or are their lives considered far too busy and worthwhile to be called upon in this way? If so, one of the more realistic things in the show!
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.
LORELAI: A-plus. RORY: You’re my mom. LORELAI: Is anything higher than an A-plus? RORY: You have to say that. LORELAI: It’s an A-plus with a crown and a wand. RORY: This is not how you raise a child. You don’t send them out there with a false sense of pride, because out there, in the real world, no one will coddle you. I’d rather know right now if I’m gonna be working at CNN, or carrying a basket around its offices with sandwiches in it.
Rory says she wants honest feedback on her work, but when she’s later given a critique of her abilities and an assessment of her career options, she has a complete breakdown and is unable to continue. In this case, she is happy to receive confirmation that she’s doing great, and to enjoy being coddled a while longer.
I don’t think it’s really Lorelai’s job to provide Rory with an assessment of her abilities and suggest a grade she deserves to receive. She’s not a teacher, a journalist, or a writer. She doesn’t have academic credentials or training. Surely as a mother, all she can do for Rory is support and encourage her, as she is trying to do.
At this point, Rory shouldn’t need any harsher criticism than she’s already receiving, because Chilton is supposedly a strict school with high academic standards. Is it possible she already feels that the teacher supervising The Franklin staff is too easy on her?
JESS: You bring me here to this place, you put me in a school that says the Pledge of Allegiance in six different languages, two of which I’ve never heard of before.
The Pledge of Allegiance expresses loyalty to the United States flag and the nation that it represents. A pledge was first composed in 1887 by Captain George Thatcher Balch, a former Union Army Officer during the Civil War who later taught patriotism in schools. The current pledge was mostly composed by a Christian socialist minister and author Francis Bellamy in 1892, based on the one by Balch. It was formally adopted by Congress in 1942.
The Pledge of Allegiance is recited at the start of Congressional sessions, many local government meetings, and often even in private organisations. Most states, including Connecticut, require the pledge to be recited regularly, usually every day, at public schools. However, a student legally cannot be compelled to recite the pledge, or punished for failing to do so.
The Pledge of Allegiance
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
It is recited while standing to attention, facing the flag with the right hand over the heart (non-religious headgear is removed for the pledge by males). Those in uniform remain silent for the pledge, but give a military salute to the flag.
Sometimes schools in the US have recited the pledge in different languages, but it tends to not go down well, and be considered unpatriotic. Stars Hollow High School is apparently not afraid to celebrate its diversity, even though its student population isn’t very diverse. Six languages seems extremely unusual though.
What the six languages were, two of which Jess had never heard of before, is open to speculation. I am going to guess, based on languages spoken in Connecticut, according to the census:
Spanish (the most common non-English language in the US)
French (we know this language is taught at Stars Hollow High)
Korean (Mrs Kim can be very persuasive?)
Tagalog (the language of the Philippines, which Jess might not have heard of?)
Urdu (the national language of Pakistan, which Jess might not have heard of?)
Other possibilities I considered: German (Stars Hollow once had an ill-fated German Club), Portuguese (second most common non-English language in Connecticut), Polish (very commonly spoken in the nearby Hartford area), Hebrew or Yiddish (we later learn Stars Hollow has a vibrant Jewish community), Algonquin (the Native American language spoken by Connecticut tribes), Esperanto (a created universal language), American Sign Language for the deaf.