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.

“I mean it Timmy, no falling down the well”

LORELAI: Call me when you get home, and please be careful.
RORY: I will.
LORELAI: I mean it Timmy, no falling down the well.

Lorelai is referencing an old joke relating to the television show Lassie, earlier discussed.

In the show, Lassie would bark to give warning of danger, with her human friends apparently understanding exactly what she was saying. Thus it was parodied as, “Woof, woof!”, “What’s that, Lassie? Timmy’s fallen down the well?”. The joke relates to the 1957-1964 period, when the little boy on the show was Timmy Martin, played by Jon Provost (who called his memoirs Timmy’s in the Well: The Jon Provost Story).

In actuality, Timmy never fell down a well, although he suffered a number of similar situations, such as falling in a lake and getting trapped in an old mine, a pipe, and down a badger hole. The list of Timmy’s perils is very long, and includes wandering onto a minefield and being exposed to radiation, not to mention more mundane concerns like tigers and bears. Lassie did once get stuck down a well herself, though.

“10 and 2 hand position”

RORY: You didn’t say anything on the ride home.
LORELAI: I was concentrating.
RORY: So …
LORELAI: Well, I feel I’ve gotten sloppy with this whole “10 and 2” hand position thing.
RORY: Mm hmm.
LORELAI: Yeah seriously, the other day I caught myself doing a “9 and 4.”
RORY: Mom.
LORELAI: Well, if left uncorrected, that can only lead to a “6 and 12”, or worse yet, an “8 and 11”, which is not only dangerous but damn uncomfortable.

Lorelai is referring to the traditional instruction given in driver’s education training to keep your hands on the steering wheel as if one is at ten o’clock on a clock face, and the other one is marking two o’clock.

This information is now outdated, and in fact it was outdated even at the time Lorelai was saying it. Once airbags came in during the 1990s, this way of holding the steering wheel became potentially dangerous, as if you are holding the wheel at “10 and 2” when an airbag deploys, you risk having your fingers or hands crushed, or your nose broken.

Driving instructors now suggest “9 and 3” as a better position, or even “8 and 4”, as being safer and giving better control over the vehicles. Having said that, “6 and 12” and “8 and 11” are clearly wrong, and certainly neither would be comfortable nor safe.

“Camelot is truly dead”

LORELAI: Do you know that butt models make $10,000 a day? [Rory chuckles]
EMILY: Camelot is truly dead.

Camelot is the name of King Arthur’s castle and court in Arthurian legend. Americans use the term to refer to the presidency of John F. Kennedy, which was first applied by his widow Jacqueline Kennedy after his assassination in 1963.

Jackie referenced a line from the 1960 stage musical Camelot: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment, that was known as Camelot”. Indicating that this was one of John F. Kennedy’s favourite lyrics from the musical, she added, “There will be great presidents again, but there’ll never be another Camelot again”.

I’m not sure where Lorelai received her information from, but butt models in the movies actually make about $500 a day, double that if they go nude. Outside the movies, it might be as little as $200 a day – they get paid by the hour, and let’s face it, hardly anybody wants to film a single butt all day. These days, a butt model could make as much as $5000 from just one Instagram post, but that isn’t the norm, and the option didn’t exist in 2001.

Fred Mertz

LORELAI: My father almost hit someone. My father has probably only hit another man in college wearing boxing gloves and one of those Fred Mertz Golden Gloves pullover sweaters.
LORELAI: I Love Lucy – Fred Mertz.
CHRISTOPHER: Landlord to Ricky, husband to Ethel, I know. It’s just a weird reference.

Lorelai and Christopher pretty much annotate this one themselves. On the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy, previously and frequently mentioned, Fred Mertz (William Frawley) was Ethel’s (Vivian Vance’s) husband, and the landlord of Ricky and Lucy Ricardo in New York. After the Ricardos moved to Connecticut to start chicken farming, Fred and Ethel followed them, and the Ricardos ended up being the Mertz’s landlords.

In his heyday, Fred was a boxing champion, and in the episode Changing the Boys’ Wardrobe (December 1953) he can be seen wearing a sweater which says GOLDEN GLOVES 1909. In fact the first Golden Gloves amateur boxing championship took place in 1923 in Chicago, after which the name was applied to any number of amateur boxing contests.

“Donna Reed wasn’t real”

DEAN: You do realize that Donna Reed wasn’t real, don’t you?
RORY: Yes, I know she wasn’t real, but she represented millions of women that were real and did have to dress like that and act like that.

Maybe Dean has an excuse for not knowing this, but how can Rory not know that Donna Reed was a real person? She’s been watching The Donna Reed Show for years, it seems, and would have seen the name Donna Reed in the credits, if nothing else.

Not only that, but the character of Donna Stone on The Donna Reed Show was strongly based on Donna Reed’s real personality and way of life, to the point where friends and family could instantly recognise the character as a TV version of the actress. Even the fictional character has a basis in fact.

Catherine the Great

While Lorelai is mending her Chilton school sweater, Rory studies for a History test (her midterm exam?), reading through index cards on Catherine the Great.

Catherine II (1729-1796), also known as Catherine the Great, was Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796, the country’s longest-ruling female leader. Under her reign, Russia grew larger and stronger, and was recognised as one of the great powers of Europe, while the period of her rule is considered the Golden Age of the Russian Empire and the Russian nobility. As patron of the arts, she presided over the Russian Enlightenment, and decreed the first state-funded institute of higher learning for women.

As Rory’s notes say, she was born Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg in Prussia. Although Lorelai jokes that everyone called her Kitten, her nickname was Figchen, a short form of her middle name Friederike. She received the name Yekaterina (Catherine) in 1744 on converting to the Russian Orthodox faith in preparation for her marriage.

Catherine married her second cousin Peter von Holstein-Gottorp, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp (that’s in north-west Germany) in 1745 – not 1754 as Rory says. Their marriage was indeed unhappy, and Catherine detested Peter at first sight. He had a difficult personality, and both of them were unfaithful to each other, with Catherine taking many lovers during her lifetime.

Peter became Peter III, Emperor of Russia in 1762, but six months later was deposed and possibly assassinated as the result of a conspiracy led by his wife Catherine, who succeeded him to the throne.

In an episode focused on women’s roles, this is a reminder of one of history’s most powerful female leaders.