LORELAI: Rory, do you know what a coming out party says? RORY: It says I’m a woman now. LORELAI: No. It says, ‘Hi, I’m Rory. I’m of good breeding and marriageable age, and I will now parade around in front of young men of similarly good breeding and marriageable age so they can all take a good long look at me.’
Originally, becoming a debutante was a marker that a young woman was old enough to be married, and part of their purpose was to display her to a select circle of eligible bachelors, with the hope that one of them might marry her.
These days, few expect a teenager to get married – as Rory says, they are usually seen as a celebration that a girl has reached a certain level of maturity, and provide a chance to show off her appearance, style, and accomplishments. (Emily does love to show Rory off, and is given few chances to).
Lorelai is being a bit old-fashioned in her views, although she’s not exactly wrong either, as social events such as a debutante ball do give opportunities to meet people of a similar age and background, which might one day lead to something more. Of course, that could happen at any social function. It’s not as if girls are kept hidden away from the world until they make their debut any more.
Lorelai’s ideas would have been forward-thinking in, say, 1930, but seem a bit quaint for 2001. Her feminism always seems to be a generation or two behind the times.
Dean might have kept his mouth shut in front of Lorelai, but now he and Rory are alone they end up arguing about The Donna Reed Show. He basically can’t see anything wrong with a woman cooking dinner for her husband and family, and points out that’s exactly what his mother did for years, and now that she works, she still does it on the weekends.
Their different family backgrounds have helped shape their differing values, and Rory cannot really find a way to respect Dean’s experiences and views without feeling that she is betraying Lorelai, and the way she was raised. In fact, she sounds as if she’s beginning to have doubts about whether Lorelai is completely in the right.
Her argument that it’s okay for Dean’s mother to cook if she wants to because women have choices now doesn’t really make sense. If women (like Mrs. Forester) are free to do as they wish now, then why is Rory getting upset about how things were in a previous era? Why is it even an issue? And how exactly does it affect her?
Rory’s read books on feminism, but isn’t able to explain her feminist ideals to Dean. Perhaps she’s afraid that if she did so, the difference in their opinions and values would become too starkly obvious. Or maybe she wonders if Simone de Beauvoir can really help in this situation.
When Dean says that Rory only thinks the way she does because of her mother, it raises the question, yet again, as to whether Rory even has an identity of her own apart from Lorelai. Perhaps because of this comment, she doesn’t confide in Lorelai as to what’s bothering her, or what she plans to do.
This is the television program that Lorelai and Rory watch with Dean, and is the basis for the episode’s title.
The Donna Reed Show is a sit-com starring Donna Reed as middle-class housewife Donna Stone. Carl Betz played opposite her as Donna’s paediatrician husband Alex, and Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen were their teenaged children, Mary and Jeff.
Although Lorelai and Rory consider the show hopelessly outdated and sexist, episodes occasionally examined issues such as women’s rights (not with any radical outcomes, it must be said). But Donna Stone was a more assertive mother than had previously been shown on television, and it was the first sitcom to focus on the mother as the central figure in a domestic comedy. It helped pave the way for shows such as Roseanne and even Gilmore Girls (both shows that Amy Sherman-Palladino worked on).
The Donna Reed Show was attacked by feminists in the 1970s as presenting an idealised view of domesticity, so Rory and Lorelai’s criticisms feel really behind the times. It’s strange that they are giving feminist opinions from a generation ago as if they are clever and new – maybe they really do watch too many old movies?
The Donna Reed Show originally aired from 1958-1966, and was one of the most popular programs of 1963-64. It was only cancelled when Donna Reed became tired of doing the show.
Reruns of The Donna Reed Show were shown on Nick at Nite from 1985 to 1994. It wasn’t on TV in 2001, and hadn’t yet been released on DVD, meaning that the only way Lorelai and Rory can be watching the show is because they taped it off TV ages ago and are still watching it on video at least seven years later. Despite their mocking of the show, they must really be huge fans! (Again, how a show that hadn’t been on TV in nearly a decade is a relevant target for their attacks is a puzzle).
SOOKIE: But I mentioned it once, it’s his [Jackson’s] turn. LORELAI: Alright, let’s say it is his turn. You can spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for him to realise it’s his turn, or you can just run with the wolves and make it your turn again.
Lorelai is referring to the 1992 best-seller Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Jungian analyst, author, and poet Clarissa Pinkola Estés. The book analyses myths, fairy tales, and folk tales from different cultures to discover the Wild Woman archetype of the feminine psyche, in line with Jungian psychoanalysis.
The book spent three years on the New York Times Best Seller list, a record at the time, and the author won an award for being the first Latina author to make the Best Seller List. It was a highly popular feminist book of the 1990s, so Lorelai is encouraging Sookie to take the initiative and ask Jackson out without worrying about traditional gender roles.
NURSE: Ms. Gilmore, uh, I need you to – EMILY: It’s not “Ms. Gilmore”, it’s Mrs. Gilmore! Mrs. Gilmore, I’m not a Cosmo Woman!
Emily is referring to Helen Gurley Brown (1922-2012), who became editor of Cosmpolitan magazine in 1965 after the success of her best-selling 1962 advice book Sex and the Single Girl. She championed glamorous, fashionable, and sexually liberated women, who became known as “Cosmo Girls”.
It’s possible that Emily, in her state of distress, has somehow confused Helen Gurley Brown and feminist Gloria Steinem (born 1934) – Steinem became the editor of Ms. magazine in 1972, which featured Wonder Woman on its first cover.
Emily would have been a wife, and then a mother, at the time of the rise of Gurley Brown and Steinem – very proud to be “Mrs. Richard Gilmore”, and the opposite of the independent career woman in Cosmpolitan, and of the woman speaking out against the restrictions of marriage and family in Ms.
I’m not sure whether she says “Cosmo Woman” via mixing up Cosmo Girl and Wonder Woman from Ms. Magazine, or whether she simply can’t bear to refer to herself as a “girl” when she’s a mature-aged woman.
TRISTAN: The guy’s supposed to buy the tickets. RORY: Really. Does Susan Faludi know about this?
Susan Faludi (born 1959) is an American feminist, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, and author. Rory may be interested in her work partly because she is a Harvard graduate who became a journalist. During the 1980s she wrote for The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, among others, often writing articles on feminism.
Her book Backlash: The Undeclared War on American Women was published in 1991, and has become a classic feminist text. In 1999 she followed it up with Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, which looks at how traditional views of masculinity have led to poorer outcomes for many men.
Rory has probably read both books, but may be thinking of Stiffed when she makes her comment to Tristan, as he is espousing a stereotyped view of male gender roles.
Rory reads this 1929 book by Virginia Woolf on the bus to Hartford. A Room of One’s Own is a long essay based on a series of lectures that Woolf gave to female students at two women’s colleges at Cambridge University in 1928. It combines fiction and non-fiction to discuss a history of women’s writing, and to argue for a place for women within the literary tradition.
Woolf states that for a woman to write fiction, she must have a modest income, and a private place to write – a room of her own. This is another feminist text that Rory reads, and it seems that the aspiring journalist is already positioning herself as a woman writer. It is ironic that the book asks for women to be given a private space, as Dean intrudes on Rory’s privacy on the bus.
Lorelai identifies gauchos as being one of the times in her life she was wrong. Gaucho pants are a women’s fashion item: very wide-legged trousers with a cuff ending mid-calf – basically long culottes. They are named after the trousers favoured by South American gauchos (“cowboys”).
They were in style in the early 1970s as something of a feminist statement, and soon went out of favour because they are rather unflattering. They have never quite gone away, due to being practical and comfortable.
LORELAI: Sookie, I need coffee to go. SOOKIE: [holding her head in her hands] There’s fresh over there. LORELAI: Ooh, good. [picks up an empty pot] Fresh in my first lifetime as Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc (c1412-1431) is a Catholic saint who is a patron of France, and considered a heroine in her home country for her role in the Hundred Years War, where she led the French army to victory. Since the Middle Ages, women have seen her as an inspiring example of a brave and active woman.
It is somehow typical of Lorelai that even in a joke, she imagines her first lifetime as a national heroine and proto-feminist icon.
We learn that Richard’s mother is named Lorelai, so in fact it is a family name which has been passed down to Rory by her mother, and not the Demerol-inspired feminist statement which we were told about in the last two episodes.
Richard speaks about his mother as if she is dead, but she turns up alive and well later in the season.