Midnight Express

RORY: How did you get them [bootleg albums] past customs?
LANE: Well, I strapped them to my body like in Midnight Express.

Midnight Express, previously discussed as a film that Lorelai and Rory had seen; apparently Lane watched it with them at least once. In the film, Billy Hayes is caught while trying to smuggle hashish out of Turkey, with the drugs strapped to his body.

That Billy’s plan didn’t work and he was sent to prison doesn’t seem to have deterred Lane. She’s almost certainly joking, as it doesn’t seem to be particularly difficult to get bootleg albums through US customs. It seems to be one of those things that are technically illegal, but rarely enforced.

Katharine Hepburn

EMILY: You know what, I’m not returning the gift. I’m going to put it away in a closet and you won’t know what it is until you do get married someday.
LORELAI: Tell me now!
EMILY: Sorry.
LORELAI: Come on! Mom, I may never get married. I may be a free spirit my whole life, or fall in love with a separated Catholic guy like Katharine Hepburn did, and then not get to go to his funeral when he dies.

Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003) was an American actress who was born and grew up in Hartford; like Rory, she attended a private school there. A leading lady in Hollywood for more for 60 years, she received four Academy Awards for Best Actress – a record number for any performer. In 1999 Hepburn was named the greatest female star of Classic Hollywood Cinema by the American Film Institute.

After beginning her career in theatre, success on Broadway brought Katharine Hepburn to Hollywood, and she received her first Academy Award for her third film, Morning Glory (1933). This was followed by a series of failures, but she arranged her own comeback by buying the rights to the film The Philadelphia Story (1940), only selling them on condition of starring in itself. The film was a massive success, and is regarded as one of the best screwball romantic comedies of all time.

In the 1940s Hepburn was contracted by MGM, where she frequently played opposite film star Spencer Tracy (1900-1967); their screen partnership lasted 25 years, and produced nine movies. Hepburn and Tracy maintained a private relationship for 26 years, lasting until his death. Spencer Tracy was married, but had been separated from his wife for several years before beginning his relationship with Katharine Hepburn.

Spencer Tracy was a Catholic, but it is not clear if this was the reason for not divorcing his wife (who was an Episcopalian). From comments he made, it seemed more as if he was going along with the wishes of his wife, while Hepburn didn’t interfere and never pushed for marriage. After his death, Katharine Hepburn did not attend his funeral out of consideration for his wife and children.

“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.

Rizzo

LORELAI: Hey, I’m gonna find a ladies room. You know, sneak a smoke, see if anybody slipped an aspirin in my Coke.
RORY: Okay, Rizzo.

Betty Rizzo (played by Stockard Channing), usually known by her surname only, is a character in the 1978 musical film Grease, previously discussed; she is one of the Pink Ladies clique at Rydell High School. Tough, cynical, and sexually experienced, Rizzo is at first antagonistic towards the “good girl” heroine, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John).

In the film, Rizzo, like all the Pink Ladies, smokes cigarettes on the sly. Her friend Marty Maraschino (Dinah Manoff), the best-looking of the Pink Ladies, complained at a teenager’s dance that the flirtatious adult host had tried to slip an aspirin into her Coke – according to an urban legend of the era, such a combination could be used as a date-rape drug.

David Lynch

LORELAI: We are not gonna have this fight in a flowery bedroom with dentists singing Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves [sic] in the background. It’s too David Lynch!

David Lynch (born 1946) is an American film maker, musician, actor, and artist. His first feature-length work was the surrealist horror film Eraserhead (1977), which became a cult classic, and he gained mainstream success with the biographical film The Elephant Man (1980), previously mentioned. The science-fiction epic Dune (1984) was a failure, while his mystery film Blue Velvet (1987) was controversial upon release, but now regarded as one of the greatest films of its era.

He is well known for his mystery horror television series Twin Peaks (1990-1991), which was a smash hit around the world, quickly gained a cult following, and caused him to be labelled the “first popular Surrealist”. He also directed Wild at Heart, earlier mentioned as a film Nicolas Cage starred in.

It becomes apparent during the show that Lorelai is a David Lynch fan.

Nicolas Cage and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

RORY: A cool B&B?
LORELAI: Yes.
RORY: That’s like saying an understated Nicholas Cage movie.
LORELAI: Listen, I myself am not usually a fan of the B&B, but Donald’s place is different.
RORY: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
LORELAI: I’m serious.
RORY: “Bella bambina at two o’clock.”

Nicolas Cage, born Nicolas Coppola (born 1964) is an American actor, director, and producer. He is the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola, and the cousin of director Sofia Coppola. After making his debut in Fast Times at Ridgemont High in 1982, in his early career, Nicolas Cage starred in slightly off-beat films such as Valley Girl (1983), Raising Arizona (1987), and Wild at Heart (1990). In 1995 he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Leaving Las Vegas, and gained mainstream success in films such as The Rock (1996), Con Air (1997), and City of Angels (1998). His acting style has been described as “operatic”, while he himself refers to his method as “Noveau Shamanic” – hence Rory’s inference that a Nicolas Cage movie can never be understated.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a 2001 war film directed by John Madden, and based on the 1994 novel of the same name by British novelist Louis de Bernières. Nicolas Cage has the title role of Captain Antonio Corelli, and the film is set on the Greek island of Cephalonia during World War II. The film received poor reviews.

In the film, when Captain Corelli first spots his love interest Pelagia (Penelope Cruz) in a crowd, he shouts out to his men: “Bella bambina at two o’clock! Eyes right!”, so that they can all witness and acknowledge her beauty.

The film was released in the US on August 17 2001, so Rory mentioning it is slightly anachronistic – according to the show’s timeline of events, Rory can’t have seen it yet, as it won’t come out for a another few days from her perspective.

Lorelai and Rory apparently now hate B&Bs, even though Lorelai and Sookie were talking about opening one a few episodes ago.

Red Light

[Early the next morning, Lorelai and Rory are in Lorelai’s jeep driving through Stars Hollow.]
LORELAI: We’re almost there and nowhere near it. All that matters is we’re going.
RORY: We’re practically gone already.
LORELAI: Look out world.
[They stop at the red light and stare at it, waiting for it to change.]

There have been so many mentions of great American journeys in Gilmore Girls, from On the Road to Huckleberry Finn to Thelma and Louise, that it seems in tune with the show’s theme for Lorelai and Rory to hit the road at some point. Their conversation is even vaguely reminiscent of a famous exchange from On the Road:

““Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.”

That urge towards the journey and not the destination is the same one that is driving Lorelai away from her home.

As luck would have it, before they even leave town, they get stuck at the new traffic light, which is timed to come on even if there is no other traffic on the road, and will stay on until the oldest and feeblest person in Stars Hollow can safely get across the road. It’s symbolic of the way that it will always be difficult for them to leave Stars Hollow, even temporarily. There is something in the town which holds them captive to some extent.

This is the literal “red light on the wedding night” alluded to in the episode’s title, although strictly speaking it isn’t the wedding night, but several days before the wedding. Symbolically though, it means that Lorelai has put a stop to her wedding going ahead.

Janet Jackson and Celine Dion

LORELAI: Hey, where were you after you broke off from the group?
MICHEL: Oh, I sat at a table with Janet Jackson and Celine Dion. Very nice guys.

Janet Jackson (born 1966) [pictured] is an American singer, songwriter, dancer, and actress who has been a prominent figure in popular culture for thirty years. The youngest of the famous Jackson family, she began her career on The Jacksons variety show in 1976, and appeared on other television shows in the 1970s and ’80s, including Fame, previously mentioned. After signing a record contract in 1982, she became a pop icon in the second half of the 1980s, and a sex symbol in the 1990s; she was one of the biggest recording artists of the 1990s. One of the best-selling musical artists, she holds the record for the most consecutive entries in the US Top Ten singles chart by a female artist, at 18. A long-time supporter of LGBT rights, she received special praise for her 1997 album The Velvet Rope, which spoke out against homophobia and embraced same-sex love. The albums’s second single, Together Again, is a tribute to the loved ones Jackson lost to AIDS, with a portion of sales going to AIDS research. She has received several awards for her charity work on behalf of AIDS education, and suicide prevention among gay youth. She is currently working on a documentary about transgender people.

Celine Dion (born 1968) is a Canadian singer. First becoming a star in the French-speaking world as a teenager, she gained international recognition in the 1980s when she won the 1982 Yamaha World Popular Song Festival, and the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest, where she represented Switzerland. In 1990, she released her first English-language album, Unison, establishing her as a star in North America and the rest of the English-speaking world. She has had several #1 hits, including My Heart Will Go On, and The Power of Love, and has won five Grammy Awards; Dion is the best-selling Canadian musical artist. She is a resident performer in Las Vegas, and is the highest-paid, receiving $500 000 per show. Michel getting along well with a drag queen dressed as Celine Dion seems to be the beginning of his obsession with the singer. Although Celine Dion does have a gay following, her inclusion seems to be in tribute to Yanic Truesdale, who plays Michel, as they are both French-Canadians.

Max’s “General” CD Collection

While trying to discover if Max is “worthy” of Lorelai, Christopher asks what his CD collection is like, and gives an “Uh oh” when told he has “kind of a general collection”. Christopher thinks that means “a dozen soundtracks”, and “a generic fifty”. (I can feel Daniel Palladino’s own musical judgements contributing to this section – Palladino was the writer for this episode).

Unfortunately for Max, all Christopher’s derogatory assumptions about Max’s musical tastes turn out to be on point, with Lorelai unable to defend her fiance in any serious way. It may seem shallow and silly, but Christopher’s criticisms of Max’s CD collection seems to make quite an impression on Lorelai (even though she had earlier criticised Christopher’s musical tastes). Is Lorelai so immature that Max’s CD collection is a real problem, or is she clutching at any excuse to dump him?

The Beatles, previously and frequently mentioned, were an English rock band formed in 1960, with their classic line up being John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. They are widely regarded as the most important and most influential band in history, and are the best-selling band of all time, with sales of over 800 million worldwide. They have had more #1 albums in the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act, and are the best-selling musical act in the US. They have received seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Score (for the 1970 film Let it Be), and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting. The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, with the individual members inducted between 1994 and 2015.

Bob Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman (born 1941) is an American singer-songwriter who has been influential in popular music and culture for more than five decades. He is most famous for his 1960s folk anthems of the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests such as The Times They Are AChanging, and Blowing in the Wind. One of the best-selling musical artists all all time, he has received numerous awards throughout his career, including eleven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Alanis Morissette (born 1974) is a Canadian-American singer-songwriter known for her emotional singing style, giving her the title of “Queen of Alt-Rock Angst”. She brought out two dance-pop albums in Canada in the early 1990s, but gained mainstream success after moving to the US with her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill, which sold more than 33 million copies, won the Grammy Award for Best Album, and is her most critically acclaimed work, with hit singles such as Ironic and You Oughta Know. I think this is the “first album” which Lorelai says many people bought in a knee-jerk reaction, including Max, it seems.

David “Dave” Matthews (born 1967) is a South African-born American singer-songwriter, best known as the lead singer of the Dave Matthews Band, formed in 1991. During the early 2000s, his band sold more tickets and made more money than any other act in North America, and nearly all their studio albums have gone to #1 in the US. Matthews has also brought out solo albums, and won two Grammy Awards. Lorelai says “a couple of his things are good”, but I’m not sure which “things” she means, or even whether she means a couple of his albums or a couple of his songs.

Buena Vista Social Club is a group of Cuban musicians established in 1996 to revive the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba. The group’s self-titled album was released in 1997, rapidly making them an international success, with performances in Europe and the US. Wim Wenders made a documentary about them called Buena Vista Social Club, and when it came out in 1998 it received critical acclaim and sparked a revival of Latin American music, helping to increase tourism to Cuba.

Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, anglicised as Enya Brennan, and known as Enya (born 1961) is an Irish singer, songwriter, and musician. Her music career began in 1980 when she joined her family’s Celtic band Clannad, and left in 1982 to pursue a solo career. She has numerous top-selling and critically acclaimed albums, with her 2000 album A Day Without Rain, and its lead single, Only Time, experiencing a great success in the US after the September 11 attacks in 2001, making it the best-selling New Age album of all time. Enya is Ireland’s most successul solo act, and has won seven World Music Awards, four Grammy Awards, and an Ivor Novello Award. She is also known for writing and performing the song May It Be for the 2001 film, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

In general, Christopher is putting down music that experienced sudden mass popularity, so that many people jumped on its bandwagon. How this differs from the very popular bands which he and Lorelai favour is not particularly clear, and his music snobbery may seem rather hypocritical. He also doesn’t seem keen on world music.

True

This 1983 pop song plays while Emily tells the company the touching story about her love for Richard just before they got married, right through until Lorelai phones Christopher.

True is the title track to the third album by British new wave band Spandau Ballet. The song was written by Gary Kemp, and although it sounds so romantic, was written about his platonic relationship with Clare Grogan from Scottish band Altered Images, previously mentioned. It contains tributes to both Marvin Gaye and Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita.

True went to #1 in the US, and was #1 in the UK, Ireland, and Canada. It has been voted both one of the favourite #1 hits of the 1980s, and one of the worst songs of all time. Like Altered Images’ Happy Birthday, the song features on the soundtrack to the teen movie Sixteen Candles.

Spandau Ballet have a following of gay fans, thanks in part to the androgynous image favoured by 1980s new wave bands, and are vocal supporters of LGBT rights.