Consumption, The Vapours, Leeching

LORELAI: Actually … I’m sick.
EMILY: I knew it, what’s wrong?
LORELAI: Consumption with a touch of the vapors. I’m going for a leeching tonight after coffee.

Consumption: a 19th century word for tuberculosis, an infectious disease mostly affecting the lungs. It was seen as a romantic disease affecting artists, poets and composers, whose creative talent would somehow be amplified. In real life, it was primarily a disease of the urban poor, due to their cramped conditions.

The vapours: an old word, dating to antiquity but still used in the 19th century, for a variety of medical issues which might include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, fainting, or PMS. It was only ever used towards women, and ascribed to female hysteria.

Leeching: from ancient times, leeches were used medically, becoming especially popular in the medieval and early modern period to take blood from a patient, which was thought to balance the “humours” of the body. Although this went out of fashion, leeches began to be used in the 1970s, as it was realised the proteins in their saliva had numerous medical benefits, and they were classified as a medical device in the US in 2004.


LORELAI: Have you seen my bag with the beads and the fur, kind of looks like Stalin’s head?

Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), Georgian revolutionary and Soviet leader who governed the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death. He is occasionally depicted wearing a round furry hat, which might be what Lorelai is thinking of. Of course Lorelai has a Communist bag!

Chang and Eng

PARIS (to Rory): Why don’t they just sew our sides together and rename us Chang and Eng?

Chang and Eng Bunker (1811-1879), Siamese-American conjoined twins of Chinese ancestry, previously mentioned. Born in modern-day Thailand (then called Siam), they were brought to the US in 1829, and became wealthy by exhibiting themselves in “freak shows”. After ten years, they retired from touring, became American citizens, bought slaves, married two sisters, and fathered twenty-one children between them. For many years, conjoined twins were called “Siamese twins” because of Chang and Eng’s birthplace.

Tar and Feathers

TAYLOR: The bottom line here is that there is a consensus among townspeople who are in agreement that Stars Hollow was a better place before Jess got here.
LUKE: So this half of the room gets the tar, and the other half gets the feathers?
TAYLOR: Well, there hasn’t been any talk of tar and feathers. Although …

Tarring and feathering is a form of public torture and punishment handed out as unofficial justice, used in feudal England and colonial America, as well as the early American frontier, as a form of mob or vigilante vengeance. The last known example was in 2007 in Northern Ireland, against someone accused of drug-dealing.

The victim would be stripped naked or stripped to the waist, painted with hot tar, and then rolled in feathers (there were usually other punishments thrown in, such as whipping or scalping). The skin would be burned by the tar, and scraping it off later led to the skin being torn off, so it was extremely painful as well as humiliating. “Tarring and feathering” is now used as a term to denote severe public criticism.

Luke is saying the town meeting is on a par with the brutal mob justice associated with the Wild West, in agreement with Lorelai’s earlier comment. It is actually quite horrifying, because they seem to be saying Jess should be run out of town, even though he’s a high school kid who’s only guilty of petty theft and a few mild pranks.

It’s also baffling, because Jess isn’t exactly a stranger – he’s Luke’s nephew, Liz’s son, and the grandson of the respected William Danes. The town should be prepared to take him in as one of their own, and the fact that they won’t is a deeply troubling sign. Maybe there’s a good reason why Liz took off.

Neighbourhood Watch

TAYLOR: I speak for the Stars Hollow Business Association, the Stars Hollow Tourist Board, the Stars Hollow Neighborhood Watch Organization, and the Stars Hollow Citizens for a Clean Stars Hollow Council.
LUKE: All of which are you.

Neighborhood Watch is an organisation for civilians devoted to preventing crime and making neighbourhoods safer. In the US, it developed in the late 1960s in response to the rape and murder of a female bartender in Queen’s, New York, who was stabbed outside her apartment building. According to media reports, thirty-eight people saw or heard the attack, and none came to her aid or called the police, so that law enforcement agencies encouraged communities to get more involved in reporting crimes (although in fact the media exaggerated the story – there weren’t so many witnesses, somebody did call police, and another held her while waiting for help to arrive). Neighborhood Watch was a new iteration of the town watch from colonial America.

Taylor’s comment provides a nice little roll call of the major community organisations in Stars Hollow – all apparently spearheaded by Taylor. Taylor can legitimate claim that Jess’ prank is pertinent to all these organisations. He committed a crime, which Neighbourhood Watch needs to keep an eye on, he defaced the pavement, in violation of keeping Stars Hollow clean, and as a result he has made Stars Hollow less desirable for business and tourism. Ingenious!

John Birch Society

MIA: He [Luke] would help people carry groceries home.
RORY: Oh, how very Boy Scout-y of you.
MIA: For a quarter a bag.
LORELAI: Oh, how very John Birch Society-y of you.

The John Birch Society is an ultraconservative, radical far-right political advocacy group. It was founded in 1958 by businessman Robert W. Welch Jnr (1899-1985), who saw it as a way to oppose Communism. Welch owned the Oxford Candy Company in Brooklyn, so maybe he was just on a major sugar high, but he denounced nearly everyone as a Communist agent, including former presidents Truman and Eisenhower.

The society is named in honour of Baptist missionary John Birch (1918-1945), a US military intelligence captain in China who was killed in a confrontation with Chinese Communist soldiers, ten days after the end of World War II. He was posthumously awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal. Welch saw Birch as the first casualty of the Cold War.

The John Birch Society has had a resurgence with the election of Donald Trump, previously discussed, and its previously fringe views have now become mainstream in right-wing politics.


RORY: Yikes. What kind of vibe are you giving her?
LANE: Oh, my patented Keith Richards circa 1969 ‘don’t mess with me’ vibe, with a thousand-yard Asian stare thrown in.

The thousand-yard stare is a phrase often used to describe the blank, unfocused gaze of soldiers during wartime who no longer react to the horror they’re living through. More generally, it can apply to any victim of trauma.

The phrase was popularised during World War II after Life magazine published a 1944 painting by Tom Lea, titled The Marines Call It That 2000-Yard Stare [pictured], but became especially known during the Vietnam War, when it decreased to a slimmer, punchier 1000-yard stare.

Lane dramatically compares her life being brought up in a traditional Asian-American household as akin to that of someone with PTSD on a battlefield.

California Gold Country

FRAN: Oh, I don’t enjoy vacations. I toured the California Gold Country ten years ago. It was hot and the bus smelled.

The Gold Country (also known as Mother Lode Country) is a historic region in northern California, mostly around the Sierra Nevada and into the Sacramento Valley. It’s famous for the gold mines which attracted immigrants, known as the ’49ers, during the 1849 California Gold Rush. Most of the mines were shut down in 1942 because of World War II, but several gold rush towns are still popular tourist attractions.

Fran would have taken her bus tour around the Gold Country in 1991, presumably in summer since she says it was hot. Summers are hot and dry in this region.

Paul Revere

LORELAI: It shouldn’t be too flashy.
SOOKIE: How about something historical, like ‘The Paul Revere’?

Paul Revere (1735-1818) was a Boston silversmith and patriot of the American Revolution. He is best known for his midnight ride to alert the colonial militia in 1775 to the approach of the British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord. It was dramatised in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1861 poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, which significantly increased Revere’s stature, and made him part of American legend.