John F. Kennedy

PARIS: John F. Kennedy once said, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Those eloquent words are just as relevant here in this hall today. What can you, the future of Chilton, of America, of the world, what can you do for your school?

John F. Kennedy, US president, previously discussed. The quote comes from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address on January 20 1961, inspiring the nation to greater civic participation. The finely-crafted address was one of the shortest ever made, and afterwards, 75% of Americans polled approved of the new president.

Government Cheese

EMILY: But after twenty years, where is the woman’s sense of loyalty?

LORELAI: Oh, gee, I don’t know . . . maybe with the company that’s keeping her from having to stand in line for government cheese.

Government cheese is a processed commodity cheese controlled by the US federal government from World War II until the early 1980s, provided to welfare recipients and the elderly on Social Security, to maintain the price of dairy products. It was particularly associated with the Reagan administration. The cheese itself had a noticeable orange colour and melted easily.

Government cheese was removed in the 1990s when the dairy industry stabilised, so Margie wouldn’t be lining up for it in 2002, even if she lost her job completely. Either Lorelai or the writer doesn’t seem to be aware of that.

The Marshall Plan

RORY: Explain to me the political ramifications of the Marshall Plan.

The Marshall Plan, officially the European Recovery Program or ERP, was an American initiative enacted in 1948 to provide foreign aid to Western Europe. The US transferred over $13 billion (equivalent to around $115 billion today) in economic recovery programs to Western European economies after the end of World War II.

The initiative was named after the US Secretary of State, George C. Marshall, and one of its main ramifications was to ensure greater geopolitical influence for the US in Western Europe. It has been argued that it marked the beginning of the Cold War, with the USSR refusing assistance, and determined to bolster its own influence in Europe. This was seen by the US as an act of hostility.

Jess’ History class is obviously studying the Post-War era.


LORELAI: Maybe we should do like a movie marathon weekend. You know, just show one movie after the other for three days and charge everyone a fortune, gouge them for bottled water, have those really disgusting little bathrooms – it’d be like our own Woodstock.

Woodstock Music and Art Fair, commonly known as Woodstock, was a music festival held August 15-18 in 1969, held on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, 40 miles from the town of Woodstock. It attracted an audience of 400 000, and 32 acts performed outdoors, despite sporadic rain. The festival has become widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history as well as a defining event for the counterculture generation.

“She doesn’t have a baseball bat in her hands, does she?”

PARIS: First, let me say that I’m glad to see you all here today, at the beginning of what I think is going to be a very exciting experiment.

BRAD: She doesn’t have a baseball bat in her hands, does she?

A reference to the 1987 crime film The Untouchables, directed by Brian De Palma, screenplay by David Mamet. It is based on the 1957 book of the same name, a memoir by Prohibition agent Eliot Ness. The film follows Eliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner, as he forms his Untouchables team to bring Al Capone, played by Robert De Niro, to justice during Prohibition.

The Untouchables was a commercial success, and received positive reviews from critics. While the film is based on historical events, it is a work of fiction.

Brad is referring to a scene in the film where Al Capone beats a henchman to death with a baseball bat while they are seated at a dinner table. In real life, Capone beat three associates with a baseball bat in 1928 before having them shot when he received word they were plotting to kill him. It did occur at the dinner table, after Capone made sure they were thoroughly drunk.

Dean the Determined

LORELAI: Dean the determined.

An obvious play on epithets historically given to royalty – Ivan the Terrible, James the Just, Alfred the Great, Gerald the Fearless, Philip the Handsome, and so on.

There was a real royal with this epithet – Antonio the Determined [pictured], who managed to rule Portugal as Antony I for at least twenty days during a succession crisis. Although Philip II of Spain prevailed, Antonio did not gracefully admit defeat, but attempted to rule Portugal from the Azores, where he established an opposition government that clung on for three more years. He went into exile in France and England, taking the crown jewels with him.

In Antonio’s case, “determined” seems to be a polite word for “desperate”, or even “delusional”. Dean will likewise do his darnedest to grimly hang onto Rory, even when he knows he’s lost.

Napoleon and Elba

LOUISE: Someone’s not taking to Elba too kindly.

PARIS: What does that mean?

LOUISE: Just that Rory’s the leader of this group, Napoleon, and you’re not.

Napoleon Bonaparte, born Napoleone di Buonaparte (1769-1821), French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution, becoming Emperor of France in the early 19th century. He was one of the greatest military commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied in military schools worldwide.

After Napoleon was forced to abdicate in 1814 he was exiled to the island of Elba, between Corsica and Italy. Louise is saying that now that Rory is leader of their group, Paris is like a great leader forced into the political wilderness.

In fact, Napoleon didn’t waste his time on Elba, improving the island with his usual energy and vision. He escaped from it nine months later and briefly took control of France again before being defeated at Waterloo. Like Napoleon, Paris is unlikely to languish in the background for too long.

[Picture shows Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David (1800)]

“One if by Land”

TROUBADOUR #2: Hey Taylor, cool threads. Very “One if by Land.”

A phrase from the poem Paul Revere’s Ride, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, previously mentioned. It was a reference to the secret signal orchestrated by Revere during his historic ride from Boston to Concord on the verge of American Revolutionary War.

The signal was meant to alert patriots about the route the British troops chose to advance to Concord, with one lantern on a church steeple to signify they were coming the longer way, over land, while two lanterns meant they were coming the shorter way, by sea.

Despite its importance in the cultural landscape, the lantern signals were only a back-up plan if the messenger was not able to get through, but Paul Revere did manage to leave Boston safely to make his historic ride. The popular myth was that the lanterns, now redundant, were intended for Revere, waiting for the signal across the river.

The Romanovs

EMILY: I’ll see you for dinner tonight, Lorelai. And Luke, I’m sure I’ll see you again soon. What do you think of the Romanovs?

LUKE: They probably had it coming.

EMILY: A match made in heaven.

The House of Romanov, the reigning imperial family of Russia from 1613 to 1917. They became prominent after the first Tsar of Russia, Ivan the Terrible, married Anastasia Romanova, the first Tsarina. It is from Anastasia’s name that the family became known as the Romanovs.

The abdication of Tsar Nicholas II during the Russian Revolution on 15 March 1917 ended 304 years of Romanov rule and paved the way for the formation of the Russian Republic. In July 1918, Bolshevik officials executed Nicholas and his family.

Although Lorelai refers to their murder as “the firing squad”, they were shot and bayoneted, then the bodies taken to the forest to be stripped, buried, then mutilated with grenades to prevent identification. This is what Luke thinks they “probably had coming”.

The Romanov burial site was discovered in 1979 by an amateur sleuth, but not officially confirmed by Russia until 1989. The remains were identified by forensic and DNA analysis, assisted by British experts, and in 1998 the remains were re-interred in a state funeral in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg. In 2000, Nicholas II was canonised as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church.

After the assassination of Nicholas and his family, the remaining 47 members of the Romanov family went into exile abroad, still claiming the former Russian throne. Since 1991, the line of succession has been in dispute.

[Picture shows Nicholas II of Russia with his wife Alexandra (Alix of Hesse), his son Alexei, and four daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia].

EDIT: A date edited with the kind assistance of reader Omar.