The Little Locksmith

RORY: The Little Locksmith!

LORELAI: And I got it at the bookstore, paid full price.

The Little Locksmith, a 1943 memoir by Katharine Butler Hathaway about the effects of spinal tuberculosis on her life. Hathaway was kept immobilised, strapped to a board, for ten years in a failed attempt to save her from becoming a hunchback, like “the little locksmith” in their community that her mother treated as a figure of horror. When the treatment ended at the age of fifteen, Hathaway was a hunchback after all, and no taller than a ten-year-old child. Overcoming her physical limitations, and the boundaries prescribed by society, she went on to attend college, forge enduring friendships, become a writer, and buy her own house in Maine, which she fashioned room by room as a creative space for guests, lovers, and artists.

The book was reprinted in 2000 by The Feminist Press, which would be the edition Lorelai bought. The book has been praised, not only for its author’s determination to find physical pleasure and creative fulfilment in a life that could have been a tragedy, but also for her poetic, unique voice. This is another example of unconventional female biography and memoir that Lorelai and Rory enjoy reading, with Lorelai buying it as a joke since Rory is also “disabled” by her hurt wrist.

“Angry girl for an angry arm”

LANE: Okay. Here – angry girl for an angry arm.

RORY: Oh, cool! Thank you.

LANE: You’re welcome. [Lane puts a sticker on Rory’s cast]

The sticker Lane puts on Rory’s cast is one of Emily the Strange, a fictional character from graphic novels, comic books, and merchandise. She is a Gothic little girl with long black hair, a short black dress, and white Mary Jane shoes.

Often accompanied by four black cats, Emily is frequently depicted with crossed arms or her hands on her hips, and has cynical sayings such as “Get lost”, or “Glad you’re not here”. The sticker Lane gives Rory says, “I want you to leave me alone” – possibly the message Lane wants Rory to send to Jess.

Emily the Strange was created in 1991 by Rob Reger for his company Cosmic Debris Etc Inc, in San Francisco, and designed by Nathan Carrico for Santa Cruz Skateboards. The first Emily the Strange graphic novella was released in 2001, the year previous to this episode.

Emily the Strange bears a marked resemblance to a character named Rosamund from the 1978 children’s book Nate the Great Goes Undercover by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, but after several years of protracted legal wrangling, both sides resolved their differences.

The Contessa and the House Wench with the Talking Mice

LORELAI: And over here you have a tiny but annoying bell in case there’s something here that you need but you don’t have and you want to summon the common but lovely house wench who will promptly leave her talking mice and come to fetch the Contessa whatever she may require.

Lorelai compares Rory to The Barefoot Contessa, a 1954 drama film written and directed by Joseph F. Mankiewicz about the life and loves of a Spanish sex symbol named Maria Vargas, who is known as “the Barefoot Contessa”. Ava Gardner plays the title role as the glamorous Contessa. The film received mixed reviews, but made a big impact on popular culture.

Presumably Lorelai means that Rory, being in bed, has bare feet, yet will be waited on hand and foot like a great lady. Interestingly, the film has a major plot around infidelity and a love triangle, like that between Rory, Dean, and Jess. Like so many of these references, it ends in violence.

Lorelai compares herself to Cinderella, previously discussed. In the 1950 film, Cinderella is friends with a number of talking mice. Lorelai is saying that she is Rory’s humble servant and will get her anything she needs, just as Cinderella slaved away in the kitchen.

Lorelai behaves absolutely absurdly towards Rory. She has the most minor of injuries, and yet Lorelai acts as if she has two broken legs, at the very least. She not only gives Rory a bell to call her with, as if Rory is crippled, but actually sleeps in Rory’s room.

Why? Is she worried Rory will die in the night without her there, or does she think Rory needs help to go to the toilet with a cast on her wrist? It’s a callback to the years mother and daughter spent sharing a bed, their boundaries completely merged.

It’s almost as if Lorelai thinks she can justify her over-the-top demonisation of Jess by acting as if he has done terrible injury to Rory. She is also trying to make up for her failure to “protect” Rory from Jess by overcompensating now, when it is too late.

Lorelai’s instinct is always to smother Rory when she feels their relationship is threatened; whether this is good for Rory or not is never questioned. Her fussing over a barely injured Rory seems like confirmation that Jess was right – Rory is not cut out for the tough life of a foreign correspondent.

(Note that Rory has a Powerpuff Girls glass next to the bed, a callback to when Lorelai said they were going to buy some. Although they didn’t buy them that day, it’s confirmed they did eventually make the purchase).

Terms of Endearment

LORELAI: Hey, do you remember in Terms of Endearment, that scene where Shirley MacLaine is in the hospital and freaks out because they won’t give her daughter a shot? She got that from me and she toned it down a little.

Terms of Endearment, a 1983 family comedy-drama film directed, written and produced by James L. Brooks, and adapted from the 1975 novel of the same name by Larry McMurty. The film covers thirty years of the relationship between Aurora Greenway, played by Shirley MacLaine, and her daughter Emma, played by Debra Winger.

Terms of Endearment received critical acclaim and was the #2 film of 1983. It received five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and a Best Actress Award for Shirley MacLaine.

In the film, Aurora and Emma have a difficult but very close relationship. Emma is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and Aurora stays by Emma’s side throughout her treatment and hospitalisation, proving to be a fierce advocate on her behalf. There is a memorable scene where Aurora screams at a nurse, insisting that her daughter receive a shot (of pain relief) immediately when she felt they were being too slow to administer it.

Note that Lorelai does the same thing Emily did at the hospital when Richard was admitted, even using a movie reference to get her point across.

“As you wish”

JESS: Of course, I could turn right and then we’d just be driving around in circles for awhile.

RORY: Turn right.

JESS: As you wish.

Jess quotes from The Princess Bride, a 1987 fantasy romance film directed by Rob Reiner, adapated from the 1973 novel of the same name by William Goldman. It tells the story of a farmhand named Westley, played by Cary Elwes, accompanied by companions met along the way, who must rescue his true love, Princess Buttercup, played by Robin Wright, from marriage to the odious Prince Humperdinck, played by Chris Sarandon.

The film has a framing device, which is that the story is a book being read to a little boy sick in bed, played by Fred Savage, by his grandfather, played by Peter Falk. It’s been described as a postmodern fairy tale, and the satirical interjections by the grandfather, and the dialogue between he and and the boy, provide many humorous moments.

Despite good reviews, The Princess Bride was only a modest success at the box office, but became a cult classic after its release on home video. Eminently quotable, the film is considered both one of the funniest, and one of the most romantic films of all time.

In the film, Princess Buttercup begins by ordering Westley around a lot, to which he always responds, “As you wish”, before complying. The narration from the grandfather says, “That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying As you wish, what he meant was, I love you. And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back”.

Jess is, very clearly and boldly, telling Rory that he loves her, and believes that she loves him back, even if she doesn’t realise it yet.

Othello

Othello, a tragedy by William Shakespeare, probably written in 1603, and first performed in 1604. Set during the Ottoman-Venetian War (1570-1573), the story revolves around Othello, a noble Moorish military general serving in the Venetian army who is married to Desdemona, a beautiful wealthy Venetian lady much younger than he. A malevolent junior officer named Iago stokes Othello’s jealousy until the usual calm and stoic man kills his wife in a fit of blind rage. Its themes of passion, jealousy, and race are still relevant today, and it is popular and widely performed.

The significance of Jess studying Othello with Rory is obvious, as it is all about a man who is insecure about his wife, and is too easily led to believe she is unfaithful to him. Dean’s belief in Rory is going to be severely tested by Rory spending time with Jess while he is away. It’s another suggestion from Jess that Dean will become violent over Rory’s relationship with Jess.

Please Kill Me

JESS: Have you ever read Please Kill Me? … Oral history of the punk movement. You’d like it – you can borrow it if you want.

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, first published in 1996. It consists of interview with punk musicians, and spans the early period of punk in the US, from The Velvet Underground and The New York Dolls to Iggy Pop and The Ramones. The book became an instant hit, and is a cult classic.

Note that Jess suggests this “history” book as an alternative to reading about The Marshall Plan!

Slaughterhouse-Five

This is the book Jess is reading in this episode, that he tells Luke is not for school.

Slaughterhouse-Five is a 1969 semi-autobiographical science-fiction anti-war novel by Kurt Vonnegut. The story, told in a non-linear fashion by an unreliable narrator, relates the life and experiences of a man from upstate New York named Billy Pilgrim, from his early years to his service during World War II, and post-war years – his experiences include time travel and alien abduction. The book centres on Billy’s capture by the German Army, and his survival of the Allied firebombing of Dresden as a prisoner-of-war.

Categorised as a postmodern, metafictional novel, it is characterised by Vonnegut’s signature style, with simple sentences underpinning a text of irony, sentimentality, black humour, and instruction. The short, declarative sentences give the impression of reading a factual report, while the focus shifts between the writer’s perspective as someone who met Billy Pilgrim to an omniscient third person narrator. The first sentence is, “All this happened, more or less”. It is considered one of the best first lines in American fiction. The sentence, “So it goes”, is used as a repetitive refrain throughout.

Slaughterhouse-Five received mostly positive reviews, and became a bestseller, staying on the New York Times Bestseller List for sixteen weeks. It has been adapted for stage and radio, and been turned into both a film and a graphic novel.

The novel is controversial, with many attempts of censorship against it, especially in school and college libraries. This makes Jess’ reading of it at school seem like a deliberate attempt to draw attention to himself. A story about someone who has been through terrible trauma until they find life meaningless seems to be something which Jess relates to.

Snow Dogs

LORELAI: Suspense – ice skater falls in love with hired help. Well, at least now I know how Snow Dogs got made.

Snow Dogs, a 2002 adventure comedy film directed by Brian Levant, and inspired by the non-fiction book Winterdance by by Gary Paulsen. It stars Cuba Gooding Jr as an adopted dentist from Miami who travels through the Alaskan wilderness with a pack of sled dogs in search of his inheritance and the truth about his family origins. He finds love with a bar owner, played by Joanna Bacalso.

The film was panned by critics as mediocre, cliched, tiresome, and stale, but was a commercial success. Disney released the film in January that year, so Lorelai and Rory must have seen it within the last few months.

Possible Films for Movie Night

The Wizard of Oz

Previously discussed, and a touchstone for the show.

The Sting [pictured]

A 1973 caper film directed by George Roy Hill, involving two grifters, played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and their plan to con a mob boss, played by Robert Shaw. Set in 1936, it was inspired by real life cons perpetrated by brothers Fred and Charley Gondorff, as told in the 1940 non-fiction book, The Big Con by David Maurer. The Sting received rave reviews and was a box office smash, becoming the #2 film of the year. It won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Rocky

A 1976 sports drama film, directed by John G. Avildsen, with screenplay by Sylvester Stallone, who also stars in the title role as Rocky Balboa. It’s a rags-to-to-riches tale of a working-class small-time boxer in the slums of Philadelphia who gets a shot at a world heavyweight championship. Made on a shoestring budget, it was a sleeper hit, becoming the #1 film of 1976. Critically acclaimed, it solidified Stallone’s career and led to him becoming a major movie star. It won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is regarded as one of the greatest sports films ever made.

Crimes and Misdemeanours

A 1989 existential comedy-drama directed by Woody Allen, who also stars as Clifford Stern, a documentary filmmaker. The other main character is Judah Rosenthal, played by Martin Landau, who commits a very serious crime, and, stricken with guilt, turns to the religious teachings he had rejected. Cliff and Judah only meet once, at the end of the film, which has a philosophical message. A box-office flop, it was lauded by critics, and is regarded as one of Allen’s best films.

The Singing Detective

A 1986 BBC television serial drama, written by Dennis Potter, directed by Jon Amiel, and starring Michael Gambon. It is about a mystery writer, suffering writer’s block and ill in hospital, who enters a fantasy world involving his novel, The Singing Detective. Although ratings were modest, it was highly influential, and greatly praised in America, where it was later shown on PBS and won a Peabody Award. It is regarded as one of the greatest British TV programs ever made. Rory calls it a “mini-series”, but in fact it was six episodes – a normal run on British television.

Arthur

A 1981 comedy written and directed by Steve Gordon. It stars Dudley Moore as Arthur Bach, a drunken New York millionaire about to enter an arranged marriage with an heiress, but who falls for a working-class girl from Queens. The #4 film of 1981, Arthur was critically acclaimed, and considered one of the best films of the year. Its theme song, “Arthur’s Theme”, won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and Sir John Gielgud won Best Supporting Actor for his role as Arthur’s valet.

Sophie’s Choice

A 1982 psychological drama film written and directed by Alan J. Pakula, adapted from the 1979 novel of the same name by William Styron. Set in 1947, it stars Meryl Streep as Sophie, a Polish immigrant with a dark secret from her past who shares a boarding house in Brooklyn with her lover, played by Kevin Kline, and a young writer, played by Peter MacNichol. It was a commercial and critical success, and Meryl Streep won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role.

Cabin Boy

A 1994 fantasy comedy film directed by Adam Resnick and co-produced by Tim Burton. It stars comedian Chris Elliot, who co-wrote the screenplay with Resnick. Elliot’s character is a snobbish, unpleasant man who accidentally gets stuck aboard a boat out at sea, and goes on a fantastical voyage of self-discovery. The film received mixed reviews, and it is a matter of opinion whether it’s one of the worst films ever, an underrated work of comedic legend, or so bad that it’s good.

Desperately Seeking Susan

A 1985 comedy-drama film directed by Susan Seidelman, partly inspired by the 1974 French film Céline and Julie Go Boating. Set in New York City, it stars Rosanna Arquette as a bored housewife, who becomes involved with a bohemian drifter named Susan, played by Madonna in her first major screen role. The film was a commercial success, and received mostly positive reviews, with acclaim for both Arquette and Madonna. It’s considered one of the best films of the 1980s.

Fletch

A 1985 neo-noir comedy thriller film directed by Michael Ritchie, based on the 1974 novel Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald. It stars Chevy Chase as undercover reporter Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher who begins investigating a murder scheme that has unexpected links with the story he is working on. The film received positive reviews, and was a commercial success, performing very well on home media, and becoming a cult film.

Urban Cowboy

A 1980 romantic western film directed and co-written by James Bridges and Aaron Latham, adapted from an article of the same name Latham wrote for Esquire magazine. The story revolves around the love-hate relationship between a couple named Buford and Sissy, played by John Travolta and Debra Winger. Set in Pasadena, Texas, much of the action takes place in a honky-tonk bar playing country music. A critical and commercial success, the soundtrack was also a hit.

Lorelai and Rory managed to whittle their list of films down to a trim 75 possibilities!