“Do you wear contacts?”

RACHEL: Do you wear contacts?
LORELAI: Me? No.
RACHEL: God, you’ve got amazing eyes.

In the Pilot, Lorelai complained that she felt as if she’d put her contact lenses in backwards, so she does actually wear contacts, and there are numerous references to her wearing either glasses or contacts throughout the series. Maybe Lorelai assumed Rachel meant coloured contact lenses, thinking her eyes were too blue to be natural (and her assumption may have been correct, as wearing normal contacts doesn’t give the wearer “amazing eyes”, just improved vision).

The Elephant Man

SOOKIE: She’s [Rory] like the most unmaterialistic kid in the world.
LORELAI: No, it’s not about what she would buy. I don’t care if she buys a house, or a boat, or The Elephant Man’s bones.

Joseph Merrick, often incorrectly called John Merrick (1862-1890) was an English man with severe facial and physical deformities who was exhibited at freak shows as “The Elephant Man”. He then went to live at London Hospital and became well known in society, even being visited by royalty. It is not known from which medical condition Merrick suffered, and DNA tests have been inconclusive.

His life story was depicted in a 1979 Tony Award-winning stage play, The Elephant Man, by Bernard Pomerance, and David Lynch did a film version in 1980, starring John Hurt in the title role.

In 1987, Michael Jackson, who had apparently related to Joseph Merrick after seeing the film The Elephant Man, reportedly offered the London Hospital one million dollars for Merrick’s bones, but the hospital refused to sell them. It seems to have been a story fabricated by Jackson himself to add to his “Wacko Jacko” persona. For some time, rumours persisted that Jackson actually owned the bones.

Exedrin PM

LORELAI: Sleep in? Luke?
RACHEL: Oh believe me, it wasn’t easy to get him to agree to it, but in the end, a little sweet talk, a couple of Excedrin PM he finally caved.

Excedrin is a brand of painkillers suitable for headaches, sold over the counter; it contains a mixture of paracetamol, aspirin, and caffeine. It is one of the most popular OTC pain medications in the US. Excedrin PM is paracetamol combined with an antihistamine that makes you drowsy. It’s been produced since 1969.

The fact that the diner opens for business at 6 am, that Luke lives over the diner, and for Luke, sleeping in means he stays in bed until past 6 (only possible because Rachel is there), means that it would never have been possible for him to stay up all night painting with Lorelai as they planned in That Damned Donna Reed, nor would it have been possible for Lorelai to paint the diner alone in the early hours of the morning without waking him.

“Future chiropractor”

LANE: My mother has once again set me up.
RORY: Another future doctor?
LANE: A future chiropractor. I think she’s losing confidence in my prospects.

A chiropractor is a practitioner of chiropractic, an alternative medicine practice focusing on manual therapy of the muscles and skeleton, especially the spine. It was founded in the 1890s by D.D. Palmer, who claimed to have gained knowledge of it from the spirit world. Despite being at odds with mainstream medicine, it is well established and commonly sought out, especially for back and neck pain.

Lane seems to think that her mother no longer believes she will marry a doctor, and is now willing to settle for any kind of health or wellness practitioner.

“Crazy festival”

LUKE: It’s a crazy festival based on a nutty myth about two lunatics, who in all probability did not even exist. And even if they did, probably dropped dead of diphtheria before age 24. The town of Stars Hollow probably got its name from the local dance hall prostitute. Two rich drunk guys made up the story to make it look good on a poster.

This is Luke’s cynical theory about the Founders Firelight Festival. It actually doesn’t seem too implausible, and gives us another possibility: was Stars Hollow founded on a lie? Or has Luke been so hurt by love that he believes it is always a con?

(Diphtheria is an infection caused by air-borne transmission of bacteria, with the main symptoms being a fever, sore, throat, and a cough. It is fatal in 5-10% of cases, and was much more common before vaccines were available).

“Relocated to a plastic bubble”

DEAN: Well, what if it’s for a really special occasion?
RORY: Well, that special occasion better include my being relocated to a plastic bubble if my grandmother’s gonna let me out of dinner.

Rory is referring to the disease severe combined immunodeficiency, a rare genetic disorder where the sufferer remains extremely vulnerable to infectious disease due to having an immune system so compromised it is effectively absent. It is sometimes called “bubble boy disease”, because high-profile patients became known for living in sterile environments.

The disease became well known after the 1976 television film The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, directed by Randal Kleiser, and with John Travolta in the title role. The film was inspired by the real-life cases of David Vetter (1971-1984) and Ted DeVita (1962-1980); DeVita actually had severe aplastic anemia, which is able to be better treated now.

Although the movie wasn’t shown on television during Rory’s childhood, bootleg copies were widely available on video, and Lorelai may have obtained one.

Valium

RORY: Can we go for a weekend [to stay with Richard and Emily]?
LORELAI: We’ll see how much Valium Auntie Sookie can lend Mommy, okay?

A possible confirmation that it was Valium that Sookie gave Lorelai when she hurt her back on the night of Rory’s dance.

It also confirms that Lorelai and Rory aren’t a “democracy”, as she told her daughter in the first episode. Here Rory wants to spend a weekend with her grandparents in Martha’s Vineyard, and they never go because Lorelai doesn’t want to. Rory could have gone by herself, but Lorelai doesn’t facilitate or encourage that either. Rory probably could have forced Lorelai, but if she did that she wouldn’t have been Rory (and she and Lorelai would never have had the close bond they valued so highly).

Michael Douglas

LORELAI: Okay, so now the fact that I suggested painting Luke’s diner also means that I wanted to get him in bed. All of a sudden I’m trying to get any poor, unsuspecting person in bed with me. I’m like – I’m Michael Douglas!

Michael Douglas (born 1944) is a multi award-winning American actor and producer, with a long career in theatre, film, and television. He is married to Catherine Zeta-Jones, earlier discussed as one of the “pretty women” that Lorelai wonders if Luke’s ex-girlfriend Rachel resembles.

In 1993 it was widely reported that Michael Douglas was a sex addict and had entered rehab to be treated for his addiction (leading to much mockery). He refuted these claims, saying that he had gone into rehab to be treated for alcohol addiction, but the rumours persist – they were even published again in his 2012 biography by Marc Eliot, Michael Douglas: A Biography.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2010, Douglas told the public he had throat cancer caused by giving cunnilingus to many women, which did nothing to calm down the sex addiction rumours. In 2013 Douglas revealed he had actually had tongue cancer, and denied that there was any link with performing oral sex.

In January 2018, journalist Susan Braudy went public with claims that she had been sexually harassed by Michael Douglas in 1989 while working for him, including that he used inappropriate sexual language, and masturbated to orgasm in front of her. Douglas denies the allegations, although Braudy has shared corroborating evidence with the press. This has reignited the “sex addiction” rumours all over again.

Lorelai seems to have the common belief that people with “sex addiction” must be constantly trying to get random people to have intercourse with them, although such behaviour is probably rarer in real life than people think.

(Note: “Sex addiction” has not been accepted as a diagnosis by any mainstream psychological or psychiatric body, but there are support groups and treatment programs for it).

“I can’t eat like that and look like her”

MICHEL: But I can’t eat like that and look like her. [gestures to Lorelai eating a rich omelette]

Michel surely speaks for most of the audience at this point: it drives many fans up the wall that Lorelai lives on sugary, fatty food and still looks amazing – thanks to the magic of television. In reality, Lauren Graham has reportedly been on a diet to stay slim since she was eleven years old (so if you want to look like Lorelai, start dieting at the beginning of puberty).

Sure it’s fiction, but sometimes people ask how Lorelai could eat such an unhealthy diet and remain slender in real life. The average person definitely wouldn’t, but here are some ways it might be possible, in any combination of factors:

1. Genes. Around 5% of the population are lucky enough to be genetically predisposed to remain slim no matter what they eat. Lorelai could be one of those fortunate few. These people tend to remain around the same size as adults as they did in high school, and Lorelai still wears clothes from when she was 17, so it seems possible.

2. Coffee. Lorelai drinks massive amounts of very strong coffee every day, and coffee is known to speed up the metabolism and suppress the appetite, leading to overall weight loss. Furthermore, it is a diuretic, so that coffee drinkers can keep off the “water weight” that doesn’t actually weigh much, but gives a bloated, puffy appearance.

3. She burns up all the excess calories. Although Lorelai rarely does any formal exercise, she walks a lot around Stars Hollow, and she is later said to have an extremely brisk natural walking pace. She is also a very busy, animated person who may be burning up excess calories through everyday physical movement without even thinking about it. This would also give her a reasonable level of very basic physical fitness – Lorelai seems to accomplish all her daily tasks with ease, and rarely seems tired.

4. Binge eating. Lorelai may binge on huge quantities of unhealthy food once or twice a month, but in between eat very little. To outsiders, it would look as as if she was eating 5000+ calories a day, but it could average out to as little as 1200 calories a day, and some days she might eat only eat 400-800 calories. Her fridge often seems to be empty, suggesting there’s a lack of food constantly at hand to tempt her. Those snacks that Sookie makes her at the inn, such as muffins and omelettes, could be all she eats on some days thanks to her appetite-suppressing coffee.

5. It’s all talk, no action. We constantly hear about Lorelai’s huge appetite, but we never actually see her eat anything much. She’ll sit down in front of a burger and fries, but be suddenly called away or storm off before she takes a bite. Or she and Rory will have a table filled with sugary snacks, then in the next scene the table will be cleared and the snacks are gone. Did they eat them all? Or just take a handful and put the rest away? Lorelai and Rory always have tons of leftovers from their junk food binges, suggesting they don’t really eat that much in one sitting. People with big appetites don’t usually have leftovers – they eat everything at once.

6. She’s “skinny obese”. Even if Lorelai is eating far less calories than it looks like, there’s no denying her diet is generally unhealthy (luckily she gets more nutritious food at Friday Night Dinners and from Sookie). People who eat poorly but maintain a normal weight by whatever means can have what is called “skinny obesity” – they look perfectly fine, but their internal organs are surrounded by toxic fat. Michel does warn Lorelai that her diet could kill her, but she isn’t concerned. On the other hand, there’s no evidence that Lorelai’s poor diet is making her unwell: she’s energetic, vibrant, looks healthy, and never seems to have any illness more serious than a headache or allergies.

(See here for more on the purpose of junk food in the themes of Gilmore Girls).