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.

The Philharmonic Committee

MENA: Lorelai Gilmore. So you’re Emily’s daughter?
LORELAI: Oh, yeah. You know my mother?
MENA: Oh, very well. We’re on the Philharmonic committee together. She told me to keep an eye out for you.

A Philharmonic Society is one dedicated to organising concerts of classical music, and the name is reminiscent of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, suggesting the committee is one which supports a symphony orchestra. It could very well be one and the same with the Symphony Fundraising Committee, which Emily sits on with Headmaster Charleston’s wife, Bitty. Either that, or the writers have given Hartford two symphony orchestras, and Emily supports both.

Mena is on the committee with Emily, and they seem to be on good terms. This may have been another thing assisting Lorelai to be so easily accepted by the Booster Club mothers. Emily is very influential – rejecting her daughter would not be a smart thing to do.

Cosa Nostra

RORY: I don’t know, I just sat down.
PARIS: Nobody just sits down with them, you have to be invited.
RORY: Paris, it’s not the Cosa Nostra.

Cosa Nostra is the name for the Sicilian Mafia. It literally means “our thing”. Rory would be familiar with it from the Godfather films. One of the “rules” of the Cosa Nostra is that you can never approach it without invitation; you must be introduced by a trusted member.

Cotillions and the Children of the American Revolution

DEAN: So, how do you know how to do this? [tie a bow-tie]
CHRISTOPHER: Seventeen cotillions, a dozen debutante balls, and a brief but scarring experiment with the Children of the American Revolution.

In the US, cotillions are the classes given in dancing and etiquette to prepare girls and boys for society. A cotillion ball is given at the end, which is not only a celebration, but also a preparation for the debutante ball which will come later. This ball itself is often known as a cotillion. I’m not sure, but I think Christopher means that he attended seventeen of such balls while he was growing up, as well as twelve debutante balls.

The National Society Children of the American Revolution, founded in 1895, is a youth organisation for those under the age of 22 who are descended from someone who served in the American Revolution, or gave material aid to its cause. The Daughters of the American Revolution is thus one of its parent organisations.

Daughters of the American Revolution

VIVIAN LEWIS: Well you know, the Daughters of the American Revolution Debutante Ball is next week.

The Daughters of the American Revolution, previously discussed.

The Daughters of the American Revolution really do hold debutante balls. They are often held on patriotic dates, and as this episode takes place in September, the ball might be held around the date of Constitution Day, which is September 17. In 2001, it was a Monday, but the ball could be held the following Saturday. This is also around the date of the Fall Equinox, giving the ball a Harvest Festival feel, as if the young girls are ready to be “gathered” or “picked”.

In real life, the DAR chapter for Hartford is called the Ruth Wylls Chapter. It was founded in 1892, making it one of the oldest chapters. It has over 50 members.

We already know that Emily is a member of the DAR, which means that she is a direct descendant of someone involved in the American Revolution, meaning Lorelai and Rory are eligible to join too. In real life, the easiest way to join the DAR is to have a blood relative who’s already a member, as your ancestry is proven. This becomes a plot point later in the show.

Emily’s Charities

The Starlight Children’s Foundation

Founded in 1982, it provides clothing, games, and deliveries directly to hospitalised children through a network of more than 700 children’s hospitals and medical centres in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

Emily has been the co-chair on its board for the past eight years, which seems unlikely – the foundation’s headquarters are in Los Angeles, it doesn’t have co-chairs, and its board is made up people with high profiles in medicine, finance, and media. I think we are meant to assume this is a (fictional) local fundraising branch for Hartford.

The Black and White Ball is their main fundraising event. This is a masquerade ball in which everyone is dressed in either black or white. They are intended to be extremely glamorous and exclusive events, with high ticket prices.

Hartford Zoological Silent Auction

A fictional organisation of which Emily is a board member. Hartford doesn’t actually have a zoo. The nearest Zoological Society is in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to support Beardsley’s Zoo.

A silent auction is one where bidders write their bids down on a sheet of paper, with the highest bid winning. They are common at charity events.

The Mark Twain House Restoration Fund

The Mark Twain House is a museum in Hartford, once the home of the author of Huckleberry Finn. Restoration began on the house in 1963, and its fundraising arm is the Friends of the Mark Twain House and Museum. They’ve been fundraising since 1954. This must be the organisation that has Emily as a board member, and is holding the charity luncheon Emily has been forced to turn down.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Literacy Auction

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was an American author and abolitionist, best known for her 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House & Center is in Hartford, next door to the Mark Twain House and Museum. Emily seems to be on the board of both these museums.

Emily’s strong community involvement, which is the major part of her social life, is very much like Lorelai’s enthusiastic support of every festival and celebration in Stars Hollow, right down to a cat’s wake. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in this case.

Luke’s Approved Social Activities

Kabbalah Studies

Kabbalah is an esoteric discipline in Jewish mysticism, containing a set of teachings explaining the relationship between God and the universe. It dates to around the 12th century and originated in Spain and southern France. There are different traditions and streams of thought within it, that might focus on theosophy, meditative practices, or (more controversially) white magic. It has been a strong influence on Jewish philosophy and mysticism.

Since the 1960s, universalist schools have opened up which teach Kabbalah to people of all faiths and ways of life, one of the contributors to New Age spirituality. You can also sign up for six week courses in introductory Kabbalah, making it very accessible. Possibly such courses are held in Stars Hollow, although it is slightly surprising Luke knows about them and approves, as he doesn’t seem the most mystical person. The show did seem to just give random Jewishness to characters whenever it felt like it.

Freeway (a mistake for highway????) beautification projects

Community groups often sponsor a section of highway in the US in order to maintain it, and provide volunteers to work on it. Such projects might include planting trees, shrubs and ground cover plants, mowing grass, weeding, mulching, and removing roadside litter. It seems like something Taylor would almost certainly organise for a highway near Stars Hollow.

Color Me Mine pottery painting

A chain of studios, founded in 1996, where people can paint their own pottery and ceramics. In real life, there aren’t any Color Me Mine studios in Connecticut (but plenty in California, where the writers live).

Humorously, Luke’s suggestions of social activities he might approve don’t sound like anything most teenage boys would be interested in.

Boy Scouts

The Boy Scouts are an international organisation for young people with an emphasis on practical outdoor activities, founded in the UK in 1907 by Sir Robert Baden-Powell. The Boy Scouts of America were founded in 1910, after Chicago publisher W.D. Boyce encountered a helpful Boy Scout while visiting England. It currently has over a million members.

We discover in this episode that Taylor Doose is the scout leader in Stars Hollow. It’s another perplexing incident in regard to time of day – it can’t be any later than about 7:20 am when Lorelai finishes breakfast and goes to the counter, because she still has to drive Rory to school in Hartford, which starts at 8.05 am, and Rory is getting very agitated about being late, because it’s the first day of the school year.

Yet Taylor has just finished a two hour outdoor survival training session with the Boy Scouts. It seems bizarre to organise this before the school day begins, on the first day of the school year, no less. He also takes the boys to breakfast at Luke’s Diner (which doesn’t seem like a very outdoorsy thing to do), and they choose food such as burgers and fries, grilled cheese, and doughnuts. I guess learning about healthy breakfasts comes later in the boys’ training. You just have to put all this down to the charming eccentricity of Stars Hollow.