“Dressed in a clown suit”

PARIS: I tried to stay home and study myself but I can’t. I don’t know what anything means anymore. I mean, I can’t even read my own handwriting. What does this say? The person who wrote this should be dressed in a clown suit, stuffing bodies under their porch.

Paris is referencing John Wayne Gacy (1942-1994), serial killer and sex offender who assaulted and murdered at least 33 boys and young men. Gacy regularly performed at children’s hospitals and charitable events as “Pogo the Clown” or “Patches the Clown”, personas he had devised. He became known as the “Killer Clown” due to his public services as a clown prior to the discovery of his crimes. He buried most of his victims beneath his house, usually in the crawl space.

His conviction for thirty-three murders (by one individual) then covered the most homicides in US legal history. Gacy was sentenced to death in 1980, and executed by lethal injection in 1994.

Paris talks about her work as if it looks as if it was done by a mental case, but although he pleaded insanity, John Wayne Gacy was deemed to be sane and in complete control of his faculties when he committed his crimes.

(This is yet another mention of clowns on Gilmore Girls).

[Picture shows John Wayne Gacy dressed as a clown].

Tongue depressor

LUKE: I can’t relax. I can’t sleep. I’m having nightmares about being chased around by boxes with arms and they tackle me and pile clothing on top of my face and secure it around my head with packing tape and I’m just lying there choking while you’re sitting in the corner laughing, putting gel in your hair with a switchblade!
JESS: Should I be putting a tongue depressor in your mouth right about now?

A tongue depressor is the little spatula that a doctor will use to examine a patient’s mouth and throat. Jess is referring to the fact that they are also used when administering electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). A tongue depressor can be used to keep the mouth slightly open so that the patient doesn’t bite on their tongue during treatment – although mouth guards are more common.

None of the characters in Gilmore Girls seem to have much grasp of modern psychiatry. It’s as if everything they know comes from reading The Bell Jar and watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. That could be where the writers are getting their (mis)information from!

Paper Bagging It

RORY: Hey, how’s Sookie doing in there?
LORELAI: Ah, well, she’s paper bagging it.
RORY: What?
LORELAI: You know… [Lorelai breathes into a pretend paper bag]

Breathing into a paper bag is a well known treatment for panic attacks, as (when done correctly) it helps to regulate breathing and prevent hyperventilation. Please note, it can only help with breathing problems brought on by panic. Never use it if you have asthma or lung problems.

Anne Heche

SOOKIE: We are crazy for doing this.
LORELAI: We’re beyond crazy. We are ‘Anne Heche speaking her secret language to God and looking for the spaceship in Fresno’ crazy.
SOOKIE: Oh Quiness, Nakka dune notta.

LORELAI: Il el nostra doska don.

Anne Heche (born 1969), actress, director, and screenwriter. First became known as a soap opera actress, before gaining mainstream recognition in the late 1990s in films such as Donnie Brasco (1997) and Six Days, Seven Nights (1998). She was also famous for her high-profile three-year relationship with comedian Ellen De Generes, who came out to the press shortly after she and Anne began dating.

On August 19 2000, the day after her relationship with Ellen ended, Anne drove from Los Angeles to Cantua Creek, near Fresno, parking her vehicle on a roadside. She walked for more than a mile through the desert wearing shorts and a bra before knocking on a stranger’s door and asking for a shower. As she seemed reluctant to leave, the homeowner called the sheriff’s department. When deputies arrived, Heche told them that she was God, and would take everyone up to Heaven in a spaceship (she later said she had taken ecstasy). She was admitted to a psychiatric unit in Fresno, and released after a few hours.

While promoting her 2001 memoir, Call Me Crazy, Anne told interviewers that she had been mentally ill for the first thirty-one years of her life due to horrific sexual abuse by her father (a closeted gay man who died of AIDS when Anne was thirteen), which began when she was only a baby. Her surviving family strongly reject those claims, although even without that, her childhood doesn’t sound like a picnic.

Anne said that she created a fantasy world called The Fourth Dimension and had an alter ego named Celestia who was the daughter and reincarnation of God, spoke her own language, had special powers, and was in contact with extraterrestrials. It seems likely Lorelai read Call Me Crazy, as it is the sort of camp celebrity memoir she could not resist (like Mommie Dearest and Tears and Laughter), although all the information could be gleaned from the press at the time.

Anne Heche stated that she had no further mental health issues after the episode at Cantua Creek, and she has gone on to have a successful career in film and television.

Sookie’s statement means, “Oh God, I cannot do this” in Anne Heche’s invented language. Lorelai replies, “It’s too scary for me now”, in the same language. Anne said this when she believed God wanted her to heal a friend’s injured ankle, however she says she did go on to heal her friend through laying on of hands. Anne shared this information, including the example of her language, with Barbara Walters on 20/20 in early September 2001.

Like Lorelai and Sookie, and many others at the time, Amy Sherman-Palladino mocked Anne Heche mercilessly after going public. Their tone was completely mainstream for the time.

Glitter

LORELAI: I heard [Jess] controls the weather and wrote the screenplay to Glitter.

Glitter is a 2001 romantic drama musical film directed by Vondie Curtis Hall, and starring Mariah Carey, previously discussed. The screenplay was written by Kate Lanier. The film is about a club dancer who aspires to be a professional singer, and falls in love with a nightclub DJ who helps her in her career.

The film came out on September 21, so Lorelai would have seen it in the cinema only recently. It was heavily panned by critics, with Mariah Carey’s acting efforts considered amateurish, and it failed at the box office. It has been called the worst film ever made. Even before the film was released, Mariah Carey was hospitalised with a breakdown, much later revealed to be bipolar disorder. Carey herself expressed a lot of regret over, and disappointment in, the film.

Amy Sherman-Palladino was one of the many people who hated Glitter, which is probably why it gets mentioned here as Lorelai’s joke about the “evil crimes” of Jess. Lorelai doesn’t like Jess, but even she thinks the town is going too far in their treatment of him. She has the good sense not to offer her own issues with Jess (stole beer, talked back to her, prowled around her daughter), as grist for the mill at the meeting.

Thousand-Yard-Stare

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.

Mariah Carey’s Crack-Up

FRANCIE: Mariah Carey’s crackup.
LEM: Have you heard her fan message recently? She’s fine and is currently staring at a really beautiful rainbow.
IVY: Survivor, hello.

Mariah Carey (born 1969), American singer, songwriter, and actress. She rose to fame in 1990 with her self-titled debut album, and was the first artist to have her first five singles reach #1. She initially signed with Columbia, and married one of their executives in 1993 (they separated in 1997 and divorced in 1998).

In July 2001, after parting with Columbia and breaking up with her boyfriend of three years, Carey suffered a physical and mental breakdown. She began posting a series of disturbing messages on her official website, and displayed erratic behaviour on several promotional appearances, such as doing an unscripted striptease on MTV. The messages on her website spoke of being drained and burnt out by the music industry, and needing a break.

Carey was admitted to a hospital in Connecticut for treatment for two weeks, then remained absent from the public for some time. In late August (perhaps 4-6 weeks before the events of this episode), Carey posted an audio message on her website thanking fans for their support during her recovery.

In the message she told her fans, I just want to say thank you so much for all the letters and everything … as I speak to you, I’m looking at the most beautiful rainbow that is going across the entire sky, and I love you much! Thanks. Bye. She took the rainbow as a positive omen, especially as her 1999 album was called Rainbow.

Recently, Mariah Carey has revealed that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the time of hospitalisation, but it took her some time to accept it. It must be said that Gilmore Girls was never particularly sensitive on the subject of mental health issues.

Zelda Fitzgerald

RORY: Did you pick out your ring?
LORELAI: Yup, he’s gonna surprise me with it tomorrow.
RORY: Twenties Deco?
LORELAI: Supposedly ripped right off of Zelda Fitzgerald’s cold dead hand.

Zelda Fitzgerald, born Zelda Sayre (1900-1948) was an American socialite, writer, artist, and the wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The couple became icons of the Jazz Age, and her husband dubbed Zelda “the first American flapper”.

The Fitzgeralds’ marriage deteriorated, and Zelda was admitted to psychiatric care, diagnosed as schizophrenic. She spent the rest of her life in and out of sanatoriums. Like Amy Sherman-Palladino, Zelda studied ballet as a child, and as an adult, became obsessed with it again to the detriment of her health.

Lorelai is joking about her engagement ring being Zelda Fitzgerald’s, just that it is from the 1920s. It is telling that she links her engagement ring with a woman who had a famously disastrous marriage.

“Crazy people”

LUKE: [sees the people in the window] What the hell’s going on with them?
LORELAI: Oh, I don’t know.
LUKE: Crazy people. Whole town should be medicated and put in a rec room with ping pong tables and hand puppets.

Luke is describing what he thinks occurs in mental health institutions – psychotropic medication and mild social entertainment. The hand puppets may be (in his mind) to facilitate therapeutic dialogue.