“Italians’ feet”

LORELAI Mmm. Kick-ass wine.
EMILY: How poetic.
LORELAI: It’s got a nice smell: earthy, vibrant. I can taste the Italians’ feet.

Lorelai is referring to grape-stomping or pieage, a traditional winemaking technique where the grapes are crushed by human feet – evidence of the practice can be found in pictures from ancient Egypt and ancient Rome. Since the Middle Ages this part of the winemaking process is nearly always done by machinery, and even in ancient times there were wine presses to do most of the work.

However, grape stomping has never been completely abandoned, and survives in small pockets. These days it is often a fun event at cultural festivals and wine festivals, and some vineyards will charge you for the pleasure of partaking in the activity.

The popular idea of grape stomping being part of the winemaking process can probably be traced back to I Love Lucy. In the 1956 episode Lucy’s Italian Movie, while on a trip to Rome a film producer suggests Lucy audition for his new movie called Bitter Grapes. Lucy thinks it must be about winemaking, so finds the only winery left in the area that still makes wine using grape-stomping so she can practice the technique in advance.

This probably explains why Lucy-loving Lorelai immediately connects the wine to Italian feet in particular.

Pinging in the brain

Rory complains that her brain “pinged” or “dinked” while she was studying. It sounds like tinnitus, a fairly common condition where you hear phantom noises such as clicking, hissing, or roaring – these often seem to emanate from inside your head.

It can be brought on by stress, which fits with Rory studying hard to the point her head hurts. She never complains of it again, suggesting that the condition spontaneously resolved, which isn’t uncommon with tinnitus.

“Written by a man”

 

Lorelai says that the scripts for The Donna Reed Show were written by a man, which Rory endorses. Although most of the writers on the show were male, there were female writers too, including Barbara Avedon (creator of Cagney & Lacey) [pictured], Helen Levitt, Erna Lazarus, Peggy Chantler Dick, Kay Lenard, Mathilde Ferro, Jacqueline Trotte, Sheila Lynch, and Janet Carlson.

Amusingly, That Damn Donna Reed was written by a man – Daniel Palladino. There may be a slight suggestion here that just because a man writes a script for female characters doesn’t automatically make it anti-woman or oppressive to them, just as a script by a woman isn’t necessarily a feminist text.

Sister Suffragette

LORELAI: She’s [Donna Reed] medicated.
RORY: And acting from a script.
LORELAI: Written by a man.
RORY: Well said, Sister Suffragette.

Sister Suffragette is a song from the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins, written by Richard and Robert Sherman. Sung by Glynis Johns in the role of Mrs. Winifred Banks, it is a pro-suffrage song as Mrs. Banks is a supporter of votes for women. The song’s chorus ends with the words, “Well done, Sister Suffragette!”.

Mary Poppins was loosely based on the children’s book of the same name by Australian author P.L. Travers, and directed by Robert Stevenson, with Julie Andrews in the title role. The story is about a magical nanny who comes to care for two children in Edwardian London, and improves the lives of all the family.

Mary Poppins was the #3 film of of 1964 and received universal acclaim from critics. It won five Academy Awards, including a Best Actress for Julie Andrews, and is generally seen as Walt Disney’s crowning achievement. It was released on home video three times during the 1990s, suggesting that Lorelai may have bought it for Rory the previous decade.

The Donna Reed Show

This is the television program that Lorelai and Rory watch with Dean, and is the basis for the episode’s title.

The Donna Reed Show is a sit-com starring Donna Reed as middle-class housewife Donna Stone. Carl Betz played opposite her as Donna’s paediatrician husband Alex, and Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen were their teenaged children, Mary and Jeff.

Although Lorelai and Rory consider the show hopelessly outdated and sexist, episodes occasionally examined issues such as women’s rights (not with any radical outcomes, it must be said). But Donna Stone was a more assertive mother than had previously been shown on television, and it was the first sitcom to focus on the mother as the central figure in a domestic comedy. It helped pave the way for shows such as Roseanne and even Gilmore Girls (both shows that Amy Sherman-Palladino worked on).

The Donna Reed Show was attacked by feminists in the 1970s as presenting an idealised view of domesticity, so Rory and Lorelai’s criticisms feel really behind the times. It’s strange that they are giving feminist opinions from a generation ago as if they are clever and new – maybe they really do watch too many old movies?

The Donna Reed Show originally aired from 1958-1966, and was one of the most popular programs of 1963-64. It was only cancelled when Donna Reed became tired of doing the show.

Reruns of The Donna Reed Show were shown on Nick at Nite from 1985 to 1994. It wasn’t on TV in 2001, and hadn’t yet been released on DVD, meaning that the only way Lorelai and Rory can be watching the show is because they taped it off TV ages ago and are still watching it on video at least seven years later. Despite their mocking of the show, they must really be huge fans! (Again, how a show that hadn’t been on TV in nearly a decade is a relevant target for their attacks is a puzzle).

Jess and Sean’s Apartment Building

When the scene cuts to the exterior of Jess and Sean’s apartment building, sharp-eyed viewers will notice it is the same one used for Monica’s apartment building in the sit-com Friends. In real life, this building is at 90 Bedford Street, on the corner of Grove Street in Greenwich Village, and two college students could only live there thanks to rent control – just like Monica and Rachel.