“Turning letters as a profession”

LANE: What I wanted to say was, “Janie Fertman, you are a vacuous bimbo who will be turning letters as a profession one day. And the only way you’ll know which letter to turn is when it dings and lights up.”

Lane is referring to the television game show Wheel of Fortune, which has aired since 1975. The hostess of the show turns letters so that contestants can solve word puzzles based on the guessing game of Hangman; the hostess only turns the letter when it gives a “ding” noise and lights up. Since 1982 the hostess has been Vanna White.

Stretch Cunningham and Dick Tracy

LORELAI: Hey, who was the guy who used to run the auto body shop?
(We pan up to see Luke lying on the roof with a hammer.)
LUKE: The Stretch Cunningham guy?
LORELAI: No, the Dick Tracy guy.

Jerome “Stretch” Cunningham was a recurring character on the 1970s sitcom All in the Family, played by James Cromwell. Stretch was a friend and co-worker of main character Archie Bunker. (Both Sally Struthers, who played Babette, and Liz Torres, who played Miss Patty, were also in All in the Family; possibly why it was referenced several times on Gilmore Girls).

Dick Tracy is a fictional police detective who first appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strips created by Chester Gould in 1931. The Dick Tracy stories have been adapted into radio serials, comic books, novels, and films – most recently in 1990, with Warren Beatty in the title role.

There is a real mystery as to what the barely-remembered auto mechanic actually looked like. Lorelai first says he is tall and skinny, then corrects herself to say he was short and fat, and that the tall, skinny guy was actually his employee. Then she decides that he looked like Dick Tracy, who isn’t short and fat. Did the auto mechanic (who we learn was named Jim Dunning) look like a short, stocky version of Dick Tracy?

Margot Kidder

RORY: I was sleeping through it [Luke working on their house]!
LORELAI: It had to have woken you up.
RORY: No, my insane mother Margot Kidder Gilmore woke me up.

Margot Kidder (born 1948) is a Canadian-born American actress who has had roles in a number of horror and science-fiction films and television series, including The Amityville Horror, previously discussed.

Kidder was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After an extremely stressful event where she lost three years work due to a computer virus, she had a widely publicised manic episode in 1996, in which she disappeared for four days, was found in a distressed state in someone’s backyard, and placed in psychiatric care. Her career slowed down after this episode, but during the 2000s it picked up again, and no other manic episodes have ever been reported.

“Mr. Cosell”

EMILY: She [Rory] got home from school, but she just went right upstairs. Now she didn’t want a snack, but I had Rosa make her one anyway. I haven’t checked to see if she’s eaten it. She had a decent breakfast this morning, but she did seem a little tired, and when I went into her bathroom the aspirin bottle was out, so I assume she had a headache. Now, I don’t know if it was last night or …
LORELAI: Excuse me, Mr. Cosell. I appreciate the play-by-play but I just want to talk to my daughter now.

Howard Cosell, born Howard Cohen (1918-1995) was an American sports journalist who entered sports broadcasting in the 1950s, and in the 1970s became the commentator for Monday Night Football on ABC. He completely changed the style of sportscasting towards one of context and analysis, similar to hard news journalism, and is regarded as the greatest American sports commentator of all time. Lorelai compares Emily’s blow-by-blow account of Rory’s activities to Cosell’s in depth analysis of a football game.

Emily’s speech shows her hyper-controlling style of micromanagement. Rory has only been home from school for around an hour, but has had her every move and mood scrutinised, been given a snack after saying she didn’t want one, and had her bathroom searched after leaving it. It’s a telling insight into what Lorelai’s childhood must have been like, and into what Rory’s would have been like if Lorelai had remained living with her parents after becoming a mother.

Emily allows no autonomy, choice, or privacy, and keeps people under surveillance as if they are in prison (remember Lorelai, an adult, could not even say she was going to the toilet without being followed?). It’s really hard to blame Lorelai for fleeing her childhood home because of these circumstances, fearing that Rory would have to endure the same childhood she did.

Evil Fembots and an Intergalactic Court

LORELAI: So if Rachel turns out to be an evil fembot and murders Luke in his sleep, I’m not responsible am I?
RORY: Only in an intergalactic court.

Lorelai is probably referring to the 1997 comedy film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, directed by Jay Roach and starring Mike Myers in the title role. In the film, a parody of spy movies, a mad scientist named Dr. Evil has a gang of sexy female robots (fembots) who wear silver outfits and have weapons in their breasts that can kill: they are just one of the many traps that Austin Powers and his assistant must get through.

The fembots are taken directly from the 1965 comedy film Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, directed by Norman Taurog and starring Vincent Price in the title role. However, in this case the female robots are programmed to seduce and rob wealthy men, rather than murder anyone. In the 1966 sequel Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, they are rather more explosive.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was a commercial success and received good reviews. Susanna Hoffs from The Bangles (married to the director) performed on two songs from the film’s soundtrack, which seems like one reason why Lorelai would have wanted to see the film.

Galactic (and intergalactic) law courts are a common trope in science fiction film and television. Some of the earliest examples can be found in the original series of Star Trek, previously and freqently mentioned.

Lorelai and Rory’s exchange seems inspired by the sci-fi film they are watching.