The Troubadour at the Town Meeting

TROUBADOUR: I’ve been the town troubadour for six months now, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job and then, he shows up (points to other troubadour).
RIVAL TROUBADOUR: Hey.
TROUBADOUR: And there’s no room for a second troubadour in Stars Hollow.

Even though we’ve only seen the Town Troubadour since That Damn Donna Reed, which took place in February, he’s actually been in town since early November at least. We learn that the Troubadour is a real man of mystery, as we don’t know how he supports himself. He doesn’t play music in the streets for money, even refusing it when offered.

Nor do we know where he lives: he is never shown shopping or eating at the diner, and nobody seems to know anything about him, so he isn’t a regular part of the town. On the other hand, we never see him driving, cycling, catching a bus, or even walking home, so we don’t know where he goes when he finishes playing music in Stars Hollow. This is all part of the “mystique” that he believes troubadours are meant to have.

Is he even human? Is he an angel, or a spirit from the stars, sent to bring music to Stars Hollow? Is he from another dimension, or the real Grant Lee Phillips able to project himself somehow into the Gilmore Girls universe? These questions will never be answered.

His role seems to be to guide people’s lives through song, and to help them learn to express emotions – all part of Stars Hollow being a place where love can be nurtured and developed. Later in the scene, Rory stands up and says that the Troubadour is able to express how the townspeople feel through his songs, and to say what they are thinking. This certainly seems to be case in this episode.

(Interestingly, the Troubadour only seems to have come to Stars Hollow when Rory had begun dating Dean, and Lorelai had begun dating Max. Did their love affairs attract him to the town, as if they now needed his emotional guidance?)

Miss Patty’s Ballet Class

MISS PATTY: Flutter flutter, quick quick, flutter flutter, quick quick. And your hearts are broken, your prince has betrayed you, you’ve been shot with an arrow, and now … you’re dead.

Miss Patty’s class is doing Swan Lake, a ballet composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and premiered by the Bolshoi Ballet in 1877. The story, based on Russian and/or German folk tales, is about Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. A handsome prince named Siegfried falls in love with her, but the sorcerer tricks him into agreeing to marry the sorcerer’s daughter, Odile.

Miss Patty seems to describe the ending of the ballet, where Odette is heartbroken over Siegfried’s betrayal, even as she forgives him for it. In most productions, both lovers die in order to break the curse, although by drowning, not getting hit by an arrow – it is early in the ballet where Siegfried nearly shoots Odette, thinking she is a swan.

Miss Patty may have created her own unique ending for her production (a rather grim one to teach children – children’s productions often substitute a “Disney style” happy ending). Then again, the music used in this scene is Lake in the Moonlight, which plays during the first scene of the ballet. She could be telescoping the ballet into a single scene for her class.

The use of Swan Lake expresses Rachel’s fear that Luke has feelings for Lorelai, demonstrating that she feels betrayed and heartbroken over it. In this episode, both Rory and Paris also fear that the boy they like has found a new girlfriend, only in those cases, the fear is unfounded. Swan Lake is yet another work referenced in which doomed love leads to suicide.

Child Psychology

This 1998 song by English indie rock band Black Box Recorder is the song which Rory and Lane listen to in Rory’s bedroom. Rory says she likes it because it makes her gloomy.

Child Psychology is from the band’s album England Made Me. It features a mixture of spoken word with a sung chorus, and the spoken word part describes negative incidents from childhood, such as refusing to talk, getting expelled from school, and parents arguing at Christmas.

The chorus has the line, “Life is unfair; kill yourself or get over it”, which led to it being banned on radio and on MTV. Released in the US just after the 1999 Columbine school massacre, the “kill yourself” part was played backwards to hide its content.

Once again, this shows Rory gaining satisfaction from the idea of suicide as an artistic and romantic solution, which is really starting to seem quite worrying. Perhaps it is supposed to be a typically teenage reaction to life, or just a streak of black comedy in the show, as suicide seems to be mentioned so often.

Pot Roast

LORELAI: One minute it’s, “Pass the pot roast”; the next minute it’s, “Hey, have a pile of money”. Things are never boring at the Gilmore house.

Pot roast is an American dish made by braising a piece of beef, then slow cooking it in a covered dish with liquid added that can be made into gravy. Vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and onions are commonly added as well.

The dish is a variation of the French dish boeuf à la mode, which was introduced by French immigrants to New England, and influenced by later German immigrants who also marinated and slow cooked roasts to ensure tenderness.

(The Gilmores didn’t really have pot roast that night, they ate rabbit.)

Lorelai is certainly right that being handed piles of money whenever you need them is part and parcel of being a Gilmore. She and Rory are supposedly struggling and working hard, but any time life gets a bit too tough you know someone will come along and bail them out financially.

Rory’s Car

After the anniversary dinner, Dean tells Rory that he is building her a car from a wreck; the seats and windshield were put in the day before. Rory is almost overwhelmed by this gesture, and it’s hard not to think that Dean has gone overboard on this three-month (yeah, right) anniversary.

At this point, the viewer has to feel that Dean is way more heavily invested in the relationship than Rory. Not only has has he kept track (no matter how wrongly) on how long they’ve been dating, he’s booked a fancy restaurant, and ordered pretty much everything on the menu so that Rory doesn’t need to choose, and now he announces he’s building her a car. He’s into hand-made gifts, but this isn’t a leather bracelet we’re talking about – it’s an actual car! (And there is a symmetry that their relationship both begins and ends with a gift from Dean).

Rory doesn’t seem to realise that this is a really huge present, which means that the other person clearly has major expectations of you and the relationship. The only big presents she’s ever got are from her mother and grandparents, and she accepted them as signs of their unconditional love. This is her first experience in a romantic relationship, and she’s about to learn that big gifts come with big strings attached.

Oblivious to what’s ahead, she looks up at the stars in wonder, as if, on this night dedicated to love and destiny, they have blessed her union with Dean the way they bless all young lovers in Stars Hollow. She feels that it’s a moment all too perfect to last, and she’s right, of course. Those distant stars are perhaps more ambivalent about love than she knows.

Gazebo at the Founders Firelight Festival

HARRY: People of Stars Hollow, and our many friends. It gives me great pleasure to preside over our annual Founders Festival for the thirty-second time. Many a true love has had it start right on the spot where I stand. And I don’t mind telling you that at this very festival, right by this gazebo, is where I met my own true love, Miss Dora Braithwaite. We have been married for 43 years, and it all started right here.

Harry Porter has been mayor of Stars Hollow since 1968/1969, and was married in 1957/1958. Harry’s statement emphasises the importance of the festival and gazebo in bringing lovers together, just as he met his wife there.

Bonfire

TAYLOR: No, no, Patty, you’re wrong. They built the fire to throw themselves on it when their families found them.
MISS PATTY: Taylor, you’re crazy! They built the fire so that they could stay warm their first night here.
TAYLOR: Patty, I am the recording secretary for the Stars Hollow City Council. I think I know how my town was founded!

Lighting a bonfire in the town square is the central focus of the Founders Firelight Festival. It seems to stem from a large fire made by the star-lit young lovers whom the town views as the founders – an earthly star to mimic the ones in the night sky.

However, the reason for the fire doesn’t seem to be known for sure. Miss Patty says they lit the fire to stay warm on a cold night, which sounds perfectly reasonable. However, Taylor believes that they lit the fire so that if their families tracked them down, they could throw themselves on it and burn themselves to death rather than be separated again.

The death-by-fire theory doesn’t seem very sensible (there are quicker and less painful ways to kill yourself, for a start), but it is a reminder of the mutual death met by those star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. It also shows the darker side of love, a fire that can burn and destroy as well as fill you with a warm glow.

It begs the question: does Stars Hollow commemorate a pair of lovers who found each other, and stayed happily together all their lives, or a pair of lovers who found each other, only to kill themselves to make sure they could never be parted again? Miss Patty’s story doesn’t tell us, as it ends with the boy and girl finding each other – what happened after that is never explained.

We probably presume they stayed together, and they and their descendants founded the town (hopefully joined by other like-minded folks at some point, or else the whole town came from the loins of two people, Adam and Eve style).

The alternative is that the town was founded by the grieving friends and family of the lovers, who regretted that they had driven them to suicide, and honoured their memory by founding Stars Hollow (like the Montagues and Capulets coming together after the death of Romeo and Juliet).

Is Stars Hollow a town built on romance and reunion, or grief and guilt? On life and love, or death and darkness? Whether Stars Hollow is magic or tragic seems to be a matter for debate, adding a gloomy lining to the silvery fairy tale of the star-blessed lovers.

The Stars Hollow Story

MISS PATTY: This, boys and girls, is the story of true love. A beautiful girl from one county; a handsome boy from another. They meet and they fall in love. Separated by distance and by parents who did not approve of the union, the young couple dreamed of a day that they could be together. They wrote each other beautiful letters. Letters of longing and passion. Letters full of promises and plans for the future. Soon the separation proved too much for either one of them to bear. So, one night, cold and black with no light to guide them, they both snuck out of their homes and ran away as fast as they could. It was so dark out that they were both soon lost and it seemed as if they would never find each other. Finally, the girl dropped to her knees, tears streaming down her lovely face. “Oh, my love. Where are you? How will I find you?” Suddenly, a band of stars appeared in the sky. These stars shone so brightly they lit up the entire countryside. The girl jumped to her feet and followed the path of the stars until finally she found herself standing right where the town gazebo is today. And there waiting for her was her one true love, who had also been led here by the blanket of friendly stars. And that, my friends, is the story of how Stars Hollow came to be, and why we celebrate that fateful night every year at about this time.

This is the foundation story of Stars Hollow, which is so romantic and magical that it immediately lifts Stars Hollow into the realm of fairy tale. It also gives special significance to the gazebo in the town square, which was built on the site of the young couple’s meeting, like a shrine to the power of love.

We know from the story that Stars Hollow is no ordinary place, but one founded by and constructed around love. There is something in the air which will always bring lovers together, no matter what obstacles stand in their way, or what trials they have to endure. The friendly stars above do not cross lovers, but light up the sky to show them the way and bring them together, creating a path to follow like the Yellow Brick Road, yet as warm and comforting as a blanket. Love here has the blessing of Heaven, focused upon the gazebo.

The Founders Firelight Festival is not a dull civic duty, but a joyful celebration of love which brings all the town together. In the scenes of the town preparing for the festival, you can see that Rory is one of the volunteers – smiling happily in the knowledge that she is a beautiful young girl who has found her own handsome lover, just like the town founders.

Nosy Townsfolk

Luke and Lorelai discuss painting the diner, and bond as Luke reveals some of his family’s history with the diner, which used to be his father’s hardware store. Taylor leads a group of interested townies to spy on them, although there’s nothing to actually see as they haven’t started painting yet.

This will become a well-worn running gag that the inhabitants of Stars Hollow will turn out en masse to stick their nose into anyone’s business, even if it isn’t very interesting. They have a special fascination with Luke and Lorelai, demonstrating that they are the “power couple” of the show.

“Four girls talking dirty”

BABETTE: He’s [the new kitten] just the cutest thing. But he’s so teeny. There’s no way he can go with us and I would hate for him to stay all alone in the house so I was thinking maybe Rory could come over and house-sit for the evening.
RORY: I’d love to.
BABETTE: Oh great! We’ve got a kitchen full of food and Morey just got cable so you can watch those four girls talking dirty if you want to.

Babette is referring to Sex and the City, an American romantic comedy-drama television series, originally running from 1998 to 2004 on the cable channel Home Box Office (HBO). The show was based on the 1997 book of the same name by Connecticut-born author and journalist Candace Bushnell, which drew on her column of the same name for the New York Observer, describing the dating lives of herself and her friends.

The “four girls” in the show are the narrator, journalist Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), PR businesswoman Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), art gallery assistant Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), and lawyer Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon). The four friends have many sexually frank discussions (“talk dirty”) about their various relationships, and story lines include subjects such as oral sex, bondage and discipline, infidelity, pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted infections.

Sex and the City has won numerous Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, and is now regarded as a classic television show, still with a cult following. The show led to two feature films, and a prequel series, The Carrie Diaries.

It’s an interesting little throwaway in an episode devoted to The Donna Reed Show. Times certainly changed for women on TV between the mid-1960s and the early 2000s, but it’s a matter for debate whether any real progress was made, or whether the images of femininity on Sex and the City are any less glamourised, idealised, and unrealistic than on The Donna Reed Show.

Sex and the City, as a quippy, pop culture-laden, female-centred show created for a female audience, and focused on a successful single woman who’s attractive and glamorous, whose daughter is an aspiring journalist, is another forerunner to Gilmore Girls.