Neptune and Ancient Greece

LORELAI: Um, guys, hi, there’s a lady up there with a rock the size of Neptune around her neck talking about the debutantes of ancient Greece. It’s a lot easier to fall asleep if you’re sitting down, trust me.

The planet Neptune, the eighth planet from the Sun, was officially discovered in 1846, although it had been previously sighted and thought to be a star. It has a mass of 1.0243×1026 kg, making it 17 times more massive than the Earth. It is named after the Roman god of the sea, who interestingly, carries a trident, which Rory referenced earlier.

Symbolically, Neptune is associated with dreams and fantasy, suggesting that the debutante ball is creating an illusion, and there is little that is solid or genuine behind it. Notice that Emily despairs that the elegant ballroom is not all that it appears, the debutantes are “false” in that they have artificially changed their appearance, and that there is something insubstantial about the proceedings – which we barely manage to see. Not to mention that the ball itself takes a rather surreal turn, as if it is all just a dream. (Is it pure coincidence that Lorelai immediately talks about falling asleep?).

Lorelai’s statement about “the debutantes of ancient Greece” can be taken as nothing more than a joke – as if the MC’s reminiscences about her own debut must be positively ancient. However, the ancient Greeks did hold puberty rites for girls, of which you could say debutante balls are the spiritual successor. It seems very unlikely the MC would really mention ancient puberty rites, but the ball is just bizarre enough for this to be taken at face value.

Fat Farm

LADY 2: Janet just got out of Rainbow Hills two days ago.
LORELAI: Rehab?
LADY 1: Fat farm.

Even though a “fat farm” sounds like a place you go to in order to gain weight, it’s actually an old fashioned word for a residential weight loss program. It seems like a word they would use on a sit-com from the 1970s – Oscar and Felix from The Odd Couple went to a fat farm in one episode. Why is everything so dated in the world of Gilmore Girls?

The Hartford debutantes seem to be going to extremes for their debut, enrolling in weight loss programs, like Janet, and getting nose jobs, like Libby. Lucky Rory already looks perfect, so she doesn’t need to do anything except show up.

Trident

LIBBY: You know, they say four out of five debs marry their escorts.
RORY: Kind of like the dentists with Trident.

Trident is a brand of sugar-free chewing gum. For many years it was advertised with the slogan, “Four out of five dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum.” This is believed to have been based on a survey of practising dentists in the early 1960s, the results of which were approximately 80% in favour of sugarless gum.

In real life, it’s not true that 80% of debutantes marry their escorts. That’s preposterous, especially as most debutantes are matched up with some random guy. I’m not sure whether it’s meant to show Libby is a gullible fool, or whether the show actually expects us to believe this nonsense.

Pledge of Allegiance in Six Different Languages

JESS: You bring me here to this place, you put me in a school that says the Pledge of Allegiance in six different languages, two of which I’ve never heard of before.

The Pledge of Allegiance expresses loyalty to the United States flag and the nation that it represents. A pledge was first composed in 1887 by Captain George Thatcher Balch, a former Union Army Officer during the Civil War who later taught patriotism in schools. The current pledge was mostly composed by a Christian socialist minister and author Francis Bellamy in 1892, based on the one by Balch. It was formally adopted by Congress in 1942.

The Pledge of Allegiance is recited at the start of Congressional sessions, many local government meetings, and often even in private organisations. Most states, including Connecticut, require the pledge to be recited regularly, usually every day, at public schools. However, a student legally cannot be compelled to recite the pledge, or punished for failing to do so.

The Pledge of Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

It is recited while standing to attention, facing the flag with the right hand over the heart (non-religious headgear is removed for the pledge by males). Those in uniform remain silent for the pledge, but give a military salute to the flag.

Sometimes schools in the US have recited the pledge in different languages, but it tends to not go down well, and be considered unpatriotic. Stars Hollow High School is apparently not afraid to celebrate its diversity, even though its student population isn’t very diverse. Six languages seems extremely unusual though.

What the six languages were, two of which Jess had never heard of before, is open to speculation. I am going to guess, based on languages spoken in Connecticut, according to the census:

English

Spanish (the most common non-English language in the US)

French (we know this language is taught at Stars Hollow High)

Korean (Mrs Kim can be very persuasive?)

Tagalog (the language of the Philippines, which Jess might not have heard of?)

Urdu (the national language of Pakistan, which Jess might not have heard of?)

Other possibilities I considered: German (Stars Hollow once had an ill-fated German Club), Portuguese (second most common non-English language in Connecticut), Polish (very commonly spoken in the nearby Hartford area), Hebrew or Yiddish (we later learn Stars Hollow has a vibrant Jewish community), Algonquin (the Native American language spoken by Connecticut tribes), Esperanto (a created universal language), American Sign Language for the deaf.

Feel free to add your own thoughts!

The Secret History of Ham

SOOKIE: You know ham was originally made out of rice?

It definitely wasn’t – ham is, and always was, made out of pig. It is hard to know how ham even could be made from rice.

As a professional chef, Sookie must surely know this. I’d like to think that Sookie is making a “look how dumb I am” joke, in protest at Lorelai and Jackson putting her intelligence down. If not, perhaps she’s taken it to heart that Jackson prefers his women dumb, and is trying to give him what he wants.

Rory’s First Article

TEACHER: I mean, when you’ve got a reporter who can take an incredibly mundane and seemingly unimportant subject like the re-paving of the faculty parking lot and turn it into a bittersweet piece on how everybody and everything eventually becomes obsolete, then you’ve really got something. Miss Gilmore, I was touched.

This is truly one of the most unbelievable things to happen in regard to Rory’s career as a reporter. The idea that one thousand words on the re-paving of the faculty parking lot, made into a bittersweet piece on how time claims us all, is utterly ludicrous.

It sounds completely hokey and self-indulgent, and a type of journalism more reminiscent of The Simpsons‘ news anchorman Kent Brockman than The New York Times. In real life, Rory would have had her article cut by at least 75%, and a big red pen put through her waffling think piece on re-paving.

And when did Rory hand her article in? It seemed at the last meeting that articles were due at the next day’s meeting (i.e. this meeting). Yet the teacher has already received it from Paris and read it. Possibly Rory was careful to hand it in early, or give it to the teacher herself, to make sure there weren’t any other Paris-caused mix-ups. Or else when Paris said it needed to be “on her desk”, she meant her regular school desk, not her editorial desk. Which seems very confusing.

Goodnight Spoon

WOMAN: So, what are the titles [of the books you’ve published]?
LORELAI: Well, there’s um, Goodnight Spoon and um, The Horse that Wanted to Bark.

The title Goodnight Spoon is a play on the classic children’s picture book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd. First published in 1947, it is a rhyming poem which features a bunny whose bedroom rital includes saying goodnight to everything around him. It remains a bestseller to this day.

There are many parodies of Goodnight Moon in existence; a few years ago Rolling Stone produced one called Goodnight Spoon, a supposed children’s book written by Keith Richards. I don’t know if Gilmore Girls gave them the idea or not.

The Horse That Wanted to Bark is a parody of the many, many children’s book titles that are [Animal] Who Wanted [Something]. A few examples are The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer, The Cat Who Wanted to Go Home by Jill Tomlinson, and The Mouse Who Wanted to Marry by Doris Orgel.

Lorelai and Rory’s Inability to Leave Their Room

[Lorelai and Rory start to walk down the steps, but stop when they see a bunch of people downstairs.]
LORELAI: Dentists. Boston dentists. Cocktail hour at the Cheshire Cat.
RORY: So?
LORELAI: So our exit is blocked.
RORY: Let’s just rush pass them.
LORELAI: Too risky.
RORY: They’re not assassins.

Unbelievably, Lorelai and Rory find themselves unable to leave their room to get food because they can’t walk downstairs and past a group of strangers. Normally you can’t shut Lorelai up, now she’s incapable of exchanging a few words with a handful of people on her way out to buy dinner. As a plot device to trap Lorelai and Rory in a room together, it’s a pretty lame one.

By what psychic powers Lorelai knows the people downstairs are all dentists from Boston must remain a mystery, but presumably cocktail hour is marked on the activity sheet LaDawn gave them.

“The engagement is off”

[on the phone]
LORELAI: Yeah, Rory and I decided to hit the road.
SOOKIE: But how can you be hitting the road? You’re supposed to be getting …
LORELAI: The engagement is off, Sookie.
SOOKIE: What? What happened?
LORELAI: Well, it’s a long story. I don’t really wanna go into all the whats and whys and gory details right now, but you should know we all still love Max, and to figure out exactly what happened, you’d have to dig up Freud himself and have him work on me full time.

Lorelai’s engagement to Max is off, but there is never any real explanation for how that occurred. Did Lorelai even call Max to let him know, or has she just run away?

Sookie has of course already finished making a beautiful elaborate wedding cake for Lorelai when she gets the news. Being a good friend, she pretends she forgot to make the cake.

Max’s “General” CD Collection

While trying to discover if Max is “worthy” of Lorelai, Christopher asks what his CD collection is like, and gives an “Uh oh” when told he has “kind of a general collection”. Christopher thinks that means “a dozen soundtracks”, and “a generic fifty”. (I can feel Daniel Palladino’s own musical judgements contributing to this section – Palladino was the writer for this episode).

Unfortunately for Max, all Christopher’s derogatory assumptions about Max’s musical tastes turn out to be on point, with Lorelai unable to defend her fiance in any serious way. It may seem shallow and silly, but Christopher’s criticisms of Max’s CD collection seems to make quite an impression on Lorelai (even though she had earlier criticised Christopher’s musical tastes). Is Lorelai so immature that Max’s CD collection is a real problem, or is she clutching at any excuse to dump him?

The Beatles, previously and frequently mentioned, were an English rock band formed in 1960, with their classic line up being John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. They are widely regarded as the most important and most influential band in history, and are the best-selling band of all time, with sales of over 800 million worldwide. They have had more #1 albums in the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act, and are the best-selling musical act in the US. They have received seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Score (for the 1970 film Let it Be), and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting. The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, with the individual members inducted between 1994 and 2015.

Bob Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman (born 1941) is an American singer-songwriter who has been influential in popular music and culture for more than five decades. He is most famous for his 1960s folk anthems of the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests such as The Times They Are AChanging, and Blowing in the Wind. One of the best-selling musical artists all all time, he has received numerous awards throughout his career, including eleven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Alanis Morissette (born 1974) is a Canadian-American singer-songwriter known for her emotional singing style, giving her the title of “Queen of Alt-Rock Angst”. She brought out two dance-pop albums in Canada in the early 1990s, but gained mainstream success after moving to the US with her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill, which sold more than 33 million copies, won the Grammy Award for Best Album, and is her most critically acclaimed work, with hit singles such as Ironic and You Oughta Know. I think this is the “first album” which Lorelai says many people bought in a knee-jerk reaction, including Max, it seems.

David “Dave” Matthews (born 1967) is a South African-born American singer-songwriter, best known as the lead singer of the Dave Matthews Band, formed in 1991. During the early 2000s, his band sold more tickets and made more money than any other act in North America, and nearly all their studio albums have gone to #1 in the US. Matthews has also brought out solo albums, and won two Grammy Awards. Lorelai says “a couple of his things are good”, but I’m not sure which “things” she means, or even whether she means a couple of his albums or a couple of his songs.

Buena Vista Social Club is a group of Cuban musicians established in 1996 to revive the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba. The group’s self-titled album was released in 1997, rapidly making them an international success, with performances in Europe and the US. Wim Wenders made a documentary about them called Buena Vista Social Club, and when it came out in 1998 it received critical acclaim and sparked a revival of Latin American music, helping to increase tourism to Cuba.

Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, anglicised as Enya Brennan, and known as Enya (born 1961) is an Irish singer, songwriter, and musician. Her music career began in 1980 when she joined her family’s Celtic band Clannad, and left in 1982 to pursue a solo career. She has numerous top-selling and critically acclaimed albums, with her 2000 album A Day Without Rain, and its lead single, Only Time, experiencing a great success in the US after the September 11 attacks in 2001, making it the best-selling New Age album of all time. Enya is Ireland’s most successul solo act, and has won seven World Music Awards, four Grammy Awards, and an Ivor Novello Award. She is also known for writing and performing the song May It Be for the 2001 film, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

In general, Christopher is putting down music that experienced sudden mass popularity, so that many people jumped on its bandwagon. How this differs from the very popular bands which he and Lorelai favour is not particularly clear, and his music snobbery may seem rather hypocritical. He also doesn’t seem keen on world music.