Affair

Louise says they can’t meet at her house to study as her mother is having an affair.

Nobody comments on this or asks why it affects them meeting – does Louise’s mother need the house to herself all weekend for her affair? Couldn’t she meet her lover elsewhere, or simply skip seeing him for a single afternoon? What does Louise’s father do on the weekends while the house is off limits to other family members’ activities in order to accommodate his wife’s affair? Has the house somehow been tainted by “affair-ness” so that nobody is ever allowed to visit?

These questions shall never answered. As Louise’s story doesn’t make sense, she may be making up an excuse that nobody will question out of embarrassment.

“Your name wouldn’t be Lithium?”

[Rory sitting on a bench reading. Dean come out, sees her and goes and sits with her]
DEAN: Is there anything in there about me?
RORY: I don’t know. You name wouldn’t be Lithium would it?

Rory is reading The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, edited by Karen V. Kukil. It was first published in 2000. The American poet, novelist, and short story writer Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) suffered from clinical depression which at times was severe.

Plath was hospitalised in a psychiatric ward for several months while in college, receiving electroconvulsive therapy, and required intermittant psychiatric support for the rest of her life. She died a suicide at the age of 30.

Rory may have been drawn to Sylvia Plath’s life story because she was highly driven academically, and a star student in both high school and college. She easily won prizes for poetry, short story-writing, and journalism, and one of her early writing achievements was being chosen as part of a group of college-aged guest editors for fashion magazine Mademoiselle.

On a darker note, among the several factors that pushed Plath into her first suicide attempt was a rejection from a Harvard summer school writing class. Sylvia Plath is a potent example to Rory of the pressures an ambitious young woman might face at college.

I’m actually not sure what Rory means by her comment, as to my knowledge Sylvia Plath was never treated with lithium. It may be an error by the writer (Amy Sherman-Palladino). In any case, it’s impossible not to feel that her quip is completely wasted on Dean.

Lane’s New CDs

For the purposes of this episode, it is important that we understand Lane is a fanatic about popular music. Just in case we forgot that, the episode begins with Lane visiting Rory to show her the big stack of new CDs she has just bought.

The Best of Blonde is the first compilation album from the American new wave band Blondie, which was released in 1981. The album went to #30 in the US, but was much more successful around the world, getting to #4 in the UK, and #1 in Australia and New Zealand.

Kraftwerk is a German electronic music band formed in 1969, founded by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider. Pioneers in electronic music, they were among the first to popularise the genre, and has been highly influential in synthpop, techno, ambient, hip-hop, and club music. Their 1974 album Autobahn was their first to fully embrace the electronic sound, and the title track became a surprise hit around the world. The album got to #7 in Germany, #5 in the US and #4 in the UK.

Young Marble Giants were a Welsh post-punk band formed in 1978, with Alison Statton providing vocals for the instrumentation of brothers Philip and Stuart Moxham. Their minimalist sound was in sharp contrast to the aggressive punk rock dominating the era. They only released one album – Colossal Youth, which came out in 1980. It is one of the most highly-regarded indie recordings of all time and a major influence on Nirvana.

Among the CDs you can see a copy of Up on the Sun, the 1985 album by American rock band the Meat Puppets. The album has a more pschydelic feel to their earlier hard rock punk albums. The band was a great influence on bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Dinosaur Jr.

One of the mysteries of Gilmore Girls was how Lane managed to afford all the CDs she bought. She worked part-time at the antiques store, and her parents could have paid her wages for that. It seems that Lane also bought most (or all?) of her music second-hand, and says that she loves a bargain. We never find out the source of the second hand CDs in Stars Hollow. Maybe they hold frequent flea markets.

Jimmy Hoffa

LUKE: So who are you gonna go find now?
LORELAI: Stop.
LUKE: How about Jimmy Hoffa? That’ll keep you busy for a while.

James “Jimmy” Hoffa (1913-1975) was an American union leader who was President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from 1958 to 1971. He had links with organised crime, and was accused of jury tampering, attempted bribery, and fraud in 1964. He was imprisoned in 1967, and released in 1971 after being pardoned by President Richard Nixon in exchange for his resignation from the union presidency; he was barred from union activities until 1980.

Jimmy Hoffa vanished in 1975 while on his way to meet two Mafia leaders, and was declared legally dead in 1982. Several people have come forward saying that they know where Hoffa’s body is, or even claiming to have killed him, but their evidence hasn’t been corroborated, or their testimony unable to be proven. The FBI believe that Hoffa was murdered by the Mafia, but the case remains open.

Cosmo Woman

NURSE: Ms. Gilmore, uh, I need you to –
EMILY: It’s not “Ms. Gilmore”, it’s Mrs. Gilmore! Mrs. Gilmore, I’m not a Cosmo Woman!

Emily is referring to Helen Gurley Brown (1922-2012), who became editor of Cosmpolitan magazine in 1965 after the success of her best-selling 1962 advice book Sex and the Single Girl. She championed glamorous, fashionable, and sexually liberated women, who became known as “Cosmo Girls”.

It’s possible that Emily, in her state of distress, has somehow confused Helen Gurley Brown and feminist Gloria Steinem (born 1934) – Steinem became the editor of Ms. magazine in 1972, which featured Wonder Woman on its first cover.

Emily would have been a wife, and then a mother, at the time of the rise of Gurley Brown and Steinem – very proud to be “Mrs. Richard Gilmore”, and the opposite of the independent career woman in Cosmpolitan, and of the woman speaking out against the restrictions of marriage and family in Ms.

I’m not sure whether she says “Cosmo Woman” via mixing up Cosmo Girl and Wonder Woman from Ms. Magazine, or whether she simply can’t bear to refer to herself as a “girl” when she’s a mature-aged woman.

German measles

LORELAI: I had the German measles in the fifth grade, I still had to show up to the Christmas party … My polka dot dress matched my face and still I had to sit through twelve courses.

German measles, also known as rubella, is an infection caused by the Rubella virus. It is often mild in children, and symptoms include low-grade fever, sore throat, fatigue, and a rash. The disease can be considerably more severe if an adult catches it, and worst of all for women in the early stages of pregnancy – it increases the chance of miscarriage, and there is a high chance of the baby being born with disabilities such as blindness, deafness, mental retardation, and heart defects.

A vaccine against the virus was developed in 1969 and it was added to the MMR vaccine in 1971, so it was possible for Lorelai to be vaccinated against German measles. In 1977 (when Lorelai was 8-9) the US developed a nationwide childhood immunisation initiative – children are usually 10-11 in fifth grade, so Lorelai should theoretically have been vaccinated by then. This does fit in with Amy Sherman-Palladino’s age though, as she is two years older than Lorelai and would have been in 5th grade around 1977 – maybe just too late to avoid getting the disease.

In any case, Emily was irresponsible and selfish to force Lorelai to attend a party with German measles. The disease is highly infectious, and any female of child-bearing age would be at risk, as you don’t usually know you are pregnant in the early stages.

There is no excuse for ignorance either, as there was a rubella epidemic in the US in 1964-65, not that long before Lorelai’s birth, leading to about 16 000 children being born disabled, as well as 2000 neonatal deaths, and 11 000 abortions and miscarriages due to the disease.

The Metamorphosis

This 1915 absurdist novella by Czech author Frank Kafka is the book that Rory buys Dean for Christmas.

The story is about a travelling salesman named Gregor Samsa who wakes one morning to find that he has been transformed into a large and verminous beetle-like insect, becoming a disgrace to his family and an outsider in his own home. Both harrowing and comical, the book is a meditation on human guilt and isolation. Translated into English in 1933, The Metamorphosis is one of the most influential literary works of the twentieth century.

Rory believes that the book is a “romantic” present. Lane quite rightly tries to talk her out of this, describing the book as a “confusing Czechoslovakian novel”. She urges Rory to consider what Dean will think of the present, and says that she is giving Dean something that she would like, comparing it to Dean giving Rory a football for Christmas.

Lane’s counsel is sound, and she is hinting that once again Rory is using literature to keep others at an emotional distance, since she identifies the potential Christmas gift as saying “let’s be friends”. It’s a genuinely terrible present for Dean, and shows that Rory is still trying to turn her boyfriend into someone he isn’t.

We never discover if Rory took Lane’s advice or gave the book to Dean anyway. At the end of the scene she sounded unconvinced but also unsure, so you could argue it either way.

Rory’s idea of a book by a famous Czech author was probably inspired by her grandfather’s recent trip to Prague. In the last episode Emily told her that Richard was going to bring her back something special, and my bet is that he brought her something from the gift shop at the Kafka Museum, probably a book (possibly even this book). Rory may have thought that since she loved getting a book by Kafka as a present, Dean would as well.

Rory’s attraction to The Metamorphosis is obvious: like Gregor Samsa, she feels that she has become an object of disgust to her family, and is likewise suffering from feelings of intense shame and isolation – she is not speaking to her mother, and has not even spoken to Dean since they overslept at Miss Patty’s.

The Metamorphosis begins with Gregor Samsa oversleeping, and then finding he is trapped in a waking nightmare without reason or explanation. We can be sure that this is exactly how Rory feels, and the ending where Samsa voluntarily dies rather than burden his family any further shows just how deep her feelings of depression are. Quite possibly Rory has wished herself dead.

Rory might be playing her situation for laughs by making jokes about The Miracle Worker and Narcolepsy Boy, but make no mistake, she is suffering horribly. Like The Metamorphosis, there is both comedy and misery in equal measure.

By giving Dean the book, Rory was hoping to show him exactly how she feels; the “romantic” part of the present is her sharing her deepest emotions and fears with Dean, reaching out and laying herself completely bare to him. Unfortunately, Lane is right, and Dean would have no way to interpret it as anything other than a strange, confusing book about a big bug.