Almost exactly 16 years ago, the now-defunct WB network premiered Gilmore Girls, a dramedy focused on the unique mother-daughter relationship of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, and their small town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. As soon as it hit screens, the independent, fast-talking ladies became the envy of every teenage girl. It was the Lorelais against the world, and while they often attracted the attentions of men, their loyalty was always to each other.
The announcement of the return of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s hit show brought waves of giddiness to the internet, as the creator would finally get to finish the series on her terms after a falling out with the network caused her to quit before the seventh season. The return of Gilmore Girls promises something else, too: pop culture references from the last nine years will surely be scattered throughout. After all, one of the show’s biggest claims to fame is the sheer volume of music, television, movie, and even political name-dropping by the main characters. Before Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life drops on November 25, here’s a look back at the 15 Best Gilmore Girls Pop Culture References.
15. Star Wars
The Gilmore women aren’t exactly sci-fi nerds, but they are equal opportunity cinephiles. In season six, episode two, Lorelai and Luke are newly engaged, and, in order to show the uneven passing of time that occurs in the first several episodes, are discussing movies they’ve recently seen in theaters. As the film premiered in May 2005, we know that it must be at least July when Luke begins to rant about Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, as Lorelai tells him to get over it because “that was months ago.”
And though his baseball cap and love of cars and fishing don’t show this, Luke reveals himself as something of a fan boy — albeit an uninformed one. Calling Lightsabers “flashlight thingys,” he argues that all of this technology and power should not fall victim to the rule of “higher ground” referenced by Obi-Wan Kenobi in his fight with Anakin Skywalker. Lorelai gives him some sound advice: there are no shortage of websites dedicated to dissecting the minutiae of Star Wars. The entertaining diatribe exhibits perfectly the struggle of being an avid consumer of media, and the impossible feat creators face when adapting or continuing a previously established title. Let’s hope we get to hear his opinions on The Force Awakens in A Day in the Life… or maybe we’ll even learn what he thinks about the Star Trek reboot, as it was mentioned in season two that he was a Trekkie as a child.
14. World of Warcraft
Another unusual reference for the girls comes in the form of the video game, World of Warcraft. It’s brought up by Rory’s college boyfriend Logan, who isn’t exactly Lorelai’s cup of tea: He was raised in Connecticut high society (the world she has worked most of her life to separate herself and Rory from), embraced risky adventures, and had a reputation as a bit of a playboy before he began dating Rory. Though he buckles down for a while after graduation, a bad business deal gone wrong sends Logan back down his dangerous path, landing him in the hospital and back to Rory, unemployed and ready to make amends.
So when she brings him to Stars Hollow in season seven, episode 18, Lorelai is still hesitant about the pairing. She and Logan make small talk while preparing dinner, and he enthusiastically shares his opinions on the dot-com boom and the thriving online retail economy, referencing simulation games “like Second Life or World of Warcraft.” As the owner of a very in-person business, she has no idea what she’s talking about, but later, the two manage to connect over there surprisingly parallel journeys to independence, and she finally comes to accept Logan.
13. Oprah Winfrey
Lorelai and Rory are quick to comment on any and all public figures, so it’s no surprise that Oprah makes it into conversation on more than one occasion. As the media mogul and former talk show host has her hands in entertainment, publishing, the internet, and almost everything else under the sun, her taste-maker opinions were bound to spark a reference (or three). In season five, episode 16, Sookie is in a panic about her upcoming maternity leave, and attempting to prepare menus for the Dragonfly Inn months in advance. In her usual hectic manner, Sookie explains to Lorelai that she needs to have alternate food options ready, in case “Oprah decides to get mad at beef again.” Though we likely won’t get much of it, we’re all excited for some of that trademark Sookie rambling with Melissa McCarthy making a brief appearance in A Year in the Life.
Of course, this entry would be remiss without one of the more iconic lines of the series. In the pilot, as Rory is leaving Stars Hollow High with her books to take to Chilton, she encounters Dean, a new student, who admires her taste in literature. He informs her that he’s from Chicago, to which she replies, “Chicago. Windy. Oprah.” The scene is meant to show that the normally articulate Rory is a little dumbstruck by this handsome stranger, whom she goes on to date.
12. Quentin Tarantino films
Though the titular women are the primary referencers to all things theatrical, almost everyone in their world shares at least some of their affinity for pop culture. Case in point: Rory dresses as Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill to attend a Quentin Tarantino-themed birthday party in season five, episode 17 (appropriately titled “Pulp Friction”). Other guests include her date, Robert, as a dead extra; his friend Finn, as Vincent Vega; and Logan– whom Rory is seeing casually at this time– as Butch Coolidge from Pulp Fiction. Holding events with unique and specific themes is a trend for Logan and his “Life and Death Brigade” cohorts, but this was definitely one of the coolest concepts.
Obviously, Lorelai and Rory are very familiar with Tarantino’s work, or they wouldn’t be very good film buffs, now would they? In season five, episode 13, just a few prior to the aforementioned theme party, Lorelai and Luke attend her parents’ re-commitment ceremony, where the diner owner feels very out of place among the upper class attendees. When he realizes he’ll be expected to dance, Lorelai comforts him with a joke, saying “We’re doing the one from Pulp Fiction. Do you want to be Uma, or should I?” This is just one of Lorelai’s many references that could easily be missed.
A classic cult dark comedy like Heathers is right up the alley of the Lorelais, so it’s not surprising that it’s referenced on a few occasions. The iconic line “What’s your damage?” made it into the show not once, but twice: First from Rory’s classmate, Francie, after Rory comes down on her for trying to oust Paris from student council in season three, episode 10; then from Rory to her mom in the season four finale, when the latter pushes her daughter out of the diner to confide in her that she and Luke are dating.
Relating to Veronica’s plight in the film is an obvious association for Rory — she’s a bookish, shy girl who is suddenly thrust into a different world when she begins attending Chilton in the first season. Though they later become close friends, Rory gets off on the wrong foot with Paris Gellar, who, in season one, episode 11, is facing problems of her own, as the student body talks openly about her parents’ divorce. Paris’ sidekicks, Madeline and Louise, usually stick with her, but Rory sees just how shallow they really are when they quickly turn on their leader and say “hi” to Rory in the hallway. When she tells her mom about this, Lorelai replies, “Wow, you’re the new Heather,” drawing a comparison between the cliques.
10. The Rolling Stones
This list has mostly focused on the Gilmore’s love of movies and TV, so let’s switch it up a bit. Music is also a popular topic on the show, especially when Rory’s best friend, Lane, is around. Despite her strict Christian upbringing, Lane lives and breathes rock n’ roll, and relishes in indulging and sharing her passion with Rory and Lorelai. As far as tastes go, they run the gambit, but no one sets the precedent for rock quite like The Rolling Stones, who are mentioned frequently both as a group or individually. Front man Mick Jagger or guitarist Keith Richards are both singled out.
The band seems to show up particularly often in season four. In the second episode, Rory shows her mom her new college ID, saying she looks like “Keith Richards at Altamont,” the famed disaster of a concert where the band performed in 1969. Two episodes later, Lane’s band mate Zack is lamenting that their guitarist, Dave, left them to go to college, arguing that true rockers don’t need an education. Rory shoots back with a myriad of examples to the contrary, including Mick Jagger, who attended the London School of Economics before the band took off. And another two episodes later, Lorelai explains to Luke why she took a job catering an event for her mother, calling the gig as big as “Prince opening for The Rolling Stones.”
9. Beat writers
This list also couldn’t exist without mentioning literature. Rory is as well-read as they come and, as GOOD once pointed out, the books that she read often toted plots lining up with that of the episode they were featured in. Though Rory consumed literature from every century, some of the most oft-referenced were the writers of the Beat Generation, specifically Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. In fact, the very first spoken reference of the series comes a minute into the pilot, when Lorelai tells a tourist at Luke’s who hits on her that he’s “a regular Jack Kerouac.” She references On the Road once more, in the season five premiere, when she calls a traveling Luke “Dean Moriarty” once they finally reconnect.
Also notable is the meet cute of Rory and Jess in season two, episode five. At first standoffish, Jess walks into Rory’s room and picks up a copy of Ginsberg’s Howl, stating that he “doesn’t read much.” This turns out to be completely untrue, which Rory realizes later when he hands her back her book with his own notes in the margins. This is the first time Rory realizes that they have a lot in common, and their relationship grows around their shared love for reading. And Jess takes a stance on the Beat writers as a whole later in the season when, in episode 16, he fights with Paris, who calls them “self-indulgent” while Jess argues that their goal was to shock audiences.
8. The Godfather
The Gilmore girls have very eclectic taste. Regardless of genre, if it’s a classic, they’ve seen it countless times, and can reference at a moment’s notice. Take, for instance, The Godfather: in the season four premiere, the ladies return from their European backpacking trip with just a few days left before Rory heads off to college to pack in all their favorite shared activities. Among those is a marathon of all three Godfather films, “with extra showings of the Sofia death scene over and over.” When they run out of time to watch, Rory cries about the missed opportunity, using it to symbolize the big change that comes with moving out.
It seems the mob flicks are also a favorite of everyone else in Stars Hollow. In season six, episode two, Luke is struggling to get along with his sister’s husband, T.J. He tells Lorelai, “I’m going to be like Mike Corleone dealing with his slimy brother-in-law.” A little later in the season, in episode six, Sookie is rushing around the Dragonfly Inn kitchen yelling to her prep cook that her sauce needs more garlic, and to “Godfather it up for me.” Her husband, Jackson, also gets in a reference: In season five, episode nine, when he receives what he believes to be a threatening message, he tells Sookie, “This is the fish on the doorstep. It’s the horse head in the bed. It’s the ‘either your signature or your brains are going to be on the contract.‘”
Reaching back even further time, the girls also love the old black and white classics, specifically Casablanca. In season four, episode five, (whose “The Fundamental Things Apply,” is a lyric from the film’s song “As Time Goes By,”) Lorelai invites Luke over to watch the film when she learns he’s never seen it. Though the two aren’t dating yet, there’s a cute scene where she keeps watching him watch the movie, because it’s important to her that he likes it. And when he fast-forwards through a scene, she tells him matter-of-factly, “There are no bad parts of Casablanca.”
That’s far from the only time the film is mentioned in the series’ run. Three episodes prior, when Rory moved in to her dorm at Yale, she discovers that she’s rooming with her high school enemy-turned-friend, Paris, prompting her to say the classic line, “Of all the gin joints.” Later in the season, in episode 10, Lorelai gets the opportunity to make a pun out of another famous line: as Rory tells her how the much-older professor Paris is sleeping with is risking everything to be with her, her mom replies, “Well, he’ll always have Paris.”
6. The Lord of the Rings
Another series that might surprise some to discover the girls have watched, The Lord of the Rings is referenced a few times throughout the show’s run. Most notably, in season four, episode three, titled “The Hobbit, the Sofa, and Digger Stiles,” Lorelai and Sookie cater a birthday party that is LOTR themed, complete with decorations featuring the characters, costumes for the kids, and a screening of one of the movies. The best line comes when a young girl tells Lorelai that the boys told her she can’t travel to Mount Doom, and Lorelai tells her that girl Hobbits have better adventures.
The film is referenced again in the season four finale, when, as Lorelai is trying to figure out if Luke is interested in her romantically, she says to Rory, “But maybe he didn’t mean it as a date thing. Maybe he just needed to get out of the house. And since I’m currently one of the women sitting home, thinking ‘if I could only find a man like Aragorn,’ he picked me.” A location from the franchise is mentioned in season five, episode 16 by Lane’s boyfriend, Zack. After seeing Luke in a rage following his recent breakup with Lorelai, Zack reacts with, “His eyes. Red, like the fires of Mordor.”
5. Monty Python
As witty, fast-talking women, it makes sense that Rory and Lorelai are fans of Monty Python. But it’s actually a few of the other characters who reference the famous British comedy act. In season two, episode 13, Dean stomps away from Rory, who calls after him, “Don’t walk away like that.” His reply? “Sorry, I’d do a silly walk, but I’m not feeling very John Cleese right now.” This is during the time in their relationship when Jess is pursuing Rory, and Dean is reacting to a smug comment the other boy had made.
Dean eventually dumps Rory, and she and Jess begin to date. In season three, episode 14, the tables are turned, and Jess is upset to hear that Rory and her ex-boyfriend had been talking. So when she sees him not long after and he’s sporting a black eye, she thinks he and Dean got into a fight. In fact, it turns out that it was a bird who attacked him. Luke doesn’t believe this, so he goes with Jess to the scene of the crime, where he asks his nephew about the swan, “Does it act all peaceful and Bambi-like and then suddenly attack like the rabbit in Monty Python?” These are only two of the many times Monty Python is mentioned, but it’s interesting to see the parallels in the situations.
4. The Shining
As one of the most influential and parodied horror films of all time, The Shining was bound to be referenced in a pop-culture heavy show like Gilmore Girls. Lorelai in particular is fond of the flick, speaking a popular line that itself is a reference to Johnny Carson, not once but twice. First, during the aforementioned Heathers name-drop in the first season, Lorelai asks Rory if Madeline and Louise said “a normal hello, not like a ‘Here’s Johnny’ kind of hello” to her. And in season six, episode nine, Lorelai tries to enter her home only to find the chain lock in place, so she pokes her head through and calls to Luke, saying the line casually.
The Shining makes another appearance in season one, episode two. After Rory starts at Chilton on her grandparents’ dime, matriarch Emily Gilmore swoops in and orders DSL for Lorelai’s house. Not one to take handouts where she can avoid it, Lorelai confronts her mother saying “We like our internet slow,” and adding that with a high-speed connection, “it’d be all work and no play. Have you not seen The Shining?” This was an amusing way of pointing out that Lorelai lives a very separate and different life than her parents, and it’s important to her to bring Rory up her own way. And back in the year 2000, surfing the web and talking on a landline at the same time was a luxury not everyone could afford.
3. John Hughes movies
Though all of the films mentioned so far are important to the girls, it’s clear there’s a very special place in Lorelai’s heart for the Brat Pack. She references a number of John Hughes’ popular films starring the group of actors, with a particular focus on Molly Ringwald. In fact, in season six, episode 20, she saves Luke’s daughter April’s birthday party with makeovers and a screening of Pretty in Pink, where she calls Ringwald “my generation’s Audrey Hepburn.” And in season four, episode six, Kirk also mentions the movie to Luke, saying that he was doing an impression of Duckie from the film during a date.
Another of Hughes’ most notable flicks get a few mentions. In season six, episode 16, after seeing Rory speak on a panelist of college journalists, Lorelai remarks to Christopher that their daughter is “Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club smart.” Rory herself mentions the film, too, when she tells her mom about the guy Luke hired who, after seeing the movie, decided to tape his own butt cheeks together the way Andy did to his classmate to end up in detention. She also stumbles across another one of his films when she jokingly tells Lorelai that she had imagined having Matthew Broderick as her stepfather, and the three of them spent time together talking about “his Ferris Bueller days.”
2. The Beatles
As it’s hard to find a show that doesn’t reference The Beatles at least once, it’s no surprise that Gilmore Girls finds a way to name-drop the infamous band many, many times. When Luke and Lorelai get in engaged in the season six premiere, Taylor Dosey remarks “I thought there was a better chance of all four of the Beatles getting back together.” Lane brings up Yoko Ono twice. In season one, episode 12, Rory sees she’s bought a CD by Ono, and Lane defends herself by saying she’s “a very misunderstood artist and The Beatles would have broken up anyway.” Many years later, in season seven, episode 16, Rory’s now married and pregnant best friend complains about being on bed rest, and her husband comforts her, saying, “I’m gonna hang out with you, just like John and Yoko.”
Though they’re a group that spans generations, the eldest Gilmores’ lack of pop culture knowledge is a frequent joke on the show. In season four, episode 14, Emily and Richard argue about which of the Beatles is still alive, after which Lorelai calls and complains to Rory about how they decided that “Paul and Keith are dead. John and Bingo are still kicking.” And not only does Richard not know their names, but he’s clearly not familiar with their music; in season three, episode eight, he compares his old a capella singing group with them, saying they were, “like the Beatles, but with better table manners.”
1. The 2016 U.S. Presidential Candidates
Arguably one of the most hot-button issues at the present time is the upcoming U.S. presidential election. The race is down to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, and wherever you stand on the political spectrum, you’ve likely experienced a range of emotions during recent occurrences, including shock, horror, devastation, frustration… the list goes on. Always at the forefront of pop culture, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life happens to arrive during the very month of this event, and there will likely be jokes about the spectacle. But shockingly, it’s actually the past iteration of the series that seems to have predicted the future.
In season two, episode eight, Lorelai tells Sookie that a property they were interested in is owned by someone they know, to which Sookie replies “Tell me it’s not that bastard Donald Trump!” Though they’re discussing real estate, the quote has become a meme that’s made the rounds this election season. Could Sookie be right, or is Lorelai actually the prophetic one? In season five, episode two, Lorelai asks Luke when he’s coming home from his summer on the Renaissance Faire circuit. She’s doubtful when he assures her it will be later that day, saying back to him “See you when Hillary’s president.” And that may very well be the case when we finally see them again on our screens next month.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life will be available to stream on Netflix on November 25th, 2016.
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