Season One, Episode Eleven: “Paris Is Burning”

Season 1, episode 11: “Paris Is Burning”
Original air date: January 11, 2001
Directed by: David Petrarca
Written by: Joan Binder Weiss

IMDb summary: “As the relationship with Rory’s teacher Max grows more serious, Lorelai panics and decides to end it, but her attempt to break up with him during Parent-Teacher night at Chilton causes even more trouble at school for Rory” (IMDb).

Indigenous Land Acknowledgment: In beginning my work on this guide, I’ve come to realize just how many references (however subtle) Gilmore Girls contains to the Revolutionary War and the colonial history of the United States. It is important and necessary to acknowledge the people whose lands were usurped when these events took place, though this is not a simple question. Please visit the main page to view the results of my research and read the full acknowledgment.

All References in Chronological Order

reference – 00:00
Episode title: “Paris Is Burning”
Paris Is Burning (1990, dir. Jennie Livingston) is a US documentary film about the 1980s “ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it” (Wikipedia). The film was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2016.
— Ball culture (also known as drag ball culture, ballroom culture, and similar terms) refers to an underground LGBTQ+ subculture that originated in New York City, “in which people ‘walk’ (i.e., compete) for trophies, prizes, and glory at events known as balls. Ball culture consists of events that mix performance, dance, lip-syncing, and modeling” (Wikipedia). Such events are a continuation of late-19th century masquerade balls, or “drags,” organized by the underground LGBTQ+ community in defiance of laws prohibiting individuals from dressing in clothes associated with another gender.

feature – 00:25
Lorelai and Rory stop at an outdoor pet adoption fair. A banner in the background shows that the fair was sponsored by
— “Petfinder is an internet company that operates the largest online pet adoption website serving all of North America” (Wikipedia). As of 2013, the company reported that it had facilitated more than 22 million adoptions since its founding in 1996.

mention – 00:35
LORELAI: “Buttercup was found cold and wet hovering under a hydrangea bush along highway 26.” It’s a sad highway!
— US Route 26 is an east-west highway that runs from Ogallala, Nebraska to a point south of Seaside, Oregon, where it intersects with the north-south US Route 101.

mention – 01:40
RORY: She stopped cleaning its cage. Instead, every day, she would stuff some Kleenex in there.
LUKE: You didn’t.
LORELAI: It was the quilted kind.
— Kleenex is a brand name for a range of paper products, most associated with facial tissue. Like the name “Post-it” (mentioned in episode three at 16:25 and episode four at 01:15), the name “Kleenex” has become a genericized trademark, or proprietary eponym, in US English: “a trademark or brand name that, because of its popularity or significance, has become a generic term for, or synonymous with, a general class of product or service” (Wikipedia). The name “Kleenex” is owned by US corporation Kimberly-Clark, but is often used to refer to any facial tissue, regardless of brand.

reference – 02:05
LORELAI: Look, I know it was bad, but this was a vicious hamster. This was like a Damien hamster with little beady eyes and a big forked tail, and a cape with a hood, and…
— In the US-British supernatural horror film, The Omen (1976, dir. Richard Donner), a US diplomat (Gregory Peck) is persuaded to replace his own child, who died shortly after birth, with another baby. He agrees–though he does not inform his wife (Lee Remick) of the exchange–and the couple names the baby Damien. Mysterious and violent events follow the family as the child grows, and “they come to learn he is in fact the prophesied Antichrist” (Wikipedia).
— Lorelai invokes a stereotypical image of Satan cobbled together from historical imagery and silent movie villains (see the character of Satan, complete with cape, in Spencer Williams’ 1941 film The Blood of Jesus).

reference – 04:05
LORELAI: What can I say? Watching someone work makes me hungry. If I hadn’t stopped watching This Old House, I’d be 500 pounds right now.
— This Old House is a US home improvement media brand best known for its long-running series documenting the renovation and restoration of historic houses. The series premiered in 1979 and was originally hosted by Bob Vila; in 1989, Vila was fired for appearing in commercials for Rickels Home Centers, a competitor of the show’s underwriter, The Home Depot. Steve Thomas took over following Vila’s departure and hosted the program until 2003.

reference – 05:30
LORELAI: Hm. I never read Proust. I always wanted to. Every now and then, I’m seized with an overwhelming urge to say something like, “As Marcel Proust would say…” But of course I have no idea what Marcel Proust would say! So I don’t even go there. I could do, “As Michael Crichton would say,” but it’s not exactly the same, you know?
LORELAI: Hey, he loaned me a book.
RORY: What book?
LORELAI: Swann’s Way.
RORY: Aren’t we ambitious?
MR. MEDINA: The novelist Edna O’Brien has been quoted as saying that every writer should read some Proust every day.
— Marcel Proust (born Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust, 1871-1922) was a French novelist “considered by critics and writers to be one of the most influential authors of the 20th century” (Wikipedia). His best-known work is In Search of Lost Time (French: À la recherche du temps perdu), a novel in seven volumes, the first of which is titled Swann’s Way (French: Du côté de chez Swann). The seven volumes were published between 1913 and 1927, and the novel as a whole is “known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory” (Wikipedia).
— Michael Crichton (born John Michael Crichton, 1942-2008) was a US author and filmmaker. He held an MD from Harvard Medical School, and “many of his novels have medical or scientific underpinnings, reflecting his medical training and scientific background” (Wikipedia). Perhaps most famous of these is Jurassic Park (1990), which was the basis for the 1993 film of the same name. He also wrote and directed the film Westworld (1973), the first film to use 2D computer-generated imagery, and created the television show ER (1994-2009).

feature – 07:55
MR. MEDINA: “There’s a certain Slant of light, / Winter afternoons– / That oppresses, like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes–” That, my friends, is the first verse of a poem by Emily Dickinson. Now, read some of those tonight. And as you do, consider the fact that Emily Dickinson writes convincingly about passion and about the world in spite of the fact that she lived as a virtual recluse. It’ll help you appreciate her mind.
— US poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was previously mentioned in episode eight at 04:40, and that episode also alluded to her reclusiveness. “Evidence suggests that Dickinson lived much of her life in isolation. Considered an eccentric by locals, she developed a penchant for white clothing and was known for her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, to even leave her bedroom. Dickinson never married, and most friendships between her and others depended entirely upon correspondence” (Wikipedia).
— The poem that Mr. Medina quotes was discovered among Dickinson’s unpublished writings by her sister following Dickinson’s death. It was first published in 1890 in Poems by Emily Dickinson: Series 1. It is available in its entirety online.
— A poster depicting British poet and playwright William Shakespeare is visible on the classroom wall in the background. Shakespeare was covered heavily in episode four when he was the subject of an exam in Rory’s class.

reference – 08:45
LOUISE: Dumb girls crave smart men. It’s the whole Marilyn Monroe-Arthur Miller syndrome.
— In 1956, US playwright Arthur Miller (1915-2005) married US actress, model, and singer Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson, 1926-1962). “Due to Monroe’s status as a sex symbol and Miller’s image as an intellectual, the media saw the union as a mismatch, as evidenced by Variety‘s headline, ‘Egghead Weds Hourglass'” (Wikipedia). Monroe’s screen persona exemplified the stereotypical “dumb blonde”: a ditzy, fun-loving, sexually attractive woman, sometimes included as a foil to her brainier, more serious brunette counterpart.
— Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible was mentioned in episode seven at 15:00.

feature – 09:25
Mystery music in the background of Friday night dinner.
— There is a classical piece playing in the background of Friday night dinner, but I am unable to find any information about it; every resource for this episode says that it features no commercial music. Even if it’s just production music, I usually like to include some details, but alas, I can’t find any on this one.

reference – 15:00
MAX: When we’re not in school, I’ll call you Rebecca.
RORY: Rebecca.
MAX: And you’ll call me?
RORY: Norman?
MAX: Norman? I look like a Norman to you?
RORY: I’m sorry. Psycho was on earlier, and it was just the first name that came to mind. I’ll think of something else. How about Alfred?
— The titular psychotic killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho is a man named Norman Bates. “Often ranked among the greatest films of all time, [the film] set a new level of acceptability for violence, deviant behavior and sexuality in American films, and is widely considered to be the earliest example of the slasher film genre” (Wikipedia).
— Hitchcock also directed a film called Rebecca (1940), an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel of the same name. It was Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film after he began his career in his native England.

feature – 15:35
When Rory turns to Max to quip, “Have her home by 10,” we can see that she is carrying a Mead notebook.
— The Mead Corporation was a US producer of paper, office supplies, and school supplies. While the Mead Corporation no longer exists today, the Mead brand is still an active subsidiary of ACCO Brands Corporation. The Mead family of products includes the Pee-Chee folder, previously mentioned in episode four at 00:25.

reference – 16:45
LORELAI: Rory and I have a skating date.
RORY: I’m Nancy Kerrigan.
LORELAI: And I’m Tonya Harding. I’m gonna do the whole shoelace-coming-untied, nervous breakdown, “Let me start again,” act and everything.
— Tonya Harding (born 1970) is a US former figure skater, two-time Olympian, and two-time Skate America Champion. “In 1991, she earned distinction as being the first American woman to successfully land a triple Axel in competition, and the second woman to do so in history” (Wikipedia). Her legal name is now Tonya Price, following her marriage to Joseph Price in 2010.
The incident to which Lorelai refers occurred in Lillehammer, Norway during the 1994 Winter Olympics. Harding had an issue with a broken skate lace and was granted a re-skate by the judges. She finished in eighth place, behind Nancy Kerrigan (born 1969), who won the silver medal. Incidentally, Harding’s performance was set to music from the film Jurassic Park (1993), based on the book by Michael Crichton (mentioned at 05:30).
— “In January 1994, Harding became embroiled in controversy when her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, orchestrated an attack on her fellow U.S. skating rival Nancy Kerrigan. … As a result of her involvement in the assault on Kerrigan, the United States Figure Skating Association banned her for life on June 30, 1994.”

reference – 19:45
SOOKIE: *singing* Livin’ la vida loca.
LORELAI: Sookie!
SOOKIE: *singing* Shake your bon-bon, shake your bon-bon.
LORELAI: Hey. You will not stand there singing Ricky Martin songs to me.
LORELAI: Do you want to sing some more Ricky Martin to me?
LORELAI: You can, you know. I deserve it.
SOOKIE: *singing* She’s into superstitions / Black cats and voodoo dolls / I’ve got a premonition / That girl’s gonna make me fall.
— Sookie is singing bits and pieces of the songs “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and “Shake Your Bon-Bon” by Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin (born Enrique Martín Morales, 1971). Both songs were released on Martin’s 1999 self-titled debut English-language album. (His previous albums were in Spanish.) The album is generally recognized for ushering in a wave of Latin pop and easing the transition of other Spanish-speaking artists into the English-speaking market.

+ reference – 22:30
RORY: Her dad’s, like, this bigwig at a huge pharmaceutical company, and they’re printing all the sordid details about it in the paper.
LORELAI: Ooh, how sordid?
RORY: Well, it’s not the Rick James incident, but Hugh Grant should be feeling pretty good about himself.
— Rick James (born James Johnson Jr., 1948-2004) was a US singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer perhaps best known for his 1981 single “Super Freak.” Rory is likely referring to James’ 1993 conviction “for two separate instances of kidnapping and torturing two different women while under the influence of crack cocaine” (Wikipedia). For these crimes, James served three years at Folsom State Prison before being released on parole in 1996.
— Hugh Grant (born 1960) is an English actor. In 1995, he was arrested in Los Angeles, California for receiving oral sex in a public place from a sex worker. “He pleaded no contest and was fined $1,180, placed on two years’ summary probation, and was ordered to complete an AIDS education program” (Wikipedia). He was praised in the aftermath of the scandal for his humility and candor in answering for it, and his career did not suffer permanent damage.
— Lorelai is cleaning out the fridge as she and Rory have this conversation, and two cans of Reddi-wip are visible in the background. Reddi-wip is a brand of whipped cream sold in a pressurized spray can and produced by ConAgra Foods. According to Wikipedia, it “is the second most eaten brand of whipped topping in the United States behind Cool Whip.”

reference – 22:55
RORY: Madeline and Louise, Paris’s best friends–they said hello to me the other day.
LORELAI: Really? Like a normal hello, not like a, “Here’s Johnny,” kind of hello?
RORY: Normal. Friendly. No axe.
LORELAI: Wow, you’re the new Heather.
— This is a reference to another famous scene from The Shining (1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick), a psychological horror film previously mentioned in episode two at 37:20. The film’s main character, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), is crazed by malevolent supernatural forces and pursues his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), with an axe. When she locks herself in a bathroom, he throws the axe through the wooden door, shoves his face through the gap he’s created, and yells, “Here’s Johnny!” The line, likely ad-libbed by Nicholson, is a reference to the catchphrase Ed McMahon had been using to introduce Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show since 1962.
— The film is based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name. King was also mentioned in the pilot at 17:15.
— Heathers is a 1989 US black comedy teen film directed by Michael Lehmann. “The film portrays four teenage girls–three of whom are named Heather–in a clique at an Ohio high school, whose lives are disrupted by the arrival of a misanthrope intent on murdering the popular students and staging their deaths as suicides” (Wikipedia). With the passing of one Heather comes the succession of the next to the position of “queen bee” in the high school social order. The fourth girl in the clique, Veronica, is played by Winona Ryder, and the misanthrope, J.D., is played by Christian Slater.

reference – 23:15
LORELAI: Oh. Hey. This is the pizza from mystery Tuesday. That one’s completely fine!
RORY: Don’t.
LORELAI: It’s in the box!
RORY: Oscar.
The Odd Couple (formerly known as Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple) is a US television sitcom that ran from 1970 to 1975. The show centers on a pair of divorced men who “share a Manhattan apartment, and [whose] different lifestyles inevitably lead to conflicts and laughs” (Wikipedia). Oscar (Jack Klugman) is a “fun-loving slob,” and Felix (Tony Randall) is a “neurotic neat-freak” (Wikipedia).
— The show is based on Neil Simon’s 1965 play of the same name, and on the play’s 1968 film adaptation. The film is directed by Gene Saks and stars Walter Matthau as Oscar and Jack Lemmon as Felix.
— A phrase made popular by the show was mentioned in episode six at 27:55.

feature – 26:00
Among the decorations on the inside of Rory’s locker is a graphic that says, “Baby Spice,” written in a circle with a red line through it.
— The Spice Girls are an English vocal group and girl group–the female counterpart to the boy bands popular at the time. Like boy bands, girl groups typically do not play instruments and instead perform choreographed dances. The five members of the Spice Girls are also known by their stage names, Baby Spice, Ginger Spice, Posh Spice, Scary Spice, and Sporty Spice. Baby Spice’s real name is Emma Bunton.

mention – 26:30
MR. MEDINA: One of the greatest inspirations for working writers is the writing of others that they admire. Walt Whitman read Homer, Dante, Shakespeare. And the novelist Edna O’Brien has been quoted as saying that every writer should read some Proust every day.
— Walt Whitman (born Walter Whitman, 1819-1892) was a US poet and essayist ranked “among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse” (Wikipedia). He is credited with capturing the spirit and character of the United States in his writing, and his most major work, the poetry collection Leaves of Grass (1855), is commonly covered in US high school curricula.
— Homer (Ancient Greek: Ὅμηρος, c. 800-c. 701 BC) “was the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are foundational works of ancient Greek literature” (Wikipedia).
— Dante Alighieri (probably baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri, c. 1265-1321) was an Italian writer and philosopher. His Divine Comedy (originally Comedìa, or Commedia in modern Italian) “is widely considered the most important poem of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language” (Wikipedia). Even if you haven’t read his work, you may be familiar with the first part of Divine Comedy, known as Dante’s Inferno, and his depiction of the nine circles of Hell.
— William Shakespeare (baptized 1564, died 1616) was an English poet and playwright “widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s greatest dramatist” (Wikipedia). He was also mentioned by name in episode two at 35:50, and in episode four at 14:40 and 22:35.
— Edna O’Brien (born Josephine Edna O’Brien, 1930) “is an Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short-story writer. … Her first novel, The Country Girls (1960), is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II” (Wikipedia).
— Posters on the classroom walls in the background of this scene mention the English Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) and show the face of US President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). Walt Whitman, a great admirer of Lincoln, wrote several poems eulogizing him following Lincoln’s assassination, including the famous “O Captain! My Captain!”

reference – 28:40
LORELAI: I just need space.
MAX: Well, I don’t. In fact, I want as little space as possible. A hundred clowns crammed into a Volkswagen, that’s the kind of non-space I’m talking about.
— Volkswagen is a German automaker previously mentioned in episode seven at 32:05. The Volkswagen Beetle is particularly known for its compact size, a quality that was emphasized to great success in the iconic 1960s “Think Small” advertising campaign.
— In a clown car circus routine, an implausibly large number of clowns emerge from a comically small car. This routine was first performed by the Cole Bros. Circus in the 1950s.

feature – 30:55
Rory reads New Poems of Emily Dickinson in the cafeteria as she eats her lunch.
— This collection of poems written by Emily Dickinson and edited by William Shurr was first published in 1993. According to the publisher’s description, “for most of her life Emily Dickinson regularly embedded poems, disguised as prose, in her lively and thoughtful letters. … In this remarkable volume, [Shurr] presents nearly 500 new poems that he and his associates excavated from her correspondence, thereby expanding the canon of Dickinson’s known poems by almost one-third.”

mention – 31:25
LORELAI: Hey. Did you save me some Jell-O?
— Jello is a brightly colored, translucent gelatin dessert that will retain its shape after being fitted to a mold; other ingredients like fruit or marshmallows are sometimes suspended within the jello. The word “jello” is the generic form of the brand name “Jell-O” from which the word is derived. Classic Jell-O is sold in cups that can be packed in children’s school lunches or given to patients in hospitals.

reference – 34:45
LORELAI: It was a mistake.
EMILY: A mistake? A mistake? Is that what you call it, a mistake?
LORELAI: Well, I tried to call it “Al,” but it would only answer to “mistake.”
— Lorelai’s remark calls to mind Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” the lead single from his 1986 album Graceland. The lyrics of that song go, “If you’ll be my bodyguard / I can be your long lost pal / I can call you Betty / And Betty, when you call me, you can call me Al.”

reference – 41:05
MAX: I was the one who started the kiss.
LORELAI: I’m the one who knocked it up to NC-17.
— In the United States, the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) rating system is used to grade the suitability of a film’s content for audiences of different age levels. NC-17 is the most restrictive of these ratings and indicates that a film “may contain explicit sex scenes, an accumulation of sexually-oriented language, and/or scenes of excessive violence” (Regal). Whereas the second-highest rating, R, requires an adult to accompany movie-goers under age 17, no one under age 17 can be admitted to a film rated NC-17.

References Consolidated by Category

Brand Names

  • 00:25 – Petfinder
  • 01:40 – Kleenex
  • 15:35 – Mead
  • 22:30 – Reddi-wip
  • 28:40 – Volkswagen
  • 31:25 – Jell-O

Famous Figures

  • 08:45 – Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller
  • 26:30 – Abraham Lincoln

Film & Television

  • 00:00 – Paris Is Burning (1990)
  • 02:05 – The Omen (1976)
  • 04:05 – This Old House
  • 15:00 – Alfred Hitchcock
    • Rebecca (1940)
    • Psycho (1960)
  • 22:55 – The Shining (1980)
  • 22:55 – Heathers (1989)
  • 23:15 – The Odd Couple
  • 41:05 – MPAA rating NC-17

Geography & Politics

  • 00:35 – US Route 26


  • 05:30, 07:00, 26:30 – Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Vol. 1 by Marcel Proust
  • 05:30 – Michael Crichton
  • Emily Dickinson
    • 07:55 – “There’s a certain Slant of light”
    • 30:55 – New Poems of Emily Dickinson
  • 26:30 – Walt Whitman
  • 26:30 – Homer
  • 26:30 – Dante Alighieri
  • 07:55 and 26:30 – William Shakespeare
  • 26:30 – Edna O’Brien
  • 26:30 – John Keats


  • 09:25 – unidentified music played at Friday night dinner
  • 19:45 – Ricky Martin
    • “Livin’ la Vida Loca”
    • “Shake Your Bon-Bon”
  • 26:00 – Spice Girls
  • 34:45 – “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon


  • 16:45 – Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan

True Crime

  • 22:30 – Rick James, 1993 conviction
  • 22:30 – Hugh Grant, 1995 arrest

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