My favourite Gilmore Girl is not a Gilmore Girl at all. It’s punk-rock, drummer-turned-waitress-turned-mumma Lane Kim.
Lane Kim, played by the superb Keiko Agena, is Rory Gilmore’s lifelong best friend and confidante. When we first meet her, she appears to be a nicely spoken, sweet fifteen year old who studies hard and never puts a toe out of line. It only takes us ten minutes to work out that Lane is actually living the double life that many teens do, due to her mother’s strict household rules. The character of Lane was actually based on Helen Pai, a longtime friend of Gilmore Girls creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino. Pai, like Lane, grew up hiding her true identity from her strict Seventh-day Adventist parents as Bustle explains here.
Lane Kim is a marvel, a superhero if you will. She is a master of compromise, constantly navigating her Korean heritage with American pop-culture, her love of junk food with her mother’s health crazes. She’s smart, strong, independent and above all else, she’s a brilliant friend.
There is an expectation that Lane would constantly be going an identity crisis of sorts as she crosses over two very distinct cultures, but Lane is confident in herself and what she likes. It’s pretty rare to see a teenage girl who has relatively high self esteem on TV and it’s doubly wonderful that Lane is a woman of colour. Of course, the Asian stereotype dictates that Lane should be an overachiever, timid and introverted. Though Lane may put this facade on to please her mother, she is none of the above. She’s an extrovert, with loud opinions. It is Rory who is the academic overachiever in their friendship.
Mothers, mothers, mothers..
One of the absolute greatest moments ever (and i mean ever, not just in Gilmore Girls), is when Lane tells Mrs Kim that she is giving up the band. They aren’t having any success with booking gigs and Lane, for the first time ever, just wants to quit. This is unlike her, and Mrs Kim can see that too. Known for her organisational (or rather military) skills, Mrs Kim quickly books the band a series of shows in Christian venues across the region effectively allowing them to tour. She organises their van, sorts out their packing and sends them on their way to capture the hearts of young Christians everywhere.
Of course, Mrs Kim’s actions are totally predictable – she’s stellar at solving a problem and she’s very good at making sure people fall in line with her orders. What is out of character is Mrs Kim’s sudden support for Lane extracurricular activities. She has never been a fan of rock music (likening it to the Devil himself most of the time), and she’s never been one to support her daughter doing anything outside of the Seventh Day Adventist Rulebook (the Bible, I guess?). This, I believe, was the turning point in Lane and Mrs Kim’s relationship. Mrs Kim, despite her hatred for rock music, hated seeing Lane giving up her dream and so decides to put aside her own grievances to help Lane and the band. Of course, the compromise is that they are playing Christian events only – but it is still a huge leap forward between mother and daughter.
Similarly, when Lane gets married to Zack (which still makes me angry #comebackDave), she sees a side to her mother that she had never seen before. Lane has to have a traditional Buddhist wedding for the sake of her Grandparents, who would be horrified if they discovered that Lane and Mrs Kim were Seventh-day Adventists. As Lane watches her mother hide all the Christian iconography in their house, she realises that her mother rebelled too – just in a different way. Instead of reaching out popular culture, punk-rock and teen heartthrobs, Mrs Kim chose the Seventh-day Adventists as her way out of her family’s traditional culture. Each Kim woman is forging a life for herself, and it is not without irony that Lane understands this.
What is also pretty obvious, by the end of the series at least, is that Lane is a parallel of Lorelai. Both of them rebel from their mothers, move out of home and have children young. They both have ambitious streaks and are not easily swayed. They are both staples of Stars Hollow, darlings of the community if you will. Lorelai was also a stand-in mother to Lane for most of her teenage years – Lane would go over to the Gilmore house to eat junk food, wear her favourite clothing and sometimes to see Dave (yay Dave!).
Always the best friend, never the protagonist…
Whilst this parallel is interesting, I felt like Gilmore Girls almost gave up with Lane after Rory went to Yale. Of course, now Rory isn’t in Stars Hollow all the time, it makes sense that we and her would see less of Lane. What we did get to see, though, was her pining over Zack who treated her terrible and didn’t seem to know what he wanted most of the time. Lane deserved better! Lane was there as a constant for Rory through her ups and downs with Dean, Jess and Logan. Where was Rory when Lane should have been told that she deserved better than a guy who didn’t know if he wanted to date her! Speaking of, Rory was late to Lane’s baby shower, wasn’t even there for the birth of Lane’s twins and barely made an impact at her wedding.
Okay, maybe this has actually just turned into a ‘Rory is a bad friend to Lane’ rant, but someone has to say it.
Moving on… The basis of what I am trying to say is this. Lane is a wonderful character, a truly unique sidekick who deserved much more time and attention. As much as it annoys me that Lane gets stuck with Zack (sorry, I just don’t like him), it’s also pretty rare to see a woman succeeding at her career, her love life and being a parent. In A Year in the Life, Lane still makes music as well as being an awesome mother to her boys. Her and Zack are happy, and she still has time for Rory. Lane is clearly a wonderful mother, and I am glad that we get to see her still playing music both in the house and at the Secret Bar. All is not lost! Women truly can have it all if that is what they want! Not that you would know it to look at Paris or Rory, but at least Lane is a shining beacon of ‘actually being happy’ – and for that I am glad. On the one hand, it’s pretty sad that one of the best Asian-American representations on television is a character who is the best friend of the protagonist, but on the other – at least Lane is an awesome character, with her own stories.
It feels sad that Lane got sidelined so much in the later year of the series, to make room for Rory’s boy troubles (specifically with Logan), when Lane was going through such a transitional period in her life. From being a rebellious teenager to an overbearing mother, to a mother herself. At least, in my view, Lane came out on top. Thoroughly deserved.