Time of the Month: LANE KIM (GILMORE GIRLS)

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. 

Time of the Month: AMY SANTIAGO (BROOKLYN 99)

Oh Amy. Beautiful, naive Amy Santiago. Possibly television’s funniest geeky geek, with a heart of gold and a head of ambition.

On the one hand, Amy Santiago (played by Melissa Fumero) fits neatly into a trope which appears in almost every situational comedy show – the overly ambitious woman who takes everything a bit too seriously. In the past, they’ve been portrayed as shrill, as stuck up, as … boring, quite frankly. However, nowadays the world has moved on a bit and (finally) realised that women can care about their careers and also enjoy themselves too. Amy Santiago, as a motivated career gal, is in wonderful company. She’s comparable to Parks and Rec’s Leslie Knope (which is hardly surprising as Mike Schur is the brain behind both Parks and Brooklyn). They both share high ambitions, they adore their jobs and co-workers and are both unique in their own special (very special) way.

One of the most wonderful things about Amy Santiago, though, is just how much her character changes and grows throughout the series – whilst also managing to stay completely true to herself and her goals. So let’s talk about why Amy is the greatest, and why we would all secretly love to be Jake Peralta (and not just so we could behave like five year olds and get away with it).

If Brooklyn 99 was a lesser show (or perhaps was written in the 1990s), Jake Peralta would be the audience stand in. We would identify ourselves with him – the cheeky, yet charming ‘bad’ boy who always manages to save the day. Instead of focusing solely on Jake’s journey and character, B99 allows for a fuller and richer ensemble cast, meaning that other characters are also not reduced to their stereotypes. Amy Santiago would traditionally be Jake’s ‘nemesis’ – solely due to her competitive nature and her desire to succeed in her job. Whilst Jake and Amy tease each other often, it comes from a place of love and support. In this way, we also identify with Amy, and can understand her motivations and individual desires too. Unlike other sitcoms which always ultimately end up objectifying a (usually lone) female character through the eyes of the male protagonist (Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory… etc etc) Brooklyn 99 avoids this completely. Even when Jake and Amy begin dating, she is never portrayed as a sex object or as someone for Jake to attain (it totally helps that Jake is a feminist). Regardless of whether they date, are co-workers or friends, they are both still individuals.

So what makes Amy’s character so great to watch? For a start, her sheer determination. Whatever the task is, Amy Santiago will throw herself into it with 110%. Even jobs that she might not be that suited for (the time she went undercover in prison as a pregnant criminal), Amy wants to prove that she can handle it. And yes, she partly wants to prove herself to Holt, but it often turns out that Amy needs to prove it to herself more. Though confident in her abilities behind a desk, Amy routinely pushes herself to do things that are out of her comfort zone.

We also see this amazing, and hilarious progression between Amy, Gina and Rosa throughout the series. Though the three of them are certainly acquaintances, both Gina and Rosa are not the easiest people to befriend. In comparison to Amy’s need to please everyone around her, Rosa’s main goal is to be as un-emotionally unavailable with the people around her as possible. Likewise, Gina (who is one the greatest characters to ever grace our screens, but we will leave this for another post) can be a bit stand-offish, especially to Amy. Rosa makes an important point in season 1 however, about how the women of the precinct need to have each others backs in such a heavily male dominated environment. And whilst the three of them may not always see eye to eye (Amy’s constant stream of positivity regularly rubs Rosa up the wrong way), there are several moments of wonderful friendship between them.

One of these comes in Season 3, when Amy approaches Gina to give her some advice with an idea she has had for a new flashlight mount. It shows how far Gina and Amy have come in their friendship and that Amy understands the importance of asking for help when she needs it. With their combined talents (Amy’s product and Gina’s showmanship), they produce an incredible pitch. It’s Amy’s ability to let go of always having to be right and to allow someone else to give her help when she needed it, that shows how much she has grown. The purchasing department of the NYPD decide not to buy the product, but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the wonderful collaboration of two very different, very wonderful people. It’s not dissimilar to the time (in ‘Beach House’) where Gina decides to get Amy very, very drunk just to witness the 5 Stages of Drunk Amy Santiago (or 5 Drink Amy). Though partly just for the comedy, Gina also does this to let Amy have some fun and let her hair down – something that she perhaps needs to do a little more often.

Of course, we can’t end this post without acknowledging Amy’s ethnicity and the fact that she completely bucks the stereotypical portrayal of Latin American women on TV. Amy is hardworking, brave, introverted and comically fearful of overt displays of sexuality – something which goes against all of the harmful tropes normally attributed to Latina characters. It’s important to note, because it proves that television can focus on a character’s individual desires and personality without always boiling them down to a stereotype. And if Brooklyn 99 can do this (and it does it so well with ALL of it’s characters) then there’s no excuse for other show-runners out there.

We love you Amy. Even if you can’t handle hot sauce.