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. 

The Box: What I’ve Been Binging Recently (#2)

With being extra busy at my new job (oh la la) and trying to maintain something of a social life, I feel that I have forgotten how to write about film and TV. I’ve been watching a LOT of television recently, and I’ve already been to the cinema more times this year than I did for the entirety of 2016. I’ve been wowed, awestruck and enjoyed a lot of what I have seen but I have yet to actually write anything about it.

Well, that changes now. I need to get back into the swing of things around here and what better way to start than to catch you up on what I’ve been binging recently.

 

The People vs OJ Simpson

 

In order of binge-worthiness, The People vs OJ Simpson scored very much at the top of my list. I started it last weekend as something to watch that isn’t Gilmore Girls (I’ll come onto that later), and by Tuesday night I was finished with it. Holy mother of God.

What started out as a bit of trashy American docu-drama, ended up being one of the most riveting and compelling series I have watched in years. A rollercoaster ride of emotions, plot-twists and draw dropping moments, I could not stop watching it. I even took my laptop into the bathroom to watch it, as I couldn’t I physically could not pause it. What I’m trying to say is this: The People vs OJ Simpson is addictive stuff and if you are not ready to dedicate 10 hours of your life in one go, then maybe wait until you are.

Maybe most of my enjoyment came from the fact that I know absolutely nothing about OJ Simpson or the trial. I was four years old when it happened, and besides I am from the UK and I’m pretty sure it didn’t get half as much coverage over here. I knew nothing about the crime, the trial or the verdict – which meant that everything was new to me.

Realistically though, most people would know at least whether OJ was found guilty or not and so the real pull of the show doesn’t stem from the narrative events. It comes from the characters and the emotions surrounding the case. The People takes us through each individual’s motivations, feelings, desires and struggles throughout the case, specifically those of Johnnie Cochran, Marcia Clark, Robert Kardashian and Chris Darden. Through the characters, I found myself utterly convinced that OJ was guilty one second, and then blatantly innocent the next. Instead of being a show about the case or the crime (a ‘whodunnit’) The People manages to present us with a clear dramatisation, and through a fantastic script and stellar performances, is completely compelling.

The People manages to have intelligent conversations about race, gender, police brutality and the Justice system without forcing it’s messages upon the viewer. We are not brow-beaten with figures or facts about racism or sexism – the characters speak for themselves on these topics. The choice to dramatise the trial certainly makes it more accessible to the wider public, who will hear these conversations perhaps for the first time.

Also Sarah Paulson was a-mazing, top marks..

Catastrophe

Are you fed of cliched love stories? Find yourself watching the same ‘boy meets girl’ crap over and over again? I have found the cure. Rob Delaney and Sharon Hogan’s Catastrophe. Boy meets girl in a bar in London, boy and girl have sex for a week straight (in a lot of bathrooms), girl finds out she is pregnant, boy flies back from America to propose and they have a child together. Mix that together with awkward couples dinners, Catholic parents and a cameo appearance by Carrie Fisher – and you have a winner.

Catastrophe is disgustingly honest about relationships, sex, love and getting old. One of the defining factors in Sharon (Sharon and Rob are also the names of their characters) keeping the baby is that she is just on the wrong side of 40 and feels that this may be her last opportunity.

The painful and hilarious honesty is what make Catastrophe so relatable. As expected, Sharon makes a speech to Rob along the lines of ‘you don’t have to do this, I can have this baby without you etc etc’, and when Rob tells her is sticking around, Sharon replies ‘thank-god… I definitely can’t do this on my own’. A refreshingly honest answer to a overused scenario. 

Catastrophe taps into the universal feeling of not being ready, or not being enough of an adult to handle life yet. Whether it’s a new job, a new relationship, a baby or anything else – we never feel as though we are qualified for it.

Whilst being absolutely filthy, Catastrophe is also incredibly tender and warm which is unusual territory for comedies to get right. Rob and Sharon’s shotgun romance is the perfect antidote for those who usually starting retching at the term rom-com… myself included. Even my partner, who point blank refuses to watch anything that has a vague whiff of romance about it, thinks Catastrophe is one of the best things we’ve watched. What I am trying to say is that Catastrophe repackages TV love as messy, complicated and a bit gross, because that’s what it is. Love is also clipping your pregnant wife’s toenails, or letting your husband rub his cock between your thighs because you can’t really be bothered to have sex.

It’s got an impeccable supporting cast with the likes of Ashley Jensen (Extras), Mark Bonnar and did I mention Carrie Fisher is in it? If that’s not enough to reel you in, then I don’t know what will.

Gilmore Girls

Confession time: I had never seen an episode of Gilmore Girls until the very end of last year. I know. Totally shameful. The one shining grace is that I have managed to watch almost five seasons in about 3 months, and I have realised that is the perfect binge-watching show.

Nothing ever really happens in Gilmore Girls. At least, nothing of any consequence. There are minor issues to solve, events that look like they will cause major problems for our two leading ladies, but nothing truly awful ever really happens. Like Stars Hollow, Gilmore Girls is slow-paced, happy to meander around and watch the world go by. In comparison to a lot of TV shows these days (Scandal I am looking at you*), Gilmore Girls feels incredibly relaxed, and I like that.

Gilmore Girls is cutesy, funny and bright. It’s a world away from making any kind of statement about anything remotely serious – though it does often try and get it completely wrong. Remember Paris not getting into Yale after (or rather, because of) losing her virginity… yeah. It dips in and out of discussing ideas about class, specifically the differences between Lorelai’s life, and the life her parents designed for her, but never cements itself on any concrete ideas. It’s also very, very white. Which is not an issue as such, but when it does try to talk about the struggles of single motherhood or the working class – it does so from a very white and middle class perspective.

Despite this, and despite the fact that both Rory and Lorelai often annoy me in equal capacities, I really bloody enjoy watching it. It works for me on a level where I don’t need to engage with it, I can just switch off and enjoy it knowing that everything is always going to work out in the end. Gilmore Girls is almost like a safety net in our new world of insecurity. We don’t know whether Trump’s going to start World War 3 by the end of next week, but we do know that Rory and Lorelai will always be over at the Gilmore’s for Friday night dinner at 7pm sharp – and that in itself is pretty comforting.

 

*disclaimer

I really, really liked Scandal, but honestly, by the end of the third season, I just could not keep up with it. If I didn’t pay attention for five second, I missed about half an hours worth of content! It makes for super stressful watching!