When my fiancé recently revealed to me that he'd never seen a single Gilmore Girls episode, I knew this was a problem that had to be rectified immediately. What kind of person would I be if I simply allowed him to spend his entire existence never knowing if Rory Gilmore ends up with Dean, Jess, Logan, or that one guy from A Year in the Life that no one remembers? Not a very good one, I'd say.
So against his will, we completed an ambitious Gilmore Girls marathon together, watching all 153 episodes in less than three weeks. What did you possibly get out of this? you ask. Well, I'll have you know that after spending roughly the equivalent of five whole days glued to our couch, I actually had something of a revelation: I had severely underestimated Rory's best friend, Lane Kim.
I'll admit that when I initially watched the show over a decade ago, Lane (played by Keiko Agena) didn't capture much of my attention; I was too busy monitoring the ups and downs of Rory and Lorelei's love lives like a hawk to fully appreciate Lane in all her glory. But in hindsight, she's much more than just a trusty sidekick to the Gilmore women — she's by far the best role model on the show. Ahead, I've broken down the specific qualities that make Lane a shining example worth following. And Netflix, if you're listening, please consider this my official petition to make Lane Kim the protagonist of her own Gilmore Girls spinoff series.
She's the most mature teen of all time.
Rory's Stars Hollow neighbors are constantly putting her on a pedestal and praising her for being a mature young woman, but I'd say that Rory actually makes plenty of pretty immature moves throughout the series — like trying to flush her enormous privilege down the proverbial toilet by dropping out of Yale, for example. Instead, I'd argue that it's really Lane who is the one who's wise beyond her years. Lane's maturity is never more evident than when we watch her navigate her complex relationship with her mother. She's able to approach their relationship with a level of compassion and understanding that most people her age would find difficult to pull off.
Mrs. Kim, a first-generation immigrant and devout Seventh Day Adventist, runs a strict household that's straight out of a typical high schooler's nightmares. Lane can't freely wear makeup, listen to non-Christian music, or even go to one of those colleges that "let boys and girls sit together in the cafeteria" while living under her mother's roof. It would have been understandable if all of these rules resulted in Lane growing up to be angry and resentful of her strict upbringing. Instead, Lane is able to look past her mother's tough facade and consider that her mom is a real person with real feelings who wants the best for her daughter, a tough concept for most teenagers to grapple with.
One season three scene particularly underscores just how mature Lane is in dealing with her mother. Stars Hollow's music store owner, Sophie (played by Carole King, who sings the show's iconic theme song), tries to sell Lane her first drum kit. Even though Lane is desperate to become a drummer, she explains to Sophie that she couldn't possibly buy the drums even if she had the money because "her mother would never stop crying." Lane could easily be more concerned with the prospect of being grounded indefinitely — I know that would have been my biggest concern at her age — but instead, she worries that she might break her mother's heart. It's the perfect example of the kind of empathetic and mature teen Lane is.
She's an independent queen.
Time and again, we watch Rory hinge her future on the opinions of others, especially men. When Logan's dad, Mitchum Huntzberger, tells Rory she doesn't have what it takes to succeed as a journalist, Rory immediately takes his word for it and quits. When she drops out of Yale and completely loses her way, she can't recall how smart and capable she is until her ex-boyfriend, Jess, swoops in to give her a reminder. It seems that Rory can rarely muster enough self-confidence to know what she's worth until a guy tells her what she's worth. It's a pretty disappointing trait in a lead female character who's supposed to be smart and ambitious.
It's refreshing to watch someone in the Gilmore Girls universe whose happiness doesn't depend on the opinions of those surrounding her.
On the opposite end of the self-sufficiency spectrum, we have Lane. When Lane decides she wants to become a drummer, she doesn't let her mother's initial disapproval stop her from living out her dream. And when Lane decides she wants to date Zack, she doesn't wait for him to approach her first. Instead, she goes out on a limb and bravely confesses her feelings to him. Unlike her best friend, Lane seems to know exactly who she is. As a result, she understands her worth. It's refreshing to watch someone in the Gilmore Girls universe whose happiness doesn't depend on the opinions of those surrounding her.
When we catch up with Lane and Rory in A Year in the Life, it's clear that their lives have grown in totally different directions. Despite not having an emotionally supportive mother or a trust fund (both resources Rory enjoys), Lane has a thriving band, a family of her own, and healthy friendships. Meanwhile, Rory is penning a book about her relationship with Lorelei (again, not an idea of her own, but a suggestion from Jess) and is pregnant, probably with her engaged ex-boyfriend's baby.
As a Gilmore Girls fan, it becomes less and less entertaining as the series goes on to watch Rory — a woman with all the potential and opportunity in the world — stumble her way from guy to guy. If a continuation of A Year in the Life does eventually get made, I hope the show's writers can appreciate that we already have plenty of stories about the dramatic, privileged Rorys of the world. What's missing are a few more stories about confident, kickass women like Lane.