“I have to rock, I have to, please, I am so begging you to let me rock”
– Lane Kim, Gilmore Girls.
Tenacious Lane and the Sticks of Destiny: from Furtive Fan to Determined Drummer
by Nyala Ali
With the recent announcement of a limited-series Netflix reboot, television comedy-drama Gilmore Girls and its legion of fans have found their way back into the spotlight, eight years after the show’s initial demise. That a Gilmore Girls reboot was even under consideration at all only confirms the extent to which the show still boasts the kind of heated discussions and passionate cult fandom usually reserved for rock bands.
How fitting then, that Lane Kim, Stars Hollow’s resident lady drummer and Rory Gilmore’s best pal, was an obsessive music fan. The catch was this—Lane’s meticulously organised CD collection was hidden underneath the floorboards of her room, for fear that her religious Korean mother would discover her fascination (emphasis on sin) with rock n’ roll.
Lane represented a new, post-riot-grrl generation of lady-teen music fans who were looking for active ways to participate the music culture they loved so much. For Lane, the town’s new music store led her to a shiny red drum kit and a new priority item on her cosmic to-do list. The only problem was logistics.
The show treated Lane as an ordinary teenager, which meant that she couldn’t afford a drum kit (a struggle many of us know all too well.) So, Lane offered to work in the music store in exchange for both practice space and permission to use the kit. Her resolve made it pretty obvious that this drumming thing was important, both to Lane herself and (hopefully) to her audience of current and future women drummers.
Also of note was Lane’s battle cry upon first picking up the sticks. Her affirmation: “I have found my calling. My future, my path, my destiny, my thing, my scene, my bag. I’m talking about the number one item on my cosmic to-do list… I am Keith Moon, I am Neil Peart, I am Rick Allen, with and without the arm, because I am rock ‘n roll, baby!” reflected both her commitment to the cause and the glaring lack of knowledge and resources for and about women drummers in pop culture at the time. You just know that had Tom Tom existed back then, Lane would have had a lifetime subscription (especially since those could have been pretty easily hidden under her bedroom floor.)
Lane’s elaborate plots and schemes to hide her secret identity as a drummer from ‘Mama Kim’ reflected the fact that she just had to play, and if doing so secretly was the only option, so be it. Lane’s desire to drum got even more complicated due to issues involving race and ethnicity. The conflict arising from Lane’s religious, Korean identity and her passion as a rock drummer was quite realistically portrayed, and still holds up as something that could legitimately affect a young girl’s chances to grab a pair of sticks and rock out at will.
Though an all-female band for Lane would have been the ideal situation, she instead ended up as the lone female and lone visible minority in her band Hep Alien. Lane’s identity as a female drummer in an often dude-centric rock n’roll culture was often played for really effective laughs, especially when Lane started secretly dating her bandmate Dave Rygalski. Lane’s interactions with her band skewered gender stereotypes while still realistically addressing many issues that someone in her situation might also encounter.
As the undisputed decision-maker of her band, Lane, during a particularly excellent episode, snuck out of the house to play a gig at the now-defunct but still-legendary CBGB’s. Upon her return home, it became evident that Lane’s mother had discovered her daughter’s “secret rock ‘n’ roll life”.
Ousted from the Kim household, Lane remained a responsible person as well as a focused musician with DIY convictions. She waited tables. She lived in a cramped apartment with her bandmates, “three stereos, and no forks.” After seeing how serious Lane was about her music, even Mrs. Kim came around and became the band’s tour manager.
Ironically, it was exactly motherhood that ended up throwing an adorable wrench (or actually, two) into Lane’s career as a musician. Though anyone worth her sticks was clearly Team Rygalski, Dave moved away, Lane and Zach got married, and Lane became a Mom to twin boys. Though Lane’s turn as a mother was not unrealistic, even Keiko Agena, the actress who played Lane, has recently said of Lane’s stalled music career: “I think that Lane wouldn’t have been able to stop that creative push. Because nothing was able to stop that, it didn’t seem like it, in her storylines.”
Lane’s storylines also chronicled her development from a sheltered, mild-mannered teen into a responsible, assertive young woman. That rock n’ roll drumming was catalyst for Lane’s determination and personal growth definitely made her a fan-favourite on the show, and an especially great role model for future female drummers. Watching Lane’s drummer-girl journey throughout Gilmore Girls definitely inspired me, and I finally managed to get behind a kit the same year the series ended, as though Lane had passed her sticks off directly to me.
I’d like to think that she did.
Nyala Ali is a copywriter and a post-punk drummer. Her sticks are always named Steve and Kwan, after Lane’s twin boys.