Growing up as a music-obsessed child, I was always desperate to see evidence of women within the music industry — and though there were enough bands around with inspirational women in them, there was an unnerving scarcity of female TV characters who showed any interest towards music besides simply being a groupie. You might think that isn't too important, but I watched a lot of TV as a child and can easily verify that it definitely does have an impact on influencing you. As such, I craved inspiration: Phoebe Buffay played the guitar in Friends, but she was often the butt of the joke because of how awful she was at it, Jem And The Holograms were a cartoon and too entrenched in pastels to be taken seriously, and Rayanne Graff only enjoyed one show as the lead singer of Frozen Embryos in My So Called Life. It was slim pickings. But then came Gilmore Girls' Lane Kim, TV's best female musician, and I was instantly smitten.
By the time that I'd discovered Gilmore Girls, though, I was in my early 20s and had already been in and departed from several bands, all without the positive affirmation of seeing all that many fictional and non-fictional women doing it themselves. But Lane's character was a revelation to me when I finally discovered the show and her story arc is so true for so many musicians, and particularly for female ones, that she's easily one of the most unique and admirable characters that has ever been on TV.
When we first meet Lane, she's simply a furtive music fan whose fanatical love for exploring old bands and discovering new ones is complicated by the fact that her highly religious mother considers all non-Christian music to be a inexcusable sin. As a result, Lane hides her expansive music collection under the floors of her bedroom and creates a safe space in her closet where she can listen to music without the prying eyes and ears of her mother being privy to her "sinful" activities. Anyone who has ever experienced a gigantic love affair with any type of music can easily relate to Lane's passion for hearing it. Whether your parents were encouraging of the music you listened to, deeply against it or whether they actually tried to forbid you from listening to it in the first place, you nonetheless always created a private place with which to listen to the music yourself. That creation of a personal space, your own private room where you indulged in mystical, intimate, musical conversations with artists both living and dead via the magic of headphones was always a revelation, and felt disarmingly vital to your existence.
In Gilmore Girls, Lane's essential need to listen to music, to procure more of it and to hear new albums the second they come out and at a volume that can be heard by the entire world is presented as being a vital part of her existence. It's like Lorelai's love for coffee, Rory's love of books, or Emily's love for social engagements; these are the conditions within which these characters thrive, and music is that same thriving, growth serum for Lane. It's her entire existence; her expression and her mirror, and she does just about everything within her power to find an active way to participate within its culture.
When a new music shop opens in Stars Hollow, Lane immediately becomes enamored with a beautiful, shiny red drum kit (not unlike Meg White's original kit from The White Stripes), and discovers one of the first obstacles that many musicians do when they find their "calling": Money. This is one aspect of economic realism which Gilmore Girls gets right, showing Lane offering to work in the music shop in order to continue being able to play the drum kit and use the store as a free practice space. Many musicians have similar first instrument stories to this, of pining over an instrument but of being nowhere near close to affording it. Instead you pine for it, you work for it, you scrape together pennies for it, and you make damn well sure when you finally get the instrument that you learn how to play it well. Lane has the double opposition of a lack of finances and the forbidden fruit of music to contend with, but she never lets it deter her.
Instead, Lane follows her passion. She starts up her own band, figures out a way to practice (even if it is inconvenient to everyone else), pushes herself and her band mates to become the best they can be and even encourages them all to gig with her, even though she knows how risky that is should her mom ever happen to find out.
Every female musician knows this passion all too well. Since we're nowhere near reaching equal levels in the gender balance of music anytime soon (though there's currently plenty of fierce women making outstanding music out there right now, we still need more), it can often feel as though we need to work harder, play better and be way more driven than our male counterparts in order to rise above the sneering, archaic stereotypes and be as great as we know we are. Though the opposition Lane faced against her love for music may have been packed within the complexities of religious disapproval, her determination to continue doing what she loved in order to become the musician that she eventually did is inspiring for any female musician to see. The bottom line is that we still need more female musicians in the World and when popular culture offers a musical role model as strong as Lane Kim, then it can go on to inspire countless viewers who may have been waiting for such a positive affirmation in order to take the same leap themselves.
Images: Warner Bros Television (4)