Screenshot: Tina Fey, avatar of ambivalence
So there's a new 30 Rock tonight, which I'll no doubt watch because the show's got a proven record of being smart and funny.
One of the things I like about the show is that it's got a bit of the Sweet Dee Reynolds business going on: the women on the show are as crazy as the men, and there's none of the indulgent boys-will-be-boys ethos you see on other shows.
But I'm always a little uncomfortable with the show's classist undertones. Sure, middle- and upper-class conventions get mocked, but there's a pretty persistent theme of denigrating hillbillies (the Kenneth the Page insults) and people who don't opt into the status-driven culture Liz is trying to succeed at. Sure, that culture is lampooned as not-quite-in-touch-with-reality -- "We're all models west of the Allegheny" -- but it's still presented as a culture that's innately desirable. Hence the recent episode where Liz resorted to acting like a stereotypically crazy girl to force a gay cop out of her gentrifying apartment building.
I give the show lots of credit for tackling the insulting insinuation that "real" Americans aren't Asian/African-American/Latino/Native/urban/well-educated, and their parody of the cynical jingoism that advertisers use is delicious. But repeatedly, it does send a message that "real" America is a hostile and confusing place.
Also: Can we talk about the food thing? It wasn't particularly cute when Aaron Sorkin made The West Wing's Republican blonde Ainsley Hayes' thing her prodigious appetite, and it's sort of unsettling how Liz's unhealthy and emotional relationship with food is played as hysterical now. It's also a little weird when you consider the Vanity Fair piece on Fey, where Maureen Dowd wrote the entire profile on how awesome Fey's career became once she took off 30 pounds:
She saw herself on an S.N.L. monitor as an extra, "and I was like, 'Ooogh.' I was starting to look unhealthy. I looked like a behemoth, a little bit. It was probably a bad sweater or something. Maybe cutting from Gwyneth Paltrow to me." She wanted to be "PBS pretty"—pretty for a smart writer. She called Jeff, who was directing a show at Second City in Chicago, and said, "O.K., I'm starting Weight Watchers."
Fey says, "I got to that thing that's so enjoyable where people tell you, 'Oh, you're thin, you've gotten too thin.' Lorne was like, 'Please, please make sure you're eating."' McKay recalls Fey telling a story about her heavier days. "Steve Martin walked right past her at the coffee table, and then, after the makeover, he was like, 'Well, hel-looo—who are you?'"
So! That's why I am so ambivalent about an otherwise legitimately funny show. Anyone else have these qualms?
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