TINA FEY, ARE YOU READING MY BLOG?
Because really, this episode was the perfect antidote to my Liz Lemon concerns of last week. This is the Liz Lemon I love, the woman I can imagine running a television show, managing the writers, and standing up for her gender. Just when I think Liz has become another sad-sack eating her way out of a failed relationship, the 30 Rock writers come up with a surprise like this. Did you guys know it’s my birthday on Saturday? Otherwise I can’t account for the timely relevance of this hilarious and smart episode.
There are two plots here, a Liz plot and a Jack subplot, and both involve the manipulation of a younger woman. Liz hires a new female comic featured on the fake ladyblog “Joan of Snark,” but she’s distressed by the woman’s “baby hooker” appearance, childish voice, and sexualized interactions with the male writers. Jack decides to convince a little girl that she shouldn’t run the family business, corporate behemoth Kabletown, so that he’ll have a chance to take over the company instead. Liz tries to change her new guest writer, and Jack tries to sway a little girl’s dreams, but both schemes inevitably backfire.
In the meantime, we gain some insight from Liz on what it’s like to be a woman working in television.
Abby: You know what Liz, I don’t have to explain myself to you. My life is none of your business.
Liz: Except it is, because you represent my show, and you represent my gender in this business, and you embarrass me.
I’ve never heard a female character on television say anything remotely resembling this comment. And on a television show about television too! If Liz Lemon is indeed a character based on Fey’s own experiences working in the television industry, then this is a critical and astute statement. I’m sure many women who watched this episode could recall similar experiences: moments when they felt compelled to counsel their younger counterparts, perhaps to the detriment of their personal relationships, or moments when they received the unwanted advice of an older woman.
The only weak spot in this episode was the ending of the Liz plot, in which Liz learns that Abby only adopted the baby hooker persona to avoid her psychotic ex-husband. I understand what 30 Rock is trying to say in this moment–that we should encourage women as a gender, but not without understanding them as individuals–but I think the comedy fell flat. I can, however, see the difficulty in trying to get such an earnest message across in a television sitcom, so I can’t fault the writers for that too much. Otherwise, I sincerely appreciated this episode and its covert implications, all of which was executed through comedy that was never didactic or moralistic. Stay tuned!
Confidential to Tina in Manhattan: If you’re really reading, I loved your recent article in The New Yorker.