Friday, June 4, 2010

Tina Fey: Celebrity Crush

Brad Pitt, Scarlet Johansson, Jake Gyllenhaal - we all have them. The celebrities that make us swoon. Who's my celebrity crush? Without a doubt, Tina Fey. I simply can't resist a smart, funny, sassy woman who’s not afraid to have a job, crack jokes, and wear glasses on television.

Now, to be fair, Fey is by no means the epitome of feminist expression. Her TV character persona, while single and professional, is also lonely and self-deprecating. Fey’s "30Rock" alter-ego, Liz Lemon, is in a constant quest for male suitors, and relies heavily on jokes relating to a single woman's desperation as she approaches the big 4-0. Despite often unconvincing attempts to pretend she is happy as an unmarried, childless, overworked, underappreciated professional woman, Lemon always falls victim to the seemingly inevitable truth that a lady needs a man to be satisfied.

Such assumptions also provide ample space for another reoccurring joke – if a woman is single, over 35, and more into her career than the way she looks, she must be a lesbian. And while Liz often comically toys with the idea of lesbianism, thinking that perhaps the love of a woman could fill the void left by the absence of a man, she ultimately reaffirms man-centric thought and the hetero woman’s fear of lesbian comparison. Take this favorite Lemon exchange between our plainly dressed heroine and her boss, the ultra-Republican CEO stereotype Jack Donaghy (played by the entertaining Alec Baldwin):

Jack Donaghy: How was your evening with Thomas?
Liz Lemon: You mean Gretchen Thomas, the brilliant plastics engineer slash lesbian? What made you think I was gay?
Jack Donaghy: Your shoes.
Liz Lemon: Well I'm straight.
Jack Donaghy: Those shoes are definitely bi-curious.
Liz Lemon: Regardless, I am straight. One-hundred percent completely straight.
Jack Donaghy: Well I'm sorry if I offended you.

And later

Jack Donaghy: All right then. You're not a lesbian. Duly noted. I'll correct that on your file. It's too bad, though. Thomas thought you were great.
Liz Lemon: She did?
Jack Donaghy: Yes. She said she thought you looked like Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Liz Lemon: Really? She said that?
Jack Donaghy: Yes, I made her repeat it. I was sure she meant Jason Lee.

Feminist? Not really. Funny? Yes. And who doesn't love someone who can laugh at themselves. Again, in the interest of fairness, "30Rock" does deserve props for attempts at gender equality. It's not just Liz Lemon who is unhappy with the single life, but her male counterpart Jack Donaghy is also in need of love and tenderness. The difference? Liz can't get a date (unless you count a hilariously pitiful beeper salesman) while Jack spent last season dating two beautiful women at once. The show, full of witty social commentary, does a great job, however, at pointing out this discrepancy and making fun of the pervasive double standard.

While browsing the blogosphere for insight into public opinion of my celebrity crush, I found that most feminists seem to have a love/hate relationship with Ms. Fey. Here is a woman who is bringing an intelligent, valued female voice to the entertainment world, but yet her favorite comedic targets are single women (interestingly enough Fey herself is married with a daughter). A March Vogue article featuring the self proclaimed "normal" celebrity, describes her comedy as an original "brand of superfunnysmart feminism." How feminist it is may be up for debate, but most people I know can agree on the super funny smart part. At least the folks at the Kennedy Center who just awarded her the prestigious Mark Twain prize for American Humor seem to think so. Taking her brand of informed, satirical, socially conscious humor for what it is, I can’t help but love Tina Fey.

photo credit: Cary Pohlhammer on

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