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13 Ways of Looking at Liz Lemon

1.

The popular television sitcom 30 Rock premiered in the year 2006. Since that time, each man that I have dated has made a point of saying how much I remind him of the main character on that show, Liz Lemon.

They said this, in each case, while we were breaking up.

2.

The ways in which I have reminded men of Liz Lemon vary from highly specific point-by-point comparisons to more general observations. One man was particularly moved by a Christmas episode, in which Liz’s absurdly friendly, supportive, and upbeat Midwestern parents come to visit, along with her brother, who is slightly off. (HE WAS IN A SKIING ACCIDENT!) They convert Jack to the side of joy by giving him three different flavors of popcorn in a single giant tin. This was, the man said, making him sad about our break-up, because my family had extended similar kindness and support and popcorn in his direction, and he loved them for it. “It’s weird that the character is so like you that you even have the same family,” he said.

The other is a little more infuriating. I was going through an absurdly painful break-up, and was supposed to meet a co-blogger at Feministe (hi, Jill!) for the first time. The break had occurred only a few days ago; I was still living with the man; I was not eating or sleeping, and I was so distraught that I had apparently forgotten how to put on shirts. I kept realizing, after wearing them for several hours, that they were on backward. I told the man about this, as a way to demonstrate how upset I was: “I was waiting for Jill at the bar, and I had to pull my arms inside my sweater and turn it around before she got there so that she didn’t think I was an idiot.” He laughed, and said, “see? You’re so Liz Lemon.”

The experience of having what I thought was a fairly serious indicator of my pain mirrored back to me as a wacky sitcom moment made it abundantly clear why this man and I had to break up. I bit my tongue and avoided, for that moment anyway, saying anything regrettable about Dennis, the Rat King. (He would not, I can tell you, have deserved it. But it was RIGHT THERE!)

Other than that, well: I’m a shortish, thinnish, smartish brunette woman who writes, has fairly stylish glasses, and is a bit high-strung. These things are inevitable, really.

3.

I have, for some time, been referring to a particularly irritating brand of privileged semi-feminism as “Liz Lemonism.” I associate this brand of feminism with a certain variety of white, coastal-city dwelling, fairly well-to-do heterosexual cisgendered woman, a woman with a comfortable white-collar job that is so very comfortable and so very white-collar that she is free to spend her spare time yearning for, and semi-believing that she could attain, something with more “meaning.” This woman doesn’t do Blogspot, but she does do Tumblr; she doesn’t do posts about sex workers’ rights, but she does do complaining about “raunch culture”; she doesn’t do anti-racism, disability activism, or trans ally work to any huge extent, but she does do “body image” (and oh, does she ever do body image, without taking much note of the fact that as a white, abled, cis person she conforms to the “beauty standard,” and benefits from conforming to it, in more ways than she will ever let on); she can’t have a conversation with you about Michelle Tea, Sugar High Glitter City, Kathy Acker, or Carolee Schneeman, but she can tell you that as a feminist she has a right to be Concerned About Porn; she’s Brooklyn not Queens, brunch not breakfast, flirty not slutty, fond of cupcakes and feminist theory but unsure how to make either one herself, and thoroughly incensed about Vajazzling.

I am describing a stereotype. No one woman fits all of these qualifications, or is this woman precisely. But this woman takes up a larger and larger space in my head lately; she has become the spectre who haunts my days and nights. She is, can I tell you, one of the reasons there are fewer posts on Tiger Beatdown lately, because I worry that she reads me, and I don’t want to be her entertainment. And because Tiger Beatdown has, until this point, nominally been a “feminist blog,” and last night, while getting drunk with C.L. and talking about our lives, I came up with a perfect metaphor for how I feel about feminism. I was standing in my tiny living room, and I said:

“Okay, so here’s me. Privileged in basically every way. White, middle-class, cis, straight, first-world American, whatever. Except, I’m a lady. That’s the one way I might be oppressed a little. So here’s me standing in my privilege.”

I walked over and stood in the doorway to my study.

“Here’s me in feminism. In the doorway.”

I stepped over the threshold and into my study, which is a much larger room.

“And here’s me in the entire rest of the world, dealing with all the ways people have their humanity denied, dealing with concern and solidarity with basically everybody who is not privileged. And realizing there are way more people without full, uncompromised privilege than with it, and that this is kind of an essential fact of the human experience. Dealing with, like, the experience of being human on Planet Earth.”

Feminism being, in this metaphor, not the endpoint, not the destination, but the necessary way in to the actual problem; feminism being not the room, but the door. Liz Lemonism is a door with a wall of brick behind it: you don’t get anywhere after you’ve opened it. So my imaginary enemy, the woman who is not a feminist but a Liz Lemonist, gets to the point at which she can start to politicize her specific problems, but she can’t get any further. And what she does then is to boil “feminism” down to an excuse to permit herself certain rudenesses and complain about certain issues only as they pertain to her own personal life.

4.

Then again, look at the first two parts of this post. And I write a lot, apparently, about Vajazzling, so. The Jungians say that we hate people because they resemble bad parts of us that we aren’t willing to own up to, yet; we love people because they resemble good parts of us that we’re not confident enough to recognize in ourselves. I’m a pretty firm believer in that theory, myself. And I both hate and love Liz Lemon.

5.

We seem to be special women here, we have liked to think of ourselves as special, and we have known that men would tolerate, even romanticize us as special, as long as our words and actions didn’t threaten their privilege of tolerating or rejecting us and our work according to their ideas of what a special woman ought to be. An important insight of the radical women’s movement has been how divisive and how ultimately destructive is this myth of the special woman, who is also the token woman.

- Adrienne Rich, “When We Dead Awaken”

Seriously, are there like no other sympathetic female characters on 30 Rock?

6.

No. There really aren’t. There is Jenna, of course, whose plotlines typically center around how vapid, unstable, narcissistic, and foolishly ambitious she is; there is Cerie (or, there was Cerie, before the character got put on the Josh Track and stopped really showing up in any episodes at all), Liz’s assistant, whose main role was to use her extremely beautiful body as a means to set up punchlines, those punchlines usually consisting of men getting turned on by her extremely beautiful body, and whose few character moments indicated that she was shallow, oversexed, and profoundly stupid; there are the high-profile female guest stars who play Jack’s love interests every season, who are usually pretty sharp and tough and interesting (Edie Falco, as the liberal senator against whale torture who was turned on by the degradation of sleeping with uber-Republican Jack, being a particular favorite) but always disappear after a few episodes because they are famous; there is Jack’s mother, always a delight, but a rare delight; there is “Girl Writer,” who had fewer lines than even Josh, to the extent of only having a speaking part in one episode. And the episode culminated with a joke about Girl Writer being date raped.

Liz barely interacts with any of these women. She certainly doesn’t have a deep friendship with any of them. At one point, we were meant to believe that Liz and Jenna were old, good friends, that they talked to each other about their lives and took each other out and displayed concern for one another. I liked that: A lot of my close friendships, as it happens, fit a Liz/Jenna dichotomy, with me being the smaller, nervouser, more analytical party and the other girl being dazzling and socially capable and reckless, me giving her advice from my skeptical and pessimistic perspective, and her buying me drinks and making me do karaoke and flirt with boys despite my natural inclinations to stay at home and eat cheeses and avoid any sort of spotlight altogether. But that plotline withered away, and is now basically nothing: If Liz interacts with Jenna out of any feeling at all, these days, it’s frustration and the desire to condescend.

So mostly, Liz interacts with men: Tracy, and whoever her boyfriend is for this three-episode run, and Kenneth the Page because he’s in every fucking thing when there could be more scenes of Jonathan who is always funny, and her platonic husband, Jack.

7.

Also, what the hell happened to Twofer? Twofer used to be all over! Where is he?

8.

There are a few strange things about Liz Lemon interacting with and befriending men almost exclusively. The first is that the character is a self-described feminist — but then, that’s not so strange, considering that the Liz Lemonist brand of that particular lifestyle seems to consist heavily of passing judgment on and slamming other girls. Liz Lemonism, being so solipsistic, is content with a feminist movement dedicated to the advancement not necessarily of women, but of one particular woman, the Liz Lemonist in question, and perhaps a handful of the friends who agree with her most often. Girls who aren’t Lemonist enough are always open for a “critique” or two.

The second strange thing about Liz’s preference for the company of men, her closeness to male friends and boyfriends and not any of the women with whom she works, is that we are constantly told that Liz is just disastrous with men. She can’t keep a boyfriend, she’s never been married, she rarely has sex, in the company of men she’s awkward, weird, dorky, inappropriate, too smart, not sexy enough, too opinionated, not giving enough, just plain wrong. More than one man on the show has compared her to the comic strip “Cathy.” These qualities are frequently endearing to other women, or frankly irrelevant; there’s a reason so many women, including me, relate to the character. But women never show up and become important to Liz. Instead, she’s got hot and cold running boys.

And this, all of this, is related to the third strange thing about Liz Lemon and her men: The fact that we are constantly being told that Liz is ugly.

9.

It doesn’t let up, the message of Liz’s ugliness. The entire conception of her character hinges, to some degree, on it. The show has gone so far as to construct an entire plot arc around it: The one where Liz dated Jon Hamm, and was dazzled by his beauty, and talked constantly about how very out of her league he was, and then learned that he was so out of her league that he had contracted a very specific variety of The Stupid that only affected the world’s most gorgeous people. Cerie was said to have this variety of The Stupid; Jack was said to have recovered from it. It was a really pretty funny and decent plot arc, I have to say.

And yet, here is the problem: The scene in which they broke up, in which Liz talked about how she could not continue to date someone so radically handsome when she was herself not that pretty, was a scene played between two really unusually gorgeous people. Tina Fey is, by any reasonable standard, hotter than fire. And any scene that hinges on a joke about Liz’s ugliness automatically falls flat, because we can look right at Tina Fey and see that it’s not based on accurate observation. This scene, the break-up scene between Liz and Jon Hamm, was just the worst for that, because we were meant to be looking at a couple and seeing a huge gulf, a divide, a dazzlingly beautiful person and a person who is maybe just a little bit cute at best. But instead, we were looking at Jon Hamm and Tina Fey. And they… look good together. They’re matched. They both look better than most of us ever will.

Yes, it’s true that many a lady lulls herself to sleep at night, in potentially vulgar fashion, by thinking about Don Draper. But I have been in New York, and dating, since the premiere of 30 Rock — and, even before then, since the days of Weekend Update — and I have been a shortish, thinnish, smartish brunette woman with fairly stylish glasses for much of that time. And as such, I can guarantee you — guaran-FUCKING-tee, point me to the affidavit and I will sign it — that just as many men lull themselves to sleep with thoughts of Tina Fey. Or, Liz Lemon.

10.

“I thought you made love like an ugly girl! So present; so grateful!”

- Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock

Oh, sure, we can say that Liz is written as a caricature of female insecurities, and of an insecure female. That would be completely true! That is why I like her! But we also need to address that the fact of her imaginary ugliness, the fact that we are constantly told she is all brain and no body, fits into some very specific male fantasies, the sort of fantasies that are summed up in the commonly-used phrase “Thinking Man’s Sex Symbol.”

You can often tell by a man’s record collection or bookshelf which female celebrities he is going to call “hot” — whether he’s a Megan Fox man, or a Maggie Gyllenhaal sort of fellow. The issue is that the Maggie Gyllenhaal crush is often thought to be more sophisticated and evolved, by the man who has it, when the fact is that they are both extremely lovely girls. There’s nothing wrong with liking extremely lovely girls. But the thought that Megan Fox is somehow too obviously hot, too mainstream, the Coldplay of masturbation, is just plain silly. There’s something going on there, and it’s worth looking at, and it has a lot to do with the fact that Tina Fey, Thinking Man’s Sex Symbol, attained her TMSS status by playing a character that we are constantly asked to find awkward, over-brainy, and unattractive.

There is — Julie Klausner addressed this recently, in her book — a persistent fantasy, among a certain variety of dude, that someday they will meet the most beautiful woman in the entire world and no-one else will realize how beautiful she is. Liz Lemon is that, but she’s also something more: the pretty girl who doesn’t think she’s pretty. There’s none of the sexual power or confidence that comes from realizing how pretty you are, in Liz Lemon. She’ll never think that, although she might be lucky to be with you, you might be pretty lucky too. She’ll never realize that, if you don’t treat her right, plenty of other men will be willing to treat her better, because she is a catch and a half. She won’t have that sort of autonomy, that sort of confidence — or so the line of thought would seem to go. When the clothes come off, she’ll make love like an ugly girl. So grateful.

11.

Because if smart women who know how smart they are intimidate men (and they do), and beautiful women who know how beautiful they are intimidate men (and they do), there is, logically, nothing more intimidating than a woman who is fully aware that she is both smart and beautiful. I mean, maybe a room full of tigers with machine guns! That could be scarier! Or, a smart and beautiful lady who makes jokes.

12.

Of course, smart, beautiful, funny women intimidate other women also. Which is why all of this comes back to Cerie, the assistant.

The character of Liz Lemon is played by beautiful, successful, smart, funny, apparently happy person Tina Fey, and is meant to be unattractive, only semi-successful, smart, funny, and unhappy. It’s interesting that “smart” and “funny” get to stay in the picture, as long as the looks, the success, and the happiness are toned down; it tells you something about who you’re allowed to like. Cerie, on the other hand, is beautiful, unsuccessful (and unambitious), not smart, not funny, and very happy. And we simply aren’t meant to like her much.

The character of the “bimbo” isn’t a new one: lots of men, for obvious reasons, like to assume that a beautiful woman is deeply flawed, probably in the brain regions, because it makes her a less threatening figure. But the specific venom with which Cerie is drawn, in the show that self-described feminist Tina Fey runs, is a specifically and disturbingly Lemonist phenomenon. It comes across as something originating in the brain of a woman who is easily intimidated by other women, the sort of woman who does talk about “bimbos.” A hiss through the teeth, a whisper behind your back, a group of women drawing away with unexplained coldness, the phrase “do you really think anyone’s going to take you seriously?” That’s Cerie, the concretization of that anti-feminist, anti-girl mode of girl talk.

The twist of Lemon, basically, makes it possible for the hissing girls to cloak it in something political. Something about “beauty standards,” maybe. Or “raunch culture.”

13.

And, I mean: Liz Lemon was able to bang one out with James Franco, for fuck’s sake. James Franco and his lovely pillow bride. Do you really think a girl can get that under her belt and not realize she’s at least a little awesome?

No. No, she can’t.

116 Comments

  1. Miss Smog wrote:

    Sady,
    You are amazing.
    Especially #s 3 & 9.
    Admiringly,
    Smog

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Permalink
  2. B Michael wrote:

    I only made as far as through #1 when I stopped to make this comment that you have not broken up with every guy you’ve dated. Therefore, etc.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink
  3. Sady wrote:

    @B: Past tense!

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Permalink
  4. rebecca wrote:

    brilliant & enjoyable

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Permalink
  5. B Michael wrote:

    “I have dated” seems to be some brand of present perfect tense implying… fuck all. I like your door-room analogy.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Permalink
  6. Seraph wrote:

    I am ashamed to be a sort of partial Liz Lemonist–I mean, it’s so easy to get worked up over your own shit, and so very very hard to get worked up about things that don’t directly concern you. I try, but I tend to fall back onto a priviledged upper middle class cis white feminism far too often. It frustrates me to no end.

    Though, it also frustrates me to no end that some people I know can’t even wrap their heads around a feminism that watered down. I mean, really.

    Also, I am glad to be a shortish, smartish, brunette woman who writes and wears stylish glasses–but my hair is too short and curly to look like Tina Fey. Although I get compared to any female celebrity with short hair, such comparisons are somewhat less problematic.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  7. Brad Nelson wrote:

    Yes! It was a long wait I endured for someone to come along and address Liz Lemon’s uniform of sweatpants and cheesed Mexican calorie shells is so meant to indicate her damn unprettiness as evidenced by the abusive one-liners of her male cohorts, to address how regardless of this performance of (what is considered by a lot of people, ergo society?) ugliness, Tina Fey is not ugly, and how that is sort of apparent? Maybe that is supposed to be a funny thing on this television show that is funny, but instead of laughing from my pit of pits, I just get all tonally dysphoric and that is bad for my constitution.

    I was also apparently waiting because when I talk about television and feminism, I just end up throwing things at the TV. I’ve had to replace it in situations where the only handy throwing object was a glass of water or a very large rock, which I just, you know, keep around.

    Also, the the dichotomy of the Maggie Gyllenhal/Megan Fox appreciator is also as unreal as the Liz Lemonist (as in there is no perfect manifestation of this person doing awful things to women behind his scarf of feelings) but its seeds scatter throughout the whole of Dudonia, an incubus of refined taste in the women. I. Was a Dude. Who Subscribed. To That Newsletter. Its insides harbored awful ideas about women and what “smart” things of which she should act as a mirror if she were to be an object of my future interest (which is the sort of stuff that the existence of a TMSS implies on the regular). It’s fucking evil and I like to think I’ve outgrown it, i.e. I like to think that I’m a human being who treats others like human beings.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink
  8. Brimstone wrote:

    Something like this has bothered me for ages, though it might be because I sympathize with Liz in a non-gender specific manner and don’t like how she seems to keep ‘losing’ to Jack

    There was an article in Slate ages ago that comes at this from a different angle: http://www.slate.com/id/2217712/

    what did you think of the episode where she goes to the Midwest and ends up saying something like ‘out here, we’re supermodels’. Acknowledging the weird dichotomy between Tina’s beauty and Liz’ supposed ugliness and just a cheap joke? It’s a pretty common trope (TV Tropes calls it ‘Hollywood Homely’) but its jarring how much they emphasize it

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Permalink
  9. Scott wrote:

    Excellent piece, Sady.

    The character of Liz Lemon is played by beautiful, successful, smart, funny, apparently happy person Tina Fey, and is meant to be unattractive, only semi-successful, smart, funny, and unhappy. It’s interesting that “smart” and “funny” get to stay in the picture

    Is Liz supposed to be funny? I mean: I think the character is funny, but she frequently tells jokes that just fall completely flat to the people around her.

    Also, I’d be curious to hear your take on the Jack character. His chauvinism is so completely over the top that the lines tend to stick out and (I admit) make me laugh. The episodes with Edie Falco were great.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink
  10. philosoraptor wrote:

    Sigh. My reaction is a bit like Brimstone (at 9:15 pm)’s: your post incisively crystallizes lots of vaguely-formed uneasy thoughts that I’ve had about the structure of the show and of Liz Lemon, even though I watch every episode and still consider it better than much of what else is on offer.

    [OFF TOPIC: To me, another cringeworthy trope of the show is that of the irresponsible, childlike black man benignly guided/protected by his white supervisors (and Grizz and Dot-Com). But that's a whole other topic for another time!]

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Permalink
  11. Brigid Keely wrote:

    Excellent point about the brainy but secretly super hot girls… like the brainy but hot librarian/teacher/secretary/etc. Homely to everyone else, beaten down, slavishly grateful that Some Man has deigned to scoop them up, totally hot and bitchin’ in the sack, and no other dude will ever know and try to “steal” them.

    I’ve watched episodes of 30 Rock and have never been able to get into it.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  12. Gayle Force wrote:

    Oh my god! I once used the door analogy! Not half as well as you did, though!

    I was talking to someone about my Jewishness, or how I interacted with it, and I said that it was the way I first understood as a child what being Other was. I imagined it like I had to stand just outside the door and look into the room where the “accepted” folk were (usually happily celebrating Christmas). And then being female, and being queer, and learning about my own privileges, it made me realize as the years passed how many other people were in that space outside the room, looking through the door, who had all been Othered. But as a child, that’s exactly I saw in my head – the doorway, the people on the inside, the people on the outside. It hurt terribly, at like 5 years old.

    Someone once told me that 30 Rock was premised on Liz Lemon’s ugliness, and . . . that made me swear to never watch it. That doesn’t sound like feminism at all to me. Just more picking on women.

    Thank you for writing this, Sady. It is excellent.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Permalink
  13. hn wrote:

    [OT: @philosoraptor: but the joke is, that he just plays that role (see the recent non-adultery-scandal episode)]

    Also, how much Tina Fey is still in 30 Rock? I don’t remember seeing an actual writer’s credit for a long time, and the rest of the production team seems to be men…

    Well she does have that scar. Maybe that’s enough of a pretense for Fey to keep making the uglyness joke…

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Permalink
  14. Nila wrote:

    This was a really great post. I second Scott’s comment, though, about Liz being “funny” in any situation outside the Dealbreaker storyline. Is she supposed to be all that smart, either? I mean, of course she’s smarter than Jenna and Cerie, but she’s not necessarily thoughtful, and certainly not brilliant. Isn’t the point that she’s average, in a lot of ways? Slightly above-average intelligence, slightly below-average social skills, and average looks. I never got the impression that she was supposed to be hideous, which is why she even had a shot with Jon Hamm, James Franco, etc.

    On another note, the Salma Hayek storyline touched a different feminist nerve in me for reasons I’m having trouble defining. Was the show exoticizing her as a woman of colour, or just celebrating her culture? Where’s the line between acknowledging a woman’s background and othering her? And why do I get the impression that if a brown man hit on Liz, she’d react with discomfort and fear under a veneer of liberal-minded fake enthusiasm?

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink
  15. aprilu wrote:

    Hi, I’m de-lurking to say thank you so much for this post! I think 30 Rock is pretty funny but it does definitely have its problems, especially about Liz’s looks. last week’s episode actually bothered me, b/c the whole idea of “porn for women” being a hot guy listening to lonely women talk about themselves was pretty gender-essentialist; women like sex, too, you know. and it played into the presentation of Liz Lemon as this kind of desperate, lonely woman, which while I know is supposed to make her relatable (and is why I enjoy the show, partly), all that self-deprecation also gets really tiresome. It sends the message that smart women have to feel bad about themselves in some way, that it’s a mistake to be confident. that’s why I hated Liz’s whole story arc with Dennis, because the guy was such a loser it was hard to feel sympathetic toward Liz for dating him – I kept thinking, come on, you can do better than that.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Permalink
  16. Kelly wrote:

    I’ve never watched the show, but I’ve read a lot of picking on the Liz Lemmon thing. The ugly thing bothers me too. I am an Actual Ugly Woman and seriously, is it too much to ask that if we’re in a plot point we could be played by someone who could even remotely be considered ugly?

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Permalink
  17. Mark wrote:

    Sorry, what does “cis” mean? That’s a new one on me.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Permalink
  18. Jess! wrote:

    I am constantly getting compared to Liz Lemon, too! I prefer it to when strangers tell me I look exactly like Ellen Degeneres (since we are both blond lesbians, this is obviously fact).

    #3 rubbed me the wrong way, mostly because descriptions like that always make me paranoid that I’m one of Those Feminists. It’s sort of meant to do that, since it sets up the person saying it as a Good Feminist who is free to judge these things. Obviously that’s not the intent.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Permalink
  19. gnat wrote:

    Aaagh! Yes! You have perfectly explained why I never got into 30 Rock, when EVERYONE told me I should love it, and were subsequently SHOCKED when I didn’t, ’cause “I thought you were feminist and shit?” and “but it’s a show, which is about a girl? What more do you want, geez”. Of course, my reaction of “it just doesn’t sit right” was far more nuanced and articulate than this. Honestly Sady, keep up.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:59 am | Permalink
  20. Adrianna wrote:

    Your points are valid, and I agree on all counts. This show is funny, it makes me laugh and gives me the warm and fuzzies, but you are right. Liz is not a perfect feminist.

    The women you are posting about are not perfect (feminists? at all?).

    But I resent your tone here. You are actually sitting on the pedestal of “Real Feminism” that I’ve seen you lash out at people for doing.

    You chastise these women for not being the proper feminist because they don’t care about trans/gay/poor issues. Why? Isn’t that actually kind of…well, our job? Your job, the job of other feminist bloggers across the interwebz? To educate and unite? I didn’t even really understand disability rights until I was introduced to this universe. Why not even give these women a chance?

    You are doing exactly what you hate about Liz and Cerie, only instead of judging on looks you are judging on Feminist Milestones. People’s minds can change. As a blogger I’d expect you to appreciate and facilitate this.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 1:21 am | Permalink
  21. Sady wrote:

    @Adrianna: Actually… no. My job is to write about what I feel and think. About feminism, or anything else. I’m not about to be nice to a phenomenon that’s privileged and hurtful. Lemonism is so closely tied to a claim of “Real Feminism” that I feel comfortable pointing out how it’s fucked up. If people read this and feel stung, maybe it’s a chance for them to examine themselves a little more closely. That’s my job.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 2:05 am | Permalink
  22. Adrianna wrote:

    @Sady – okay, fair enough on the “job” portion. I have a tendency to expect more from people than is realistic.

    But you don’t think maybe…a more inclusive /educational tone is beneficial? I don’t want to get snarky here and I certainly don’t want to offend you. Yes part of this irritated me because we were all (including you) at some point completely uneducated about feminism. That means me. Yes. I was (am still sometimes) completely stupid. I just…I don’t know where I’m going with this. I want more women to talk about feminism, I want women in my daily life to at least mention feminism in a tone that is not mocking, even if that version of feminism is flawed.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 2:12 am | Permalink
  23. Eva wrote:

    Loved this article, especially the part where you talked about the appeal of “ugly duckling” women to a certain subsection of men may reside in the fact that they have less self-confidence than women who were always perceived as “hot.” That’s an angle I honestly hadn’t considered.

    One thing I’d like to mention, re. Liz’s condescension to Cerie…I find the sexist/ageist stereotyping goes both ways. I mean, isn’t Cerie’s frequent response to Liz mostly along the lines of, “Wow, you’re really *old*!”? As an ugly girl (a real one), I can vouch for the fact that this dynamic exists in real life–I once had a pretty female co-worker, and I used to find myself making jealous assumptions about her competency (especially as she seemed to be given a much easier time by my male boss and co-workers than me.) Reciprocally, she’d said things in conversation that indicated she had a pretty stereotypical “homely girl” image of me as well (expressing surprise that I had a boyfriend; doubting me when I said I used to wear revealing tops.) The thing that’s problematic to me is that I can’t tell whether the show is critiquing such attitudes or contributing to them. Sadly, I lean towards the latter.

    I also think that what’s even *more* subversive than a hot, smart and funny woman who knows she’s hot, smart and funny is a smart and funny woman who’s not remotely hot, and is actually told by everyone around her that she’s ugly, but says “fuck it”, never once doubts her awesomeness and point-blank refuses to let others define her. I have met only one or two such women before in my life, and I will always be in awe of them. That attitude? That’s the shit.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 2:17 am | Permalink
  24. Sady wrote:

    @Adrianna: Nope! I’m describing privileged women who co-opt a liberatory language in the service of augmenting their own privilege. Not being nice! Not being “inclusive!” Not shutting the fuck up about how that’s wrong! Basically ever. Because being nice to privilege in the hopes that privilege will EVENTUALLY just recognize itself without being challenged is just basically not even remotely in line with what we do here. Or, really, ever a good idea. If people can’t handle being called out, they can go cry in the restrooms. Then, when they come out, they can be big girls and learn how to get over themselves and do some valuable work.

    The word “feminist” is not always a good thing. There are people with horrific politics who use the word “feminism” to excuse horrible shit. Some of those people are women. Sarah Palin exists. Your argument is invalid. And, honestly, kind of privileged in and of itself.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 2:28 am | Permalink
  25. David wrote:

    “…being nice to privilege in the hopes that privilege will EVENTUALLY just recognize itself without being challenged is just basically not even remotely in line with what we do here.”

    As a middle-class, able-bodied, straight-presenting, cisgendered white dude, I feel pretty secure in saying that privilege will NEVER recognize itself without being challenged. Hard.

    That’s why I read this blog: for the challenge. You do good things for people, Sady — you’ve done good things for me, and I’m grateful. Don’t let the Lemons get you down.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 2:56 am | Permalink
  26. Brimstone wrote:

    “And why do I get the impression that if a brown man hit on Liz, she’d react with discomfort and fear under a veneer of liberal-minded fake enthusiasm?”

    Because it would be funny and fit into her character? Then she’d spend most of the episode trying to convince herself she’s not racist, and Tracey would call in the ‘Black Crusaders’, and Jack would make some racist point that the show will implicitly endorse by having him be right…
    And it will somehow be funny

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 3:14 am | Permalink
  27. Abigail wrote:

    I only know you from your writing, but I would never, in a million years, compare you to Liz Lemon. Mainly for the reason you mention here – she’s a character deliberately constructed as a vicious parody of reflexive, thoughtless liberalism (not just feminism but anti-racism and anti-homophobia), and everything I’ve read by you has been underpinned by the self-awareness and willingness to question yourself that she lacks.

    Interestingly, I think that 30 Rock has actually uglified Liz quite considerably over its run. In its earlier seasons, she had nice hair and outfits (there was a period in the second season, I think, when she was almost exclusively wearing these knee-length skirt and tall boots combos and looked absolutely gorgeous and very sexy), whereas these days her hair is frizzy and lightened to a less healthy shade, and her clothes seem restricted to shapeless cardigans. I’m not quite sure what to read into this, since the notion that Liz is ugly is something that was baked into 30 Rock‘s premise from the beginning. Long before the Drew storyline there was the first season episode “The Head and the Hair,” in which Liz is shocked when the more attractive of two men asks her out instead of Jenna (though that episode, at least, ends with the guy exhorting Liz to believe that she too is a ‘hair’). Maybe this is something the show is trying to play up as it slowly goes off the boil, or maybe this is simply a case of the intensification of nuttiness, a common phenomenon in sitcoms in which a character’s quirky attribute is played further and further up until it’s completely over the top (TV Tropes has a better name for this, I’m sure). The same thing happened to Zach Braff’s character on Scrubs, though without the attendant uncomfortable implications.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 3:31 am | Permalink
  28. Nora wrote:

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference in the way that Liz is characterized on 30 Rock from Leslie on Parks and Recreation– I think the dynamic is interesting, because they are both in many ways caricatures of female insecurity, and they’re both on sitcoms, but they both have their lives play out very differently. I don’t know if Leslie is any better than Liz, as far as feminism is concerned, but her ideals do get her into trouble a lot more than Liz’ do.

    I think the thing that Liz Lemon’s character points out a lot better than anything else is the White Liberal Guilt thing– it’s something I rarely see used, and she is constantly having Liberal Guilt over stuff and then doing an extremely poor job of putting that into something constructive, which I think the audience can see. Leslie Knope, instead of consistently feeling like she violates her ideals, is frequently carrying them out to the extreme.

    Also as far as the “identifiable female characters” thing is concerned… I haven’t been able to identify with ANYONE other than Liz. I mean, Jack has his moments, but while I think he’s a well developed character I don’t think many people would find him identifiable. Maybe Pete is identifiable… but he’s the only one that comes to mind. I certainly have not had many moments where I have felt any real emotion toward characters who were not Liz or Jack.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 4:20 am | Permalink
  29. Gnatalby wrote:

    “And why do I get the impression that if a brown man hit on Liz, she’d react with discomfort and fear under a veneer of liberal-minded fake enthusiasm?”

    IIRC there was an episode where Liz dated a black man and didn’t like him and broke up with him and then spent the episode defending herself against charges of racism. Also, there was an episode where she dated a guy played by Peter Dinklage (who has dwarfism) and that really was the reason she didn’t want to date him but it pretty much played out like you said, she forces herself to go out with him, and it’s uncomfortable and alllll about Liz.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 5:50 am | Permalink
  30. William wrote:

    Ignoring most of the actual substance, I wanted to comment on the Liz-Lemon-as-ugly thing.

    It has always worked for me because I see this as Fey caricaturing her younger self, who was not a particularly a looker, as last year’s Vanity Fair mentions repeatedly, and you can see in this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIvOUoYZhoU

    I had a lot of friends in the Chicago improv scene at the same time Tina Fey was there. I never knew her, but Liz Lemon reminds me of a lot of the people then: incredibly bright, talented, awkward goofs.

    The ones who thought they were beautiful, the ones who invested a lot of time in glamor, found something easier to do. Improv is hard.

    So I take her sudden ascent to Notable Sexy Person as mostly a conscious artifice, a thing necessary for her career. That’s something I imagine she’s not entirely comfortable with, which I think drives some of the writing of both Liz Lemon and Jenna.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 7:31 am | Permalink
  31. William wrote:

    @David: I think there are ways to recognize one’s privilege, and encourage the recognition of it, without a lot of drama around challenging people.

    Personally, I’ve learned more from thoughtful conversation and simple observation than I ever have from “j’accuse” moments.

    I’ve certainly also benefited from being called out on things, but sometimes that’s counterproductive, too. Done without sympathy, it can be mainly a stick to beat people you don’t like with.

    In my work, I spend a lot of time getting people to look at and change how they behave, and I’ve come to think each person has an optimum level of challenge. Too little and they don’t learn much, too much and they can’t learn anything. But too much is more dangerous than too little; not only do they fail to learn what you were hoping, but they develop resistance to the teacher and the topic.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink
  32. Finisterre wrote:

    I’m English and have never seen 30 Rock, but I have noticed some similar criticisms of ‘middle-class’ feminists over here recently (‘middle-class’ roughly translating as the same thing as your coast-dwelling white-collar woman). Here’s an example just from today’s Guardian, the closest thing we have to a progressive high-circulation daily paper. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/24/middle-class-feminism-politics

    On reading the article, my main thought was ‘divide and rule’; class issues being used as just another way to attack feminism, along with a dose of whataboutery for Object, an organisation which campaigns against the spread of lap-dancing clubs here.

    But you seem to be making a similar point. I admit to being confused as to whether I fit the stereotype. The last thing I want to do is ignore those less fortunate, but I do think single-issue groups like Object do valuable work preventing the spread of ‘raunch culture’. I’m groping (no pun intended) for my own point here, but I’m confused about what would make me a Lemonist.

    I showed this post to my Nigel and he though Anita Roddick might be an example – self-avowed feminist who refused to allow unions in her business empire. But since most of us aren’t famous businesswomen, I am still confused. Or maybe stung by my own white, middle-clas, able/cis/straight privilege? Gaaah.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink
  33. Samantha b. wrote:

    “The ones who thought they were beautiful, the ones who invested a lot of time in glamor, found something easier to do. Improv is hard.”

    William, I feel like you too are validating a problematic trope of feminine dichotomy here.

    When I was younger, I was considered conventionally beautiful, and I did put a lot of effort into how I dressed and into “glamour.” This was because I liked to, because I was shy and it allowed me to express myself openly, and because it validated my place in artistic fields. And I can promise I have never been one to take the easier route. I can think of very few people that are more inanely stubborn about taking the harder route.

    This much is not unique to me. Since high school I’ve had many beautiful, “glamorous” friends who most certainly never took the easy route. And, in fact, it’s actually pretty awful, if you have any sense of independence at all, to have people (okay, men) try to suck you into accepting favors offered largely on the basis of your looks. First of all, the favors are never that spectacular, and, second of all, it’s really deeply degrading. I don’t so much want to grovel at anyone’s scraps because they find me physically attractive. As such, I find what you’ve said there to be more than a little insulting and diminishing, William.

    Also: while I *absolutely* know it’s easier said than done, I so wish that people would stop referring to themselves as ugly in this thread. There are soooo many ways to be sexy, and it absolutely isn’t right that we campaign against norms in other senses but then acquiesce to a very arbitrarily defined set of beauty norms. Fight the good fight, kids.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink
  34. Samantha b. wrote:

    And, in fact, Amanda Marcotte has this morning summed up my wordy comment in one incisive sentence,
    “If you’re good-looking, you’re seen as somehow exploiting men’s sexual interest, but if you’re not, it’s assumed you only work hard because your true purpose in life as a sex object has been taken from you and you’re bitter.”

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink
  35. goldengirl wrote:

    i too am a smart brunette with funky glasses, who knows many more smart brunettes with funky glasses, and the thing about dudes comparing you to liz lemon is that it’s basically ALWAYS a back-handed compliment, always meant to be a bad thing. it’s pretty telling that one of the most prominent female characters on tv, played by one of the most prominent female writers in the US, is used only in negative comparisons. the girl i used to babysit came home from elementary school one day upset and saying that one of her male classmates had said that she’s “so totally liz lemon,” and i was quick to point out that that’s really a COMPLIMENT because liz lemon is brilliant and funny and has an amazing life and career. just, ugh.

    on the other hand, though, i am absolutely borrowing the term ‘liz lemonist,’ because it sums up my feelings about all kinds of warm-water hipster activists perfectly.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink
  36. lizp wrote:

    Can someone please explain “cis”? Is it an acronym for something? Not getting that one word is driving me crazy. Smart post, though, and great discussion in the comments.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  37. Occam wrote:

    I love the idea of feminism as a door you can use to pass through to confronting the real problems of privilege and kyriarchy. It is a really good analogy, and very resonant for me.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  38. Allison wrote:

    Could you give us a few more examples of “boiling “feminism” down to an excuse to permit herself certain rudenesses and complain about certain issues only as they pertain to her own personal life”? I find myself feeling resistant to the idea that one must do disability activism, or trans ally work, for example, in order to be a real feminist.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:30 am | Permalink
  39. Courtney wrote:

    I loved this and identify with being Liz/a Liz Lemonist way more than I’d like to admit. However, I disagree with #9. Tina Fey was never considered hot till she lost weight and got a makeover for TV. Have you seen the pictures of her from Second City? I think that if you grow up as the “funny” girl – and NOT the pretty girl – that will always stick with you no matter how much makeup and airbrushing they can do to you for gorgeous magazine covers and award shows. So I see Liz Lemon being written from that standpoint. Her flashbacks to her youth and college days confirm this. Liz may have figured out how to wear makeup and got some good hair products, but inside she still marvels at sparrow collections and has a dorky perm. Sure, funny girls can snag a James Franco for one night or longer (and omg, want) – but there’s a divide between being able to sell yourself on your looks ONLY, and not. And I don’t mean just to men – to yourself, even. Yes, to us, and it seems like to everyone on the show, she should be considered gorgeous. But no matter what you look like NOW, and how much self-confidence you have, I think there will always be that little nagging voice in there reminding you of how it used to be. I totally get it and that probably makes Liz more relatable to me than anything else.

    Signed, another funny girl.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:45 am | Permalink
  40. Sarah Jane wrote:

    @Mark: “Cisgendered” refers to people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Basically the opposite of “transgendered.”

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  41. Lewis wrote:

    I always thought the portraying of LL as ugly was kind of a meta-joke, like in 30 Rock world she’s ugly, but she’s clearly smoking hot.

    All other points were very eye-opening (and funny)

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:57 am | Permalink
  42. Courtney wrote:

    Ok, on second read, realized you addressed the character/writer’s insecurity in #10. Still, it doesn’t bother me so much. I never thought of it as a male fantasy, I guess. But certainly something to ponder.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  43. Jake wrote:

    I think the Liz Lemonist stereotype is one of the things that has always bothered me about (certain parts of) Jezebel. Seems like the commentariat there is almost entirely composed of Liz Lemonists.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  44. Samantha b. wrote:

    @Courtney-”but there’s a divide between being able to sell yourself on your looks ONLY, and not.”

    No, there really isn’t a set divide, and I’m still not sure why self-professed feminists are enabling a problematic dichotomy. Also: why are we referring to ourselves as products (“sell?”)If we can’t stop trafficking in these tropes, I’m not really sure how we can ask it of anyone else.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  45. JenniferP wrote:

    I think being told you are like Tina Fey might be a compliment, but being told you’re like Liz Lemon almost never is, or is a backhanded one at best, because she’s a construct – a parody of white, liberal feminism carried out by an incredibly narcissistic person. So maybe they’re not saying anything about your cute glasses, maybe they’re talking more about the self-absorbtion?

    Still, I think that we tend to get angry at successful women in media like Tina Fey and Diablo Cody and Oprah for not being perfect and for not carrying out their careers exactly like we would and for maybe letting their own selfish privileged preoccupations come out in the work they were making in a way that makes us feel squishy and embarrassed….”You’re representing us, quit ruining it!” when really 90% of everything is shit and the point is maybe to have more women’s voices (and more nonwhite, GLBT, etc. voices) at the table so that we can better accept that some of the stuff they create will be shit because it’s not coming along once in a lifetime and seen as this opportunity where if they blow it, they ruin it for all of us. The whole history of men vs. women in film and TV is that men get to try things out and sometimes fail publicly but get to keep having a career, whereas women can be hugely successful and STILL get shunted aside (See Catherine Hardwicke).

    Also, many of us stand up for women in small daily ways, in interactions with people, in our jobs (I’m a teacher), in our families, in political work that we do, etc. I don’t think you can say that your blogging about Judd Apatow movies (while much appreciated, and yes, they suck) is somehow better than what anyone else does. Well, you can say it, and I can express that I think you’re kind of a dick about this subject, and you can go on being a blogger and I can go on being a blog commenter – whatever, you get to be a dick about something on your blog, just like Tina Fey gets to be less than perfect about putting her comedy show out every week.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink
  46. Sady wrote:

    @JenniferP: Like I said! I IDENTIFY WITH THE CHARACTER. STRONGLY. I’m trying to be as self-lacerating as I am anyone-else-lacerating, here. So it’s not like I am standing on my perfect Isle of Fully Realized Feminism and judging the rest of the universe, here.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink
  47. peli wrote:

    This was amazing. But I want to say, there’s also a genre phenomenon at play here, to an extent. Like, early on on ‘Friends’ Chandler was the super cute guy who doesn’t know he’s super cute, and is smart, funny, semi-successful, deeply unhappy, and consistently dates drop-dead gorgeous women but is consistently shocked about it like it never could have happened. Characters that can alternate at a moment’s notice between winner and loser, attractive and unattractive, depending on that week’s story requirement, are sort of the structural bread and butter of sitcoms — it’s a design solution almost. Not to say that the genre explanation overrides the gender explanation, just that the phenomenon is sort of interestingly overdetermined.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  48. JenniferP wrote:

    Fine, I’ll stop lacerating! You’ve got Sady-lacerating covered!

    I think all of us who make media struggle with this question – I just made a film about a fairly privileged white girl having a fairly privileged white girl problem in a way that other fairly privileged white girls will probably identify with. But it was my point of view and experience and observations filtered through a fictional character. Did I have a duty to make a film about other stuff? How would I even go about doing that without being patronizing – “Little privileged white girl thinks she knows about our problems?”

    I wonder what Tina Fey’s body of work will look like 30-40 years from now. Will we be watching an adaptation of Murder She Wrote with Liz Lemon, Spinster Detective?

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  49. TVD wrote:

    I find it interesting that after 30 Rock really hit it big, there were tons of Tina Fey sex bomb magazine spreads. It seemed like a few of them were trying to say “See, we’re finally showing Tina (Liz) in the right light/this is the REAL woman”, but the majority of them that took the OMG CAN YOU BELIEVE SHE’S SO HOT tack.

    But it’s all really supposed to be cloaked in the make-believe setting of a photo shoot, so we can go back to being comfortable with Tina’s supposedly unattractive “real” self.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink
  50. aprilu wrote:

    I think Sady pointing out about “Liz Lemonism” is not to put anyone down, but just to illustrate that no matter who you are, most people who identify as progressives have some kind of privilege (race, class, education, ablism, etc.), and the goal is to try to look beyond that little bubble and address issues that might affect other people, and sady’s acknowledgment that she herself has her own bits of lemonism, because part of recognizing one’s privilege is seeing that it has culturally conditioned us to stay in that bubble – the key is to be aware of that, because it’s difficult to completely eradicate that cultural conditioning. and actually I think 30 Rock has addressed this – I remember one exchange w/ Tracy where Liz insists she’s not racist, but he tells her she is. the problem with that is that it’s played for laughs, and so it doesn’t seriously address the topic, and it kind of implies that that kind of racism is inevitable – and while I agree racism is ingrained in our society, 30 Rock’s portrayal of it makes it seem unavoidable.

    another thing which bothers me about the show, which I was thinking about after reading this post, is that while Liz is portrayed as a “liberal,” she also mocks anything that is too “politically correct.” for example, in a recent episode she rolled her eyes when Michael Sheen’s character referred to God as “she,” and in another episode a male gay character wore a T-shirt that said “this is what a feminist looks like,” which was clearly meant to be mockworthy. I think this ties into Sady’s Adrienne Rich quote – maybe Liz Lemon is feminist and liberal, but not enough to really challenge the status quo.

    and one more thing that bothered me about the show: in a recent episode, Elizabeth Banks’ character, a young, sexy, thin blonde woman, goes jogging in the morning, and says something along the lines of “oh yeah, all the other women jogging looked like me. if rapists knew it was like this in the morning, it’d be a free-for-all” (or something to that effect). I found the dismissal of sexual assault pretty disturbing, obviously. and again, this is the show commenting on a woman’s looks, and categorizing a woman according to them.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  51. Scott wrote:

    I think Peli’s on to something here. All of the primary characters are ostensibly successful in their given roles (Tracy as comic, Jenna as actress/singer, Jack as executive, Liz as showrunner) and all experience moments of self-doubt at different times. Then they have a “you see, Timmy” moment, have their faith in themselves restored, and life goes on. It strikes me more, as Peli said, as a convention of the genre than of gender. The ugly-duckling-who-doesn’t-realize-he/she-is-a-swan is a well-worn trope that’s been used for both genders.

    Though we don’t see it often, we do get to see Jack flummoxed and floundering, especially when it comes to his old high school love interest. He’s a captain of industry, but he gets wound into knots over Nancy. Jack can thrash in the deep end of the pool in an uncomfortable situation as much as Liz does. It’s just that his discomfort zone may be somewhat smaller than Liz’s.

    Separately, I’m surprised that no one has seen Liz’s arc of growth (despite the self-effacing humor). She’s gone from Dennis (“this is the only mate I can get”) to being resolute in her desire to not settle (from Jon Hamm, not her intellectual equal, to Jason Sudeikis who can’t commit, to the most recent episode with the unfortunately named Wesley Snipes, who insists the Universe wants them to settle.) When push comes to shove, Liz has the confidence to demand better from a partner and not accept half a loaf. To my way of thinking, that’s the best kind of feminism: to be able to say, this is what I want, and I won’t settle for less, no matter what “society” has told me I can reasonably expect.

    My issue with the looks-based humor is at this point its a crutch, an easy joke that writes itself. (Frank feeling the stress as showrunner: funny; starting to dress like Liz too: unfunny.)

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink
  52. Liz wrote:

    To address the lack of other sympathetic female characters on 30 Rock:

    1. There are no other sympathetic characters on 30 Rock. Remove gender from the equation. Liz Lemon is really the only (sometimes-but-not-always) sympathetic character. Everyone else is a ludicrous caricature.

    2. Regarding the dearth of female characters in general, there are not a lot of women in comedy. There are especially not a lot of women in writers’ rooms. As a writer, do you write what you see, or what you wish you saw? A comedy writers’ room of about 7 people with two women in it, one of whom is the head writer, is impressively pushing the envelope as it is. Pay attention at the Emmy’s this year during the Variety, Music, or Comedy Series category. There are between 0 and token women in every major comedy writing staff. The world of 30 Rock is an improvement over reality.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  53. Liz wrote:

    @ APRILU If you are looking to 30 Rock to “seriously address” any topic, you are watching the wrong show. There are no “very special episodes.”

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  54. C.L. Minou wrote:

    The difference between Sady and me: she gets up in the middle of drinking and makes a brilliant analogy that becomes the keystone of a fantastic post.

    I just reached for the bottle.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink
  55. Sady wrote:

    @Liz (NB4R!): Jack is also sympathetic. You could even push for Tracy as sympathetic, though that’s complicated in some ways I don’t feel fully qualified to comment on (the “childlike, irresponsible, out of control black man” thing just about covers it). What is Dot Com, if not sympathetic? He’s great! And the less-sympathetic male characters don’t rely on gender stereotypes the way the women on 30 Rock often do.

    On Point 2, that STILL doesn’t explain why ALL of the male characters in the writing room — Frank, Twofer, the departed Josh, even Lutz — are fleshed-out characters who frequently play a part in the action, and Girl Writer has only spoken up in like one episode over the four-year run of the show.

    Furthermore: How do we feel about Dr. Spaceman? I miss Dr. Spaceman. Let’s talk about Dr. Spaceman, guys.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  56. Liz wrote:

    @Sady I think we may just have different opinions about what makes a character sympathetic. I certainly enjoy Jack and Tracey. But I also enjoy Jenna. I just think they are all painted too broadly (and ridiculously) to be sympathetic. Jack is…closer to a sympathetic character, especially in later seasons, but I still think he’s a caricature. I also don’t think Jenna is meant to be perceived as negatively as you think she is.

    I also wish Sue would have more of a character (and I have to wonder/hope if they are building toward that). I don’t think the show is without flaws regarding its treatment of ladies.

    On this we can agree: Dr. Spaceman needs more screen time!

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink
  57. Jess A wrote:

    @Sady: And the less-sympathetic male characters don’t rely on gender stereotypes the way the women on 30 Rock often do.

    I think I have to disagree with this point – Frank is The Filthy Porn Hound, Lutz the Tubby Mama’s Boy, Twofer is often the Stuck Up Educated Dude, Pete the Harried Family Man, etc. I don’t really think that any character escapes the easy, go-to TV trope aspect. I think this is often deliberate on the part of the writers; 30 Rock is a show that’s in a dialogue with the rest of sitcom pop culture.

    Girl Writer – Sue LaRoche-Vanderhoot – has had several one-liners (though certainly not as many as Lutz) and at least one episode (in season 3, I think) where she was central to the plot.

    I wrote a too-long blog post this morning about this post, but the nutshell version is that I think you make a lot of tremendous & very salient points here, but I think you also discard some of the context that makes 30 Rock functional & interesting. It’s pretty meta, on the whole, though it’s certainly done less & less of this in the last season & a half. Taking the show simply at face value gets you one set of observations; folding in the context the show calls upon, including Fey’s own personal history, gets you another, more interesting layer.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink
  58. Jesse wrote:

    “Liz Lemonism, being so solipsistic, is content with a feminist movement dedicated to the advancement not necessarily of women, but of one particular woman, the Liz Lemonist in question, and perhaps a handful of the friends who agree with her most often. Girls who aren’t Lemonist enough are always open for a “critique” or two.”

    IRONY!!!!

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Permalink
  59. bob shaftoe wrote:

    this list is so liz lemon

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink
  60. Sady wrote:

    @JESSE: YOU’RE SO RIGHT! WOMEN CAN NEVER DISAGREE WITH EACH OTHER NOW! BECAUSE I WROTE ABOUT THIS ONE SHITTY, HYPOCRITICAL, SEXIST FORM OF CRITICISM THIS ONE TIME! SO I BASICALLY CAN’T DISAGREE WITH ANY OTHER GIRLS UNTIL THE DAY I DIE.

    Mind blown, Jesse! Mind. Blown.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Permalink
  61. CassieC wrote:

    Number 11. I am getting it tattooed somewhere handy for reading and laughing and crying at the truth of it all.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Permalink
  62. aprilu wrote:

    @Liz, obviously, I know it’s a comedy, but they do deal with “serious” issues like racism, sometimes effectively, sometimes not so much.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink
  63. Gnatalby wrote:

    @William: It seems like whenever this conversation comes up someone posts older footage of Tina Fey to be all: “See, she really DOES have ugly cred!”

    But I think part of the post here is that no, she really never did. All I see in that old video is unfortunate hair and wardrobe, some of which can be attributed to its having been a different era. She was always thin, white, symmetrical and (relatively) young– all things that mean beauty in our culture.

    when really 90% of everything is shit and the point is maybe to have more women’s voices (and more nonwhite, GLBT, etc. voices) at the table so that we can better accept that some of the stuff they create will be shit because it’s not coming along once in a lifetime and seen as this opportunity where if they blow it, they ruin it for all of us.

    This I completely agree with. One of the things feminism should free women to do is be normal people like everyone else, and most everything that everyone produces kind of sucks.

    Even though Fey is no Palin, it reminds me of my feelings in the last presidential election. Did I love Sarah Palin? Absolutely not. Did I love that the GOP ran a woman candidate? I absolutely did.

    One of my friend’s mothers, who was previously “just” a mom felt so inspired by Palin that she went out and got involved in the politics of education in her community. I think that’s great.

    I do think there’s a value to seeing women as VP candidates or sitcom producers that transcends the specifics of what they produce. It normalizes women in different working environments and makes it possible for the ones who truly do have a progressive message to succeed in the future.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink
  64. orestes wrote:

    sidestepping a lot of the heated debate here, i’ve never seen 30 rock. but i do know of the hot-woman-playing-ugly stereotype and it’s shit. one of the major points of the show ugly betty was how OMFG UGLY AND AWKWARD SHE IS BUT LOOK SHE IS WORKING IN FASHION WACKY HIGHJINKS WILL ENSUE. but they did not dare use someone who would be considered unnatractive, no. they take a beautiful woman and give her braces and big glasses. TV-NO UGLY CHICKS.

    bah.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Permalink
  65. William wrote:

    @Samantha b:

    Thanks for the reply, Samantha. It wasn’t my intention to insult anybody, and maybe I jumped to a conclusion there. I appreciate you saying so. Perhaps you can help me out with a better explanation.

    What I’m pretty sure of is my observations at the time: improv people were on average less attractive than other theater people, and they were substantially less well put together. I say this with love: the freaks and dorks are my people, but dorky they were.

    I’m also pretty sure that improv is harder than other forms of theater, especially modeling and commercial work. It demands a lot of the traditional skills, plus a lot of new ones. It exposes you more; with a scripted play you might be revealed as a bad actor, but improv can expose you as a bad person. And it’s a harder art to practice: that it can never be the same twice means you can’t rely on rote or habit.

    I guess where I jumped to the conclusion was thinking these two observations were connected. My assumption was that being glamorous also takes a lot of work, and that an investment in that means less time available for other things, so that with only so many hours in the day, the glamor-focused would be less likely to get involved in improv, or succeed at it.

    So to the extent that conclusion-jumping applied to women (I was thinking of both men and women, for what it’s worth) then I did indeed validate said problematic trope, for which I apologize.

    However, I’d feel more comfortable not jumping to that conclusion if there were some alternate explanation for what I observed. Any thoughts there?

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink
  66. Isabel wrote:

    I am surprised no one here has mentioned the episode(s? been a while) with Fat Jenna, where the shtick is that Jenna gained a bunch of weight by starring in a musical version of Mystic Pizza for the summer. The storyline was pretty terrible (and frankly, not even I-feel-bad-but-I’m-laughing funny in my opinion) for the obvious reasons, but the most galling thing, to me, was that Liz spent the whole time telling Jenna she didn’t need to lose weight and she should fight the outrageous beauty standard etc. etc. Which… I sort of get, I guess, that maybe Tina Fey was writing this as a kind of, I don’t know, wish fulfillment? a point she wishes she had, actually, been able to make before she lost thirty pounds? some expression of resentment that she was, in fact, only able to become famous (indeed, wasn’t she only allowed to appear on-camera at SNL?) after she lost thirty pounds? But it still pissed me off, because… I don’t know, it was just so weird hearing that out of the mouth of someone who did the exact opposite of what she was saying (also, obviously Jenna did lose the weight) – especially someone who has spoken in interviews about how much she enjoyed having lost the weight.

    Anyway. Big fan of the post, though I do disagree with Sady that any of the men except Jack are meant to read as genuinely sympathetic. Which doesn’t mean I don’t find them sympathetic, but I’m not convinced it’s written into the show on purpose. And for example, I think the fact that, in my experience, people often love Tracy and hate or are annoyed by Jenna has more to do with their own sexism than the show’s [in this specific case]; I don’t think Tracy is written any more sympathetically than Jenna (though I also love Jane Krakowski like burning so maybe that is clouding my judgment). I mean:

    There is Jenna, of course, whose plotlines typically center around how vapid, unstable, narcissistic, and foolishly ambitious she is.

    With the possible exception of foolishly ambitious, these are all also true of like every Tracy plotline ever. And while she might, nowadays, interact more with Tracy than with Jenna, I don’t think she feels any more fondly towards him; usually she (and Pete) speak of the two of them with the same exhausted exasperation – which, okay, another reason I love Jenna is because I am a huge sucker for actor jokes, which I think is also a big part of the humor of Jenna – Tracy is a celebrity joke, but man, the way Jenna pronounces Broadway cracks me up every time. So again, I could be biased because since I like actor jokes, it’s that element of the character that sticks out to me, but in my reading Jenna is vapid and narcissistic because she’s an actor, not because she’s a woman (unlike Cerie, about whom you are right-on though damn if I don’t still laugh at like everything she says. Girl is talented – takes more skill than you’d think to play stupid well).

    But the rest of the post – & particularly the bit about the Thinking Man’s Sex Symbol, which, just kill me if I ever hear that phrase in a non-feminist context ever again (or better yet, kill the dude who’s saying it) – is spot-on.

    also semi-OT but @Nila & since you asked, re: Salma Hayek – so I would never in a zillion years presume for all Hispanic people ever, much less all Mexicans since I & my family are Puerto Rican. But to me the Salma Hayek jokes worked partly because everyone’s culture – because white Americans have cultures also – is cartoonified & mocked on the show regularly (the most noticeable example is Kenneth, but I think a lot of Jack-related jokes are culturally based, if you take “rich white urban conservatives” as a culture) – Liz is the character on the show closest to resembling an actual human being; a big part of the humor comes from driving stereotypes into the realm of the absurd [which, by the way, is something I think 30 Rock does sometimes succeed at, and is also a big difference between the way 30 Rock plays with stereotypes and the way, say, Glee does]. Furthermore (& more critically), none of the tropes they riffed on, to my recollection (like I said it’s been a while), were particularly gross or offensive – it would have been gross if, for example, one of the key features of her character was that she was really lazy, but that wasn’t the case.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Permalink
  67. William wrote:

    @Gnatalby: I’m not saying she was ugly; I’m saying she wasn’t skinny and glamorous, which is an important part of the media version of sexy.

    If you watch the video and read the Vanity Fair article, it’s pretty clear that after giving up Chicago improv circles for New York media cricles, she made a conscious choice to pursue the New York/media version of sexy as a career move, because in those new circles she was perceived as unattractive.

    Although that’s a weird, probably hideous situation to be in, I admire the hell out of her for taking on their bullshit game, winning, and then using her status to make fun of a lot of the things that bothered her on the way up, as well as of her younger self. That the show isn’t perfect doesn’t keep me from appreciating how much she’s managed to do with a network television show, most of which are, by design, dreck with no redeeming social value.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Permalink
  68. lily wrote:

    One time I had an art critique, and the teacher told us to find something unique to ourselves to complain about through our art. Of course, any philosophy that pulls all creative expression from negativity is not going to keep my attention long. But your concern about Liz Leminist Feminists strikes me as that same kind of concern: I have a lot to be grateful and happy about,there is a lot of injustice in the world that I am barely aware of, isn’t it arrogant of me to complain ?
    The fact is, its always arrogant to complain. Somewhere in the world, someone’s dying of river virus, lets count our blessings. But its never arrogant to question. And thats how your blog is functioning- as an alternative to all the media outlets that refuse to question, to which it does not occur to question.
    I am sure there are many, many types of otherness and marginalization that are well worth attention and scrutiny. I hope that feminism acts as a door that ushers me and everyone else who engages with it into greater empathy for those our society devalues and dehumanizes. But I think what makes “liz lemon” feminism relevant is the amount of privilege involved. You have can have all these correct signifiers- being the “right” race, economic status, education level, sexual orientation, etc. etc. etc…and all of those privileges will be curtailed- not just by the people around you, but through your own participation in the culture. A culture that will role its eyes if you point out the fact that you’re only allowed to be smart if you’re ugly and a 23 year old women getting 10 plastic surgeries is seen as a lark. If the privileged majority, who shapes the de facto culture financially by going to Apatow movies and hitting up the local Hooters, does not question why their world is so explicitly gendered, the trickle- down of bullshit to the less privileged is exponential…and if the privileged “oppressed” in question- if the educated women of America can’t get behind what is by and large an attitude adjustment so obviously beneficial to themselves as “I’m not going to sit here and waste my precious life worrying incessantly about how much I should eat and how to take care of my child-man” there is no way they are going to have the time to champion other, more worthwhile causes. Because the kind of attitudes this kind of feminism resists is a consumer based self absorption, it inherently promotes getting involved in things outside your own culturally-imposed self loathing…this is such a long comment I am just going to stop now and apologize.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Permalink
  69. Alex Pieske wrote:

    It seems to me that Tina Fey and the writers of 30 Rock are well aware of the fact that (1) Liz Lemon is a very imperfect feminist, (2) Liz/Tina is actually a very attractive woman, and (3) their job, and a highly competitive job it is, is to make the funniest show on TV.
    If Liz were capable of being a perfect feminist she wouldn’t have all of the insecurities that provide much of the show’s comic fodder. And, yes, Liz/Tina is beautiful, but women who look like her are often insecure about there looks, especially when placed next to women like Cerie, who are drooled over in a very different way. In fact, jokes about “ugly” women aren’t really funny when the women are actually ugly, their just mean. What’s funny is poking at Liz’s insecurities. This is what I love about 30 Rock, and why I like Tina Fey so much more in this venue than when she was on SNL. The humor of 30 Rock cuts in every direction, from GE and the Bush Administration to the too hip, the too apathetic, too mean kind of people that WE can sometimes be.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  70. Meg wrote:

    The first rule of comedy is that you have to be self-deprecating before you can be deprecating. As someone above mentioned, the character of Chandler Bing is a great male example of this–he’s the friend who makes fun of all the other friends, but because he’s such a lovable loser himself he never comes off like a jackass. Why is it that flawed=funny? I don’t know–all part of our wonderful, contradictory humanness I guess.

    I actually always thought that the attacks on Liz Lemon’s attractiveness were sort of a direct response to Tina Fey’s rising star. As she became America’s darling in real life, the reaction was to make Liz more of a loser (to an extent that I think has recently crossed the line into cringe-inducing). Still, every character on 30 Rock is an exaggerated parody, and when the show was at its peak it was consistently hilarious and incisive. I also think the random “woman writer” is not meant to be disparaging, but rather is a send up of the fact that comedy writing is so male dominated. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tina Fey felt like nameless woman writer in a room of frat boys when she was first starting out.

    I guess what I’m getting at is…take a lesson from Tina Fey and try not to be so self-serious.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink
  71. Erin wrote:

    “this is such a long comment I am just going to stop now and apologize.”

    I thought your comment was awesome and I wished it was longer.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink
  72. Alicia wrote:

    I tried to get into 30 Rock, but the whole “let’s pretend Liz is ugly” thing put me off entirely. It’s really just an excuse for ugly jokes, and hilarious jokes about ugliness are rare. And when you pile them on, over and over, to the contradiction of everyone’s eyes, it just starts to seem, well, vitriolic. As though Liz Lemon is unfairly under attack and has no recourse. Which is how I feel most of every day, so I try to avoid it in my fictional escapes.

    There’s kind of a similar thing that happens with Portia da Rossi’s character in Arrested Development, actually — except there, they never pretend that Lindsay isn’t attractive except when she’s making an obviously horrible face. The joke is that, attractive as she is, all her attempts to get laid fail. We are meant to sympathize with her frustration. With Liz Lemon, it always feels like the joke is pointing fingers rather than saying “We know how you feel.”

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Permalink
  73. Chris wrote:

    Tina Fey is actually one of the lead writers of 30 rock still. Was the executive producer until last year. All of the actors of the show have such a tremendous respect for her because she doesn’t put her character up on a pedestal. She has flaws just like everyone else.

    In interview on NPR with Tracy Morgan last year showed how much respect that all the actors have for her, even though every week she puts them into stereotypes, makes stock characters of them, and even brings up real life problems to make jokes for the show. (A year and a half ago Tracy Morgan got a DUI and had to wear an ankle bracelet for several months while taping the show to monitor his alcohol level. The next season, Liz wrote several episodes of jokes about how Tracy’s character had the same thing happen.) She doesn’t allow Liz to be any better than the people around her, which is coming from humility, rather than lowest common denominator. Tina realizes that Liz’s life needs drama. No one wants to watch a person who is smart, classy, beautiful, confident, and perfect, surrounding a cast of stock characters and mild stereotypes. All the shows characters have flaws, Jack included. The man who chases money, fails with love, lacks empathy, and will spin any problem for the good of the corporation. Tina knows that no one is perfect, which is why she doesn’t let her character be such, either.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  74. JMS wrote:

    The “let’s take a glamorous, successful beautiful, woman and put her in a show where she’s the butt of jokes” has been a staple of TV since “I Love Lucy.”

    Which is a show I can’t watch, because of the constant theme that the modestly talented Desi Arnaz is tormented by the inappropriate show-biz ambitions of his wife WHO IS LUCILLE BALL, ONE OF THE GREATEST COMIC ACTORS EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE ENTIRE WORLD and holy shit.

    Also, the jokes about domestic violence.

    In any case, yeah, comparing Liz Lemon to Mary Richards is pretty fucking enlightening about anti-feminism backlash. At least the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” writers didn’t put in jokes about how “unattractive” MTM was. Also, she had a female friend.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Permalink
  75. JMS wrote:

    Apparently, I was so pissed off that one of my commas went missing. Should be “glamorous, successful, beautiful woman” of course.

    I blame Ethel.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Permalink
  76. Chris wrote:

    Really the only two characters on the show that don’t really fit into any stereotypes or become diluted by their race, etc, are Grizz and Dotcom.

    How often do 2 large black men appear on tv as simply being 2 normal people? As normal as any person reading this article. They’re not thugs, they don’t seem like street-wise bloods. Their being black has nothing to do with who they are any differently than it would for any white person in a TV sitcom. It’s refreshing to not have to hear their few weekly lines boiled down to low brow stereotypes.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink
  77. Tracy wrote:

    Tina Fey is smart, classy, beautiful, sophisticated, funny, and downright perfect.

    So why can’t we give her any credit for making the choice to remain on the show, writing the episodes, executive producing, and playing the “Liz Lemon” character? Why instead must you insist that she has no freaking clue what she’s saying on tv?

    If you accept that she’s a brilliant new-age feminist, why do you immediately ridicule her for showing up week after week to write and star in the show? She obviously knows what she’s doing, or she would stop showing up, don’t you think? Or, she would write different episodes and sketches.

    Either accept that she’s brilliant, beautiful, and smart, and therefore when she appears every week, she’s an ACTOR on a TV SHOW, knowing full well what she’s saying and doing…

    Or still cling to the idea that she’s stupid, easily manipulated, and nothing more than the pawn of the writers, of whom she is one.

    The two ideas just do not match up, I’m sorry.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Permalink
  78. Rebekah wrote:

    It seems part of what leads to such rampant Liz Lemonism is that a great many people are white, cisgender, etc. etc. (thus allowing them to qualify as the majority), and may feel uncomfortable contributing to discussions about topics with which they have no experience. It’s not a fantastic excuse for reveling in privilege while espousing anti-privilege values, but it is an explanation.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Permalink
  79. Sady wrote:

    @Meg: Yeah, granted. And the self-deprecation is what makes it work. But Liz is not Chandler. Liz is like fucking ROSS.

    And, weirdly, I think they started playing on her unattractiveness LESS as Fey’s star rose! The first season was all about that! But at this point she’s hit the Franco/Hamm end of the Guest Boner Spectrum, so it’s like intermittent jokes. The arc in which she was dating the younger dude (“he’s like Zac Efron? That’s a thing, right?”) who was totally into her physically was the closest they ever came to acknowledging her cuteness up-front, but they’ve been wavering on it ever since.

    And, yes. I’m completely self-serious. The reason I self-consciously structured this heavy critical analysis of a fucking SITCOM after a Wallace Stevens poem, and my last post was a dialogue with a friend about female condoms illustrated with a garbage bags, and I continually make self-deprecating jokes about the fact that I am a Feminist Blogger whose first three results, if you type her name into Google, are “Sady Doyle Taylor Swift,” “Sady Doyle Twilight,” and “Sady Doyle Superfreakonomics,” whose blog subtitle is “ladybusiness” which is slang for “pussy,” whose blog title is “Tiger Beatdown” which is a reference to a teen mag specializing in dreamy updates on The Coreys and NKOTB, who writes guest columns about the most ridonkulous pop music (Ke$ha!) you can manage and is known, if she is known AT ALL, as the leading feminist expert on trash culture, is that I am a highly self-serious woman. And now you know.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Permalink
  80. Sady wrote:

    @Tracy: Which is why we’re expressing respect for her as a writer, etc, and holding her accountable for her choices on this show she runs and in which she plays the lead character.

    Seriously, I know it’s a long post, but is it too much to ask that you read it before you leave a comment?

    Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Permalink
  81. Lacey wrote:

    Love this post.

    Also, I had to:

    V
    I do not know which to prefer,
    The self-deprecating beauty of Liz Lemon
    Or the mainstream beauty of Cerie,
    Maggie Gyllenhall whistling
    Or Megan Fox’s unsubtle wink.

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 12:25 am | Permalink
  82. JMS wrote:

    Tracy, Lucille Ball was the producer of her show, too.

    Her show that relied for its humor every single week on what a loser she was, how clumsy, how untalented, how bad at everything, how her husband would spank her if she did something too wrong…

    Stockholm Syndrome! It’s what’s for dinner!

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 12:28 am | Permalink
  83. Daniel wrote:

    Thanks for this post, I liked it a lot.

    I wonder though if you could say what you think differentiates Liz Lemonism from the feminism that Nina Power criticized in Jessica Valenti? Liz Lemonism seems a lot like consumerist feminism or middle-class feminism (see also here http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/24/middle-class-feminism-politics).

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 12:40 am | Permalink
  84. Red Stapler wrote:

    Thank you so, so much for this.

    I’ve watched a lot of the first two seasons, and aside from a few laughs, it really mostly just made my skin crawl.

    What bothered me immediately about the show was this:

    It was lauded as this OMG FEMINIST SHOW TINA FEY TINA FEY IS A WOMAN AND SHE’S FUNNY AND A FEMINIST LA LA LA.

    And then it’s a show about a hyper-privileged, self-important ass (Jack) intruding in on a show created and run by women (TGS), and installing another (albeit black) man (Tracy) to take over and “improve” it.

    And nothing Liz or Jenna could do or say could stop it.

    Yeah.

    That sounds like a feminist paradise to me.

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 12:59 am | Permalink
  85. Jessica wrote:

    I really enjoyed this article and found myself agreeing with a lot of it. (And I also get compared to Liz Lemon in terms of awkwardness, although I’m not white or short and I don’t have cool glasses.) I’m sorry, I couldn’t read all the comments, so I don’t know if someone already addressed this. But people have mentioned how Liz is the only character who people can really relate to – which I agree with, mostly. Yet do you think this Liz Lemonism is actually pretty self-aware? I mean, it seems to me that we’re supposed to see how shallow she can be. How privileged. That her character is supposed to make us think of the very things that Sady mentioned in this post, but that most people only take it at the most superficial level? I noticed many of the same things Sady mentioned, but I thought I was supposed to – supposed to know that Jenna and Tracy and Jack and etc. were not the only ones being caricatured. What do you think?

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink
  86. Ben wrote:

    We don’t like Cerie?

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink
  87. Samantha b. wrote:

    @William, thank you for sensitive response. I am just wary of two tendencies: 1) the divide and conquer logic where women are divided into opposing camps and 2) the logic that there is some sort of objective line between attractive and unattractive, when in fact those definitions are arbitrarily, but also very carefully constructed by our media, etc.

    Also, I would add that I think the tendency for women who are considered conventionally beautiful to invest in “glamor” often comes out of insecurity. The more you are made to feel like your looks determine your worth, my sens is, the more that you start to feel like your looks are never quite good enough. I’ve heard that supermodels will get insecure because they all know so and so has the best legs, so and so has the best breasts, etc. USian media really has set standards that are universally unattainable.

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  88. Sady wrote:

    @Daniel: Uh, mostly that Nina Power was WRONG?

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  89. Mary wrote:

    This is great. I work in a male-dominated, television, creative department located within the 30 Rock building. I constantly get compared to Liz Lemon, too. It’s natural that there are no men around Liz on the show… that’s how creative departments always seem to look… but it is weird that she doesn’t yearn for women to be there. That’s always bugged me, too, and I’m glad to have read this!

    If the field I work in and the field Liz Lemon works in had anything in common, she would be constantly trying to mentor Cerie through the male dominated environment – encouraging her to pursue something; to go for jobs she’s not qualified for just to let everyone know she’s got drive. I’ve never come across a woman in the workplace (whether VP or just one professional level above mine) that hasn’t tried to encourage me in some way. I’ve come across many pretty girls who at first try to play dumb… like Cerie… but I’ve never written them off and often sympathize with what causes this behavior. It doesn’t define who they are and it doesn’t stop me from asking what they think the next step in their career should be. Sure, there aren’t many women around… but that’s not because we’re threatened by other women or because we’re all too ugly and insecure to do anything but work overtime.

    I’ve always wondered why I don’t like 30 Rock as much as I should; why I watch all the other Thursday night shows as soon as I can and 30 Rock a couple days later. I think it’s because everyone’s a caricature on that show and sometimes it feels like an insult.

    But you said it better than my little comment here, so bravo! I just loved this so much I needed to find something to say… :)

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  90. David wrote:

    That there is a need for a word such a ‘cisgendered’ is, um, hilarious. Maybe TF herself will read this and decide to write an episode about it.

    All I can hope it that it will involves Cerie in an ill-fitting paper medical gown.

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  91. setecq wrote:

    “I have, for some time, been referring to a particularly irritating brand of privileged semi-feminism as “Liz Lemonism.” I associate this brand of feminism with a certain variety of white, coastal-city dwelling, fairly well-to-do heterosexual cisgendered woman, a woman with a comfortable white-collar job that is so very comfortable and so very white-collar that she is free to spend her spare time yearning for, and semi-believing that she could attain, something with more “meaning.” This woman doesn’t do Blogspot, but she does do Tumblr; she doesn’t do posts about sex workers’ rights, but she does do complaining about “raunch culture”; she doesn’t do anti-racism, disability activism, or trans ally work to any huge extent, but she does do “body image” (and oh, does she ever do body image, without taking much note of the fact that as a white, abled, cis person she conforms to the “beauty standard,” and benefits from conforming to it, in more ways than she will ever let on);”

    One of the most disappointing aspects of feminism, like many progressive ideologies, is the tendency toward this brand of No-true-Scotsmanism. If you dare label yourself a feminist without living life as an orphaned third-world transperson amputee of color, you are apparently the real misogynist.

    Disparaging or disregarding the experience of people because of their socioeconomic status, race, etc. is in no way better than the most basic misogyny I assume self-described feminists to oppose.

    The writer of this post goes on to equivocate a bit, chalking this bile up to some sort of Jungian issue of projection. That does not excuse all the weird wrinkles here. Is Tumblr now reserved for the elite, while the proles get Blogspot? I had no idea.

    Underneath the points I find ill-conceived and weirdly self-effacing is a point about how all people involved in feminism ought to be aware of their privilege. It’s a shame it’s couched in… that.

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  92. Sady wrote:

    @David: Haha, right? Trans people existing, and there needing to be a word like “straight” or “white” or “male” to denote people who AREN’T trans, because non-transness is not assumed to be the default, is fucking HILARZ. Sometimes I get together with my co-blogger, who is a trans lady, and we just laugh and laugh and laaaaaaaaaaauuuuugh about the fact that she exists and language accomodates her and the realities of our mutual existence.

    Oh, no, wait, I don’t! Because I’m not an ignorant fucking bigot! Shut the fuck up, David.

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink
  93. Sady wrote:

    @Smpollack: Oh, lord. No-one’s saying straight/white/middle-class/cis people CAN’T be feminist. Since I am ALL OF THE ABOVE, and a feminist, you would think that would be apparent. I just loathe ladies who get stuck in that and turn feminism into an excuse for self-absorption. And yeah, if you have a problem with that, maybe look at yourself in a mirror a little closer. Sorry.

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Permalink
  94. Erin wrote:

    Ha, I think your comment at 91 is the best comment ever, Sady.

    David, the fact that you went out of your way to comment about the word cisgender does not reflect well on you. I’ve had a few conversations with people on the internets who have an inexplicable problem with the word cisgender, and those people have consistently been the biggest tools I’ve ever encountered online. Perhaps you want to avoid being in that group.

    Friday, March 26, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Permalink
  95. crystal wrote:

    she and jenna are still “friends.” i like when jenna takes her out drinking.

    i think she mainly knows men because she is a tv writer, hence she works with like 95% men. i wouldn’t call her friends with any outside of jack and pete though- the others are just dudes at work.

    the thing about how ugly she is is something my friends and i discuss all the time. it’s infuriating!

    Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink
  96. Mitsu wrote:

    Very funny entry. However, I disagree that Liz is portrayed as “ugly” on the show — I think they consistently have portrayed her as pretty, but not that pretty. I.e., recall the whole episode when she visited Ohio and everyone thought she was a MODEL: i.e., in New York, she’s no big deal, but in Ohio, she’s GORGEOUS. I mean, obviously Tina Fey is more pretty than she’s portrayed, but still they’ve just been saying she’s attractive but not as hot as many of the people who inhabit the upper echelons of attractiveness in New York.

    As for the show being “feminist”, or Liz being feminist — aside from Liz saying she’s feminist I’m not really sure that’s ever been something I’ve thought was intended to be a major component of the show or her character. Is it supposed to be a “feminist” character just because she believes in equal rights for women and she’s a woman in charge of a show? It’s never seemed to me that the show has made a strong effort to be feminist or for Liz to be “feminist” in any truly political sense.

    Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink
  97. Bob wrote:

    “she does do complaining about “raunch culture”” And you do alot of complaining about a Tv-show.

    I do agree in many ways though. But this just cought my attention.

    Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Permalink
  98. Brett wrote:

    I’m coming to this late in the game (linked from Sady’s near-perfect analysis of Leslie Knope and Parks & Rec), nor did i read all of the millions of comments, so forgive me if I’m redundant.

    Even though 30 Rock isn’t my favorite television show, i feel compelled to defend it a bit. 30 Rock is cinematic and slapstick comedy vs the verite brand of the office and P&R. the satirical nature of the humor should guide how we see the characterizations. it also happens to be why i have trouble staying with the show, the characters are less sympathetic. they’re first job is to be ironic and satirical; to be the joke themselves. which is fine, but it’s harder for me to develop a relationship with them.

    Liz fails at being the perfect modern feminist woman in ways that many apparently relate to and find humorous. I think the ways she fails at feminism as well as femininity reveal the unfair and contradictory expectations society places on women. We all fail at whatever norms/ideals we try to become.

    i think this holds for your caveat with the “ugliness” of Liz. We should mind that the ugly jokes come exclusively from chauvinist men or Liz in her insecurity. that Fey is quite attractive only proves my point; the humor isn’t that Lemon is indeed ugly, but that there are unfair expectations placed on her to excel at her career (which she does) and also meet these very stereotypical standards of feminine beauty.

    So for example to see Tracy as a racist depiction of blacks as stupid, lazy, infantile, etc. is to really miss the point. it’s a send-up of such personas, constantly undercutting them with the ways in which Tracy does not conform to the expected performance of stereotypical “blackness” (he is an excellent husband for example).

    it’s interesting that your self-proclaimed privilege-attacking analysis had almost nothing to say about race and blackness in the show, other than pointing out that Liz is white. maybe that’s a plank in your eye for the specks for which you critique Liz, not taking up sex-workers’ rights etc.

    I didn’t like when the blog goes into oppression olympics style, complaining that Lemon/Fey don’t bother to care abut the disabled, sex workers, the third world, etc. Lemon has her concerns, which are perfectly valid; shouldn’t she want to succeed at her career and find personal happiness regardless of her feelings on porn? That she stands in a position of power or privilege doesn’t invalidate those concerns (who doesn’t stand in a position privileged in some way?). Also, I think the show is more aware of Lemon’s class privilege more than you give it credit for.

    So I guess i felt the blog was more personally focused, rather than attacking norms, systems and institutions. It took up issue with a type of PERSON (the privileged white woman) in a way that i dont think is useful.

    i also felt unsatisfied with the critique of the “thinking man’s sex symbol” (maybe because this one hit too close to home). cant i say that i find intelligence and humor (two of Fey’s qualities) sexy, without being because i want to appropriate them them into my oppressive idealized safe woman? Why is the ‘sexy librarian’ fantasy any more or less politically oppressive than pornography or any other sexual fantasy? I don’t want to get in the business of judging people, but my instincts say that truly valuing intelligence in my object of desire is less oppressive than simply desiring them for being “extremely lovely” in the Megan Fox sense.

    Monday, March 29, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink
  99. Brett wrote:

    oh, sorry to be endlessly pontificating like this but i wanted to add something.

    i think Liz Lemon’s failures at feminism are interesting and less distasteful than others.

    Leslie Knope (Parks & Rec), as Sady rightly points out, is kind of naive when it comes to theory and intellectual feminism; for her Margaret Thatcher is a feminist. but she is guided by her angelically pure motives: equality, admiration, showing love to others, community. she IS a public servant. and she has amenable politics and is the butt of sweet humor.

    what we might call “michael scott feminism” is much more distasteful. he uses politically correct slogans to be racist and sexist. the joke is how ignorant he actually is despite being schooled in the niceties of office PCness and working hard to achieve his romanticized version of the office.

    Liz Lemon’s is not “Michael Scott feminism.” She is not intellectually aware of a feminism that she implicitly rejects. Her comedy is how she tries to “have it all” like our current modern idealized woman, and the difficulties that come with this. She is self-involved like Scott, but I think shares with Knope an earnest belief that she can “have it all.”

    Monday, March 29, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  100. CC wrote:

    A couple of people have asked what being “cis” is.

    A “ciswoman” is a woman who was born female, as opposed to a transsexual woman.

    This is a surprisingly useful term if you talk much about transgender stuff.

    Monday, March 29, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink
  101. calla wrote:

    I love Liz Lemon and I think Tina’s rise to fame is fantastic (and so is her rise to hottness, if you really don’t think she was lovely before she dropped the weight and started wearing make up). But I am continually mortified at all the weight jokes they make about Liz. ‘Cmon Tina. You are not uniting your old peers – you are rubbing it in our faces. Jokes where Liz is supposed to rub her enormous belly, but then we realize that Tina Fey does not have said belly – at all – and we are left wondering what the hell that was about. It hurts that a woman like Liz who reveals so many aspects of women that haven’t been portrayed this way on TV ever before, would continue to push a standard that is simply impossible for many women to reach. Keep the jokes about Liz loving bad food, keep having her do things that are unatractive, but don’t pretend she’s overweight. I am happy that Tina found a way to lose weight – very happy. But it is bitterly insulting to so many women to constantly make fun of a women for being a size 2.

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Permalink
  102. angrymonkey wrote:

    Did you completely forget about Sherrie Shepherd who sometimes guest stars as Tracy’s wife?

    She could be in the door of feminism with you. And also Salma Hayek’s guest turn as Jack’s girlfriend. There are interesting connections to be made about how feminism (or the lack thereof) is played out due to race and culture. And the episode when Liz Lemon thought she met Oprah but it was sassy black teenager. I mean c’mon that’s a part of the Liz Lemonification of feminism which isn’t new exactly but it’s new for people who think it’s new.

    The uncomfortableness that Liz Lemon gets when dealing with the Other is palpable but so is the queasy feeling of envy.

    But it’s all good, being forgotten is nothing new.

    Keep calm and carry on.

    Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink
  103. Sady wrote:

    @angrymonkey: You’re so right! But she disappears for the longest periods of time, and then shows up in an episode very rarely, to the extent that she’s almost like the Maris of the show: Often talked about, but never seen.

    Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  104. Kathy wrote:

    I’m not a 30 Rock fan, #3 Hits a little too close to home. I could so easily — easily — be that woman when I don’t stop and think, “Wait.. is this (whatever injustice I’m experiencing at the moment) truly justified or coming from a place of privilege. Or rather, a perceived loss of that privilege.

    Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Permalink
  105. Heather wrote:

    Who the fuck is Liz Lemon?

    Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Permalink
  106. Hannah wrote:

    This is SO GOOD. Great post!

    Sunday, April 4, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink
  107. Tina Russell wrote:

    I saw the first season of 30 Rock and couldn’t watch any more. A lot of it was that all the characters, besides Liz and Jack (and sometimes Tracy), are joke characters, caricatures, cardboard cutouts that are more than a little offensive. Then, there was exactly what you describe, that Liz hates herself despite the obvious fact that she is beautiful and accomplished… when she said she was “beautiful in Cleveland” I wanted to throw my TV out the window. Wow, you’re hot—_if_ you’re gracious enough to leave Rockefeller Plaza and walk amongst us plebians! And… that Liz is supposed to be a feminist character when so much of the show is making fun of stereotypes of people not fortunate enough to be white TV professionals. It made me so angry just that I was supposed to think of this show as the highbrow TV comedy that could. I thought it was base and contrived. But, that’s just me. (whooooooo)

    Sunday, April 4, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Permalink
  108. Maggie wrote:

    I have to agree with Brett on this one. The best thing about Liz Lemon is how she FAILS at being the perfect feminist. Yes, the show’s target audience (and basic content) is liberal upper-class cis white urbanites, but the show is completely aware of this and pokes fun at it itself all the time. As Jack says when he first meets Liz, she is your typical “New York third-wave feminist, college-educated, single-and-pretending-to-be-happy-about-it, overscheduled, undersexed, you buy any magazine that says ‘healthy body image’ on the cover and every two years you take up knitting for…a week.”

    My only problem with the show is the treatment of Kathy Geiss, which targets people with mental disabilities. It makes me insanely uncomfortable.

    Monday, April 5, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink
  109. sarahhf wrote:

    Huh. Now I’m all paranoid because I fit the same description (young, thin-ish, short-ish, smart-ish brunette with stylish glasses) and nobody has EVER compared me to Tina Fey or Liz Lemon. This may have to do with me not being funny, like, ever. :) (I get Lisa Simpson sometimes, actually. And once Rachel Maddow. That was awesome.)

    Anyway, I love this post. Especially the door thing and the Maggie Gyllenhaal vs Megan Fox thing. I have tried so many times to explain my discomfort with that to my nerdy guy friends, and you nail it perfectly.

    Monday, April 5, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink
  110. brent wrote:

    How I would describe your writing:
    Potent, shocking, poignant and hilarious. I’m glad you’re writing.

    I like comment 108. I feel like in a way, they are as relevant as they can be while CONSTANTLY making fun of themselves. I am sad that what seemed like a show riding the wave of FINALLY being ok with pretty women being funny… is becoming less that.

    And also… in all of your points you forgot to mention that she is given the name “Lemon”, in that old sense of the word meaning unsatisfactory, disappointing, and feeble.

    Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  111. Becca wrote:

    Liz lemon’s parents aren’t even from the midwest; she’s from near Philadelphia, PA. Not that it’s even relevant or anything more than a stereotype, as are many of the ideas you seem to have about what women “should” be. I don’t think she’s held up as an ideal; if anything it’s a send-up of the way men often see women… breaking them down into “types” like Cerie, jenna, and Liz.

    Friday, April 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Permalink
  112. Sady wrote:

    @Becca: For some reason, I keep thinking of PA as “the Midwest.” I think it’s because I come from Ohio, which is about as far to the East as you can be, and still be considered Midwestern. I had the opportunity to hear a very smart man, who was very into place and identity and history, explain to me that “Midwest” is a really, really amorphous concept and cities like Philly and, say, Columbus OH, have way more in common with each other culturally and economically than Columbus would have with certain towns in Montana or Kansas. So, yeah, I think it’s just the intense similarity between my Midwest and their East that means I always slip up. I tell people that “The Office” is “set in the Midwest,” too, and then they think I am stupid.

    Also, what are these scary scary ideas I have about what women should be? I don’t see that many of them in this post, to be honest. I see a kind of defensive, shitty attitude in your comment, however!

    Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  113. David wrote:

    #11– Seems like Fey made Lemon’s character with this in mind. She wants people to like the protagonist!

    But that’s the obvious flaw; she’s a babe, and her dorky quirks are charming. WTF!
    Doesn’t add up!

    Monday, April 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  114. dc wrote:

    Just to honest: I’ve never watched a 30Rock episode all the way through.

    Nonetheless, I found your article frigging brilliant, and funny.

    I’m coming back for more.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink
  115. Michelle wrote:

    “she can’t have a conversation with you about Michelle Tea, Sugar High Glitter City, Kathy Acker, or Carolee Schneeman, but she can tell you that as a feminist she has a right to be Concerned About Porn; she’s Brooklyn not Queens, brunch not breakfast, flirty not slutty, fond of cupcakes and feminist theory but unsure how to make either one herself, and thoroughly incensed about Vajazzling.”

    Here via Rebecca Traister on Salon. I had not heard of this backlash against Tina Fey until I read that article, which I think demolished your argument entirely.

    However, this paragraph really bugs me and I just want to address it. It reeks of intellectual snobbery. With the exception of Michelle Tea, I could not talk to you about any of those people, but I don’t think that makes me less of a “good” feminist or makes me into this hated concept of a Liz Lemonist.

    Tumblr not Blogspot? What the hell are you talking about? I mean, is this where we’ve stooped to in our search for things to critique about other women? I am glad Rebecca Traister dug out the quote from the premiere of “30 Rock” in which Tina Fey had Jack as sharing this exact criticism with Liz Lemon. I should also note that Tina Fey was echoing a much earlier line by Woody Allen in “Annie Hall.” So congratulations on reducing women to cultural stereotypes in exactly the same way as a creepy misogynist way back in 1977. Plus ça change…

    And not to nitpick, but Brooklyn not Queens? This statement is the icing on the cupcake I apparently don’t know how to make. Brooklyn has 2.5 million residents, less than half of whom are white and a quarter of whom live below the poverty line. It is, along with Queens, one of the most ethnically diverse places in the United States, with a massive population of immigrants from all over the world. What the hell does Brooklyn not Queens even mean?

    Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  116. Leah wrote:

    I wrote about this in 2004, but it wasn’t eloquent and I don’t know feminist theory… I just knew the way she was acting on Conan rubbed me the wrong way.

    Standing ovation to this post. I put a link to my post above.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

22 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bram Gielen, Bram Gielen. Bram Gielen said: Sady Doyle sorta nails it, as usual. Feel properly scolded, kinda. http://tinyurl.com/yf8hyuj [...]

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  3. Already Thursday! How? « Gerry Canavan on Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:50 am

    [...] * Thirteen ways of looking at Liz Lemon. [...]

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  5. Liz Lemonism « Hysteria! on Friday, March 26, 2010 at 9:53 am

    [...] marybullstonecraft If you haven’t already, get thee to Tiger Beatdown and read Sady’s fantastic post on Liz Lemon, and, as she puts it, “a particularly irritating brand of privileged [...]

  6. [...] this bounces off a post from Tiger Beatdown recently about her irritation with the Liz Lemon character on 30 Rock. Now, I don’t watch 30 Rock, so I’m not familiar with the character or [...]

  7. [...] I don’t learn lots from Tigerbeatdown’s feminist blogger Sady; her awesomely-written 13 Ways of Looking of Looking at Liz Lemon muses on how a particularly popular brand of Lemon-ish feminism is not only midguided but selfish, [...]

  8. [...] recommend reading Sady Doyle and Amanda Hess’s recent conversation following Doyle’s Tiger Beatdown piece on the [...]

  9. This is not what a Liz Lemonist looks like. « Gynomite! on Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 1:21 pm

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  13. Link(s): Fri, Apr 2nd, 8am | Your Revolution (The Blog!) on Friday, April 2, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    [...] 13 Ways of Looking at Liz Lemon [...]

  14. [...] Tiger Beatdown › 13 Ways of Looking at Liz Lemon "I have, for some time, been referring to a particularly irritating brand of privileged semi-feminism as “Liz Lemonism.” I associate this brand of feminism with a certain variety of white, coastal-city dwelling, fairly well-to-do heterosexual cisgendered woman, a woman with a comfortable white-collar job that is so very comfortable and so very white-collar that she is free to spend her spare time yearning for, and semi-believing that she could attain, something with more “meaning.” This woman doesn’t do Blogspot, but she does do Tumblr; she doesn’t do posts about sex workers’ rights, but she does do complaining about “raunch culture”; she doesn’t do anti-racism, disability activism, or trans ally work to any huge extent, but she does do “body image” (and oh, does she ever do body image, without taking much note of the fact that as a white, abled, cis person she conforms to the “beauty standard,” and benefits from conforming to it, in more ways than she will ever let on)" (tags: feminism women humor sexism gender tv) [...]

  15. Tiger Beatdown « on Monday, April 5, 2010 at 3:53 pm

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  17. [...] starters, there’s been some Tina Fey bashing. This isn’t new– some feminist bloggers have been complaining about Fey for a while. One (Melissa McEwan) even railed Tina Fey for not [...]

  18. [...] feminism can be problematic. At least, that’s what TigerBeatdown blogger Sady Doyle argues in a fantastic post published last month. She outlines 13 different ways of thinking about Lemon, but here are some of the [...]

  19. [...] Rachel Dratch as Jenna Maroney and then had to replace her with buxom blond Jane Krakowski. Tiger Beatdown’s Sady Doyle wrote an astute critique that went beyond Fey’s aesthetic double-consciousness to the heart [...]

  20. [...] to vote), that’s all that matters, no matter whose subordination it’s built on.  That might be Liz Lemonist, but it’s definitely not [...]

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