Today in an interview with NPR promoting her book Bossypants, Tina Fey discusses the intended message of the 30 Rock episode "TGS Hates Women" — or rather, the fact that the episode didn't make a clear point about how women, and particularly women in comedy, should use their sexuality.
After Terry Gross plays the scene in which Liz confronts new hire Abby about her sexy baby act, Fey confirms that JoanOfSnark.com was modeled after Jezebel.com, and the controversy over Olivia Munn being hired by The Daily Show. Fey says:
That story is so loaded and complex that I was really glad that we did it and I think it has confused and sort of delighted the internet in a way because it sort of opens up more questions than it answers. For me it was about Liz is in the wrong. She thinks she's doing the right thing by trying to correct this woman, by trying to say "you don't have to be this way" and at the same time, this girl has every right to be whoever she wants ...
It's just such a tangled-up issue, the way that women present themselves - whether or not they choose to, as I say, put their thumbs in their panties on the cover of Maxim, and the way women judge each other back and forth for it. It's a complicated issue, and we didn't go much further saying anything about it other than to say, "Yeah, it's a complicated issue and we're all kind of figuring it out as we go."
In the episode we have a fake website, that we're referring to a feminist website called JoanOfSnark.com that the women at Jezebel.com immediately recognized that it was their website basically. And it was a reaction to the way I saw Olivia Munn ... treated on The Daily Show.
... I don't have the answer, but I find it interesting. That's all I can say. I find it interesting that Olivia gets people who go after her sometimes on these sites — because she's beautiful, I think is part of it. I think if she were kind of an aggressive, heavier girl with a Le Tigre mustache posing in her underpants, people would be like, "That's amazing. Good for you." But because she is very beautiful, people are like, "You're using that." It's just a mess! We can't figure it out."
Since Fey is probably the most prominent woman in comedy today, it can be frustrating when she raises thoughtful issues, then throws her hands up and says she just doesn't know where she stands. It also seems she missed an important part of the discussion. People didn't question Munn's place on the Daily Show because attractive women can't do comedy, but because she's not particularly funny. (Though if Fey really did recommend her for the comedy Perfect Couples, it would seem she disagrees.)
That said, we're still happy that Fey centered an episode of a network comedy around these issues. As she told Gross after she played the 30 Rock clip:
As we were listening to that I was thinking, you know it's just your typical sitcom two-minute long discussion about gender. No wonder no one wants to watch this program!
Well, there are at least a few of us who want to hear a smart and funny woman talk about gender, even if her conclusions are a bit ambiguous.