Today marks the series finale of 30 Rock, which, over its past seven seasons, has become and continues to be one of the best and most unique sitcoms on television to date. 30 Rock is remarkable thanks in no small part to its brilliant and absurdist humor, but its real heart has always been Tina Fey's Liz Lemon. Introduced to us in an era where plenty of women were still identifying as a "Carrie" or a "Samantha," Liz presented an alternative female archetype for us to identify with — a self-righteous, feminist comedy writer who loved her job and meatball subs more than she could ever love a pair of $700 shoes. Liz was smart, funny and occasionally mean. She was obsessed with Star Wars and went to college on a partial competitive jazz dance scholarship. Though successful, she was also a complete mess. In other words, Liz was a legitimate girl weirdo — a type that exists in abundance in the real world (sort of), but is rarely seen in movies and on television.
And for that we owe her a huge thank you.
We learned early on in 30 Rock that Liz's sharp wit and sense of humor was developed in part as a defense mechanism to cloak her abundant insecurities. Sure, it might be nice to see a woman on TV who's fully confident and self possessed, but there was something even nicer about seeing a woman who sought validation not in others, but in her own intelligence — even if doing so often was the basis for the show's jokes. Truth is that being the smartest person in the room can be alienating especially if a) you remind people of it constantly, and b) you're a woman. Liz Lemon was never afraid to call out that double standard, even when, as was often the case, her bullheadedness was slightly misplaced.
The fact that Liz could be so hypocritical and misguided gave many of us (particularly those of us from white, middle class and educated backgrounds) the chance to glance inward and put things in perspective. Maybe we were actually the mean girls in high school and not, as we previously thought, the dejected nerds. Maybe, despite how many NPR tote bags we own, our opinions on sexism, race and class still come from a place of selfishness and privilege. ("Tracy took advantage of my white guilt," Liz said back in season one. "Which is supposed to only be used for good. Like overtipping and supporting Barack Obama!") The fact that Liz could get us to relate to her and then force us to question ourselves — and laugh while doing it — says so much for the character and 30 Rock's writing.
People often complained about Liz's lack of interest and occasional squeamishness about sex, but a broader spectrum of women's sexuality — or lack thereof, depending on the individual — is certainly needed in media. The fact is that there are some women out there who, like Liz, didn't lose their virginity until they were 25 (or older), are disinterested in hook-up culture and find it equally (if not more) satisfying to stay up late playing Uno and eating Sabor de Soledad as they do getting busy. This type of woman — the Liz Lemon type — deserves to be represented just as much as her more promiscuous counterparts. (Besides, if it's a sexually expressive female that you want, look no further than 30 Rock's own Jenna Maroney.)
While Liz faced the usual bullshit societal pressures that all women face, she always managed to handle them in her own unique way. Yes, she felt the need to find "the one" (a term invented by Lemon's mentor Jack Donaghy) and get married in a white dress, but when she finally does it, she ends up wearing a Princess Leia costume. Sure, she wanted to have babies, but when that ends up happening, it happens non traditionally and unexpectedly. Crazy, dorky, neurotic Liz can have it all (and so can crazy, dorky, neurotic you), but all doesn't look nearly like she thought it would. And yet she rolls with it.
Best of all, Liz Lemon is, for the most part, completely accepting of who she is. While she may get occasionally jealous of Cerie or Jenna, in the end, she's is more than comfortable being herself. Beyond that, she seems to like who she is so much that it's almost impossible for her to change, which is fine because Liz is awesome. She's the type who can yell at her male boss and put him in his place, she's the type who goes to bat for her friends, she's the type who goofs around by pretending that a toy train is her robot penis and will wolf down entire sandwich in front of a TSA agent so she doesn't have to throw it away before going through security.
While it's sad to see Liz go, we can at least take comfort in knowing how she made some of us real-life female weirdos feel, for a full seven seasons, like we had a home on television.