Why Tina Fey's Self-Deprecation Is Good For Women

Illustration for article titled Why Tina Fey's Self-Deprecation Is Good For Women

Fellow Tina Fey-natic blogger Kate Harding has a quibble with the Emmy-winning 30 Rock star. It bugs her that Tina Fey makes fun of her own looks in her comedy. "Even if she thinks of herself as a geeky underdog," Harding writes, "these days, the woman is fucking conventionally gorgeous. Whenever there's a crack about her looks on 30 Rock, I'm torn between being sad that she apparently doesn't see that in herself and being pissed off that she's reinforcing the idea that having brown hair, glasses, and a figure that's maybe a size 2 instead of a 0 actually equals ugly."I think Harding is entirely missing the point here. First of all, the person who most makes fun of Liz Lemon's appearance is her blowhard boss, Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy. You know, the same man who said, in response to Lemon's declaration that she had $12,000 in her checking account, "What are you, an immigrant?" The idea here is that when Jack Donaghy rags on Liz Lemon, you're supposed to think, "Jack Donaghy's a LOLworthy asshole," rather than "Liz Lemon is a total heifer." Secondly, Tina Fey isn't conventionally gorgeous. I'm not going to argue here about her specific clothing size or her precise level of attractiveness, but come on. "Conventionally gorgeous" in America these days is Heidi Klum. Perhaps Tina Fey is an idealized version of a "real" woman, but she is 99% more "real" than most other women we see on TV. Thirdly, while Fey's character is portrayed as a nerd, she's also portrayed as someone with an amazing career that many, many women would die to have. It's not like she's some pathetic creature; her "geeky underdog-ness" is generally shown in flashbacks from her childhood and adolescence. I don't see how Fey's occasional self-deprecation is reinforcing the idea to anyone that being bigger than a size 2 is "ugly." There's more! When Liz Lemon falls into the common tropes of single womanhood (choking on a TV dinner in her kitchenette), it's supposed to be parodying precisely the kinds of media that reinforce ideas that unconventional women are unworthy (see Liz Lemon drinking wine while running on a treadmill and MILF Island for further reference). Harding also writes, "No one likes an egomaniac, but frankly, no one likes self-loathing people, either," but Fey's self-deprecation — "self-loathing" is way too strong a word — is precisely what makes her relatable. In an ideal world, yes, we'd all feel just dandy about ourselves and greet each day with animated canaries perched on our shoulders. But most women? We have many moments of self-doubt, and seeing someone as successful as Tina Fey be self-deprecating gives us all permission to be imperfect. Also, it's damned funny. Having a completely well-adjusted television mogul as a main character? That sounds boring as fuck. 30 Rock is a comedy, which is not to excuse comedy from having a conscience, but expecting it to tow the line of extreme P.C. body image standards is barking up the wrong tree. 30 Rock is a damned sight better than most shows on television in showing women with "real" bodies and addressing body image issues, like when Jane Krakowski's character, Jenna, gains weight and Jack Donaghy says, "She needs to lose thirty pounds or gain sixty. Anything in between has no place on television." With lines like those, Fey incites a jumping off point for discussion, and isn't that what the best television should do? Something To Talk About [Shapely Prose] Earlier: 30 Rock's Liz Lemon Is Stranded On MILF Island 30 Rock's Liz Lemon Drunk Dials, Sings Alanis Morrisette Into A Wine Bottle Microphone


My favorite Liz Lemon line: "I'm going to go talk to some food about this." Because I've been there.

Honestly, I have never related to a character or "celebrity" more. Like someone has already said, comedy is almost always about self-deprecation. Yes she is pretty and thin, but she is also smart and funny and as women we grow up expected to be pretty and thin, yet expected to apologize for being smart and funny. I love that she has turned this around.