On Mourning '30 Rock'
Girl Meets World
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 13:02
By the time you’re reading this, the last episode of “30 Rock” — Tina Fey’s ingenious NBC comedy — will have aired. After seven seasons, it had a good run. Still, I can’t begin to express how much Tina and her quirky comedy has meant to me since I first stumbled upon it in the summer of 2009.
That was the summer that my best friend and I discovered the magical “tribal loverock” musical “Hair.” When we saw it on Broadway, I fell in love with one particular cast member who, IMDb later revealed, had made a brief appearance in an episode of “30 Rock.” That is the extremely roundabout way that I finally decided to start watching the show.
That episode was called “Apollo, Apollo,” and it had some pretty typical “30 Rock” shenanigans. Jack Donaghy — played by the handsome, brilliant Alec Baldwin — is concerned that he’s aging, Liz Lemon — the incomparable Tina — is dealing with her insane ex-boyfriend Dennis Duffy and Tracy Jordan — Tracy Morgan, essentially playing a parody of himself — wants to go to the moon. This very strange episode shows what made “30 Rock” work — the situations and characters were extremely over the top, but underneath, there was this humanity that left the audience caring about them from week to week.
Since the show premiered in 2006, a lot has changed. Tina is now one of the biggest names in comedy. Shows dominated by men have been replaced with ones starring Amy Poehler, Zooey Deschanel, Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham. I’m not saying Tina was the only factor in this shift, but she helped open the door. Yet instead of talking about what Tina Fey has meant for women in comedy, I want to talk about what Tina Fey and Liz Lemon have meant to me.
Obviously I’m not a sitcom character, but there are some big similarities between us. We’re both nerdy, snarky, uptight and overbearing, but we’re still considered kind of funny by a very specific group of people. We both love mozzarella sticks, pizza, New York and Star Wars. We both had a lot of homosexual male friends in college. (In her memoir, Bossypants, Tina wrote the sentence that sums up many of my relationships: “The hardest thing about having someone ‘come out’ to you is the ‘pretending to be surprised’ part.” Teach it like you preach it.) Liz, for all her shenanigans, made me feel normal.
Yet Liz Lemon isn’t the type of character that often appears on television; she’s a middle-aged woman who’s not particularly likable, has a love life that’s only relevant when it’s outlandishly abysmal and is very poorly dressed. In 2006, comedic actresses meant the perfectly coifed stars of “Desperate Housewives.” Liz Lemon is the anti-desperate housewife. Tina also stayed away from some of the most obvious tropes; for example, she didn’t set up Liz and Jack because she thought their friendship was more interesting than any romance could be.
On “30 Rock,” Tina also coined some of the phrases and quotes that my friends and I can’t help inserting into our conversations on a regular basis. There’s the wonderful “I want to go to there,” which I’ve used in reference to everything from cupcake stores to British diver Tom Daley. There’s that fictional dance hit “Muffin Top,” a horrible song whose words I know by heart: “My muffin top is all that. Whole grain or low fat.” There’s the time Liz decided she was going to be “fun,” declaring, “Ain’t no party like a Liz Lemon party ’cause a Liz Lemon party is mandatory.” I’ve used that one a few times too.
Tina is also one of my feminist heroes, and I don’t think I would have found her without “30 Rock.” She delivered my favorite line in “SNL” history in defense of Hilary Clinton: “You know what? Bitches get stuff done.” Yes, we do. “30 Rock” was similarly full of small, subversively feminist moments that a less-attentive viewer might miss. Tina gets away with it because it’s comedy.
In her book, she wrote some short and brilliant advice: “Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.” That’s what “30 Rock” was — Tina (and Liz) doing her thing, fighting against a studio that wasn’t fond of a show with poor ratings, norms of what women should do in comedy, people who thought a woman in charge is automatically a “bitch.” So as Tina goes on to the even better things she’ll inevitably create, I just want to thank her for giving me courage to do my thing, to be a bitch, to eat mozzarella sticks and not to care if they like it.
Victoria Edel is a junior in the College. GIRL MEETS WORLD appears every other Friday in the guide.