Tina Fey: Victim of ‘Superior’ Feminism

Writers: Do you ever get that feeling when you read something truly spectacular – whether it be a novel, a poem, or a commentary – and think, “Damn! I wish I wrote that…” Most likely you do, and I refer to this as “Writer’s Envy.” (Surely I am not the first to dub it this, and again, I feel that self-loathing setting in…)

Well, I felt that this morning when I read Rebecca Traister’s “The Tina Fey backlash” on Salon.com. (Don’t be put off by the length – it’s totally worth the read.) It was everything I’ve been wanting to say since I read Sady Doyle’s post ripping Tina Fey and her character Liz Lemon to ideological bits and pieces. Though I can never say it better than Rebecca Traister did, I feel the need to add on/give my two cents anyhow.

Back in January, I wrote a post entitled “Liz Lemon: Feminist Icon (Havin’ It All).”Ahh, those were the days when I felt that Liz Lemon as a character on 30 Rock was a favorite amongst feminists, standing out as probably the best female role model on current-day television. Boy, was I wrong!

Turns out, some feminists in the blogosphere are displeased with Tina Fey and Liz Lemon in terms of feminist rank. Because apparently, there’s a hierarchy of feminism now, and the “superior” ones (like Doyle) know far better than the ones who are not quite up to par (like Fey).

In a nutshell: Tina Fey’s satirization of insecurities marked by the independent, career-oriented woman used to be funny and loveable, but are now offensive and non-progressive in the world of feminism. And then the Fey-hosted SNL episode happened, and online commentaries exploded with disappointment – most notably with Fey’s use of the word “whore” when taking jabs at Michelle “Bombshell” McGee. (In my opinion: totally hilarious. Is that so wrong?) If it had only just been creeping in before, the backlash was now officially solidified.

How did we get to this point? As Traister poignantly says:

“While it might be fair to argue that Fey has profited from a feminist embrace, she did not ever pretend to be a standard bearer for contemporary feminism. We’re the ones who made her that, who overidentified with her, or with Liz Lemon, or with the Weekend Update host who declared that bitch was the new black, and attached to her a passel of our highest expectations and ideals.”

Yes, WE projected this feminist role model onto her ourselves. Hence, my blog post in January. Though at the time, it was a light-hearted, short and sweet kind of post embracing Lemon’s differences from other female TV icons (i.e.: Carrie Bradshaw), as well as her relatability.

Here’s the thing though: I should not have to feel ashamed for liking Liz Lemon and being a feminist at the same time. I should also not have to be ashamed for thinking Liz is a good female character on TV right now. But most people who have the “Liz Lemon is not a true feminist” debate have this holier-than-thou attitude, thinking they possess some secret, hidden key to “real, truer” feminism – something that Tina Fey is supposedly failing at implementing.

It’s annoying. It’s also pretty insulting, because the arguer is most likely assuming that Tina Fey and her fans are too shallow or stupid to comprehend this “truer” version of feminism. It’s kind of like, “You know, even though I also watch 30 Rock regularly and probably laugh throughout the episodes, I am a distinguished feminist amongst you all for dissecting Liz Lemon and outing her as a fake.”

These feminists expect too much of Tina Fey. Realistically, how can anyone expect a comedy like 30 Rock to be politically correct and perfect in ideology when it’s whole premise is based upon calling out stereotypes by employing them comedically? Traister beautifully ponders this notion of “where to draw the line” between feminism and humor, saying point blank:

Tina Fey is a professional comedian. She is not a professional feminist.

Thank God. Someone finally said what I was thinking in two succinct sentences. Rebecca Traister, I might just start projecting a feminist role model onto you.

The last thing that bothers me about this backlash? Liz Lemon is growing as a character. Because – imagine that – most main characters grow as the show goes on! (The idea!) So why are we expecting perfection and feminist-to-a-tee behaviors and decisions from a character who is clearly still figuring her shit out in her late thirties? This is another reason why some of us women love Liz Lemon: She’s figuring it out, just like the rest of us. No one is a textbook feminist at all times. (And if you think you are, don’t kid yourself.) Liz becomes more confident as time goes on. She refuses to settle. She starts to realize her true worth. I believe the last few episodes of this season have started to point towards that.

A feminist is not just born; she is grown into throughout life. And who’s to say that by age such-and-such (late thirties, in Fey’s case), you need to have developed all capabilities of the ideal feminist? Regardless, every woman is an individual, and I think sometimes feminism forgets that. Or ceases to care, at least when trying to prove its point.

Hell, maybe I’m a bad feminist for all I know. But for me, feminism should never have hierarchies. This isn’t a goddamned hazing initiation, after all. It’s not about weeding out the bad feminists from the good ones, and it’s not about shaming other feminists for not being feminist “enough.” Let’s all learn from one another, yes. I’m glad that articles like these help me to engage in discourse on women’s issues. And trust me, it’s complicated and difficult when writing a feminist post criticizing feminists who critize women for not being feminist enough.

Last time I checked though, feminism was about equality. And one would hope that a group aspiring towards true equality would at least cheer on and support the ones who are trying – in whatever way that is their own – to break the mold in places where there was little room to make a dent in the first place.

Instead, we find part of that group tearing apart one of the few women in entertainment today who profoundly resonates with us.

And you wanna talk about progressiveness?

@-ing the Celebrity: Famous People’s Online Personalities

Thanks to the internetz (the “z” is for ironic geeky effect, you see), the general public can now “connect” with celebrities via sites like Twitter and personal blogs. Both of these social networking tools have become almost vital for any modern-day famous person. And we can’t get enough of it.

Though still, a lot of people say, “I don’t want to know what celebrities are doing at all times.” But really, who are these people? I, for one, thoroughly (and sometimes guiltily) enjoy seeing what my favorite celebrities are up to at random times of a given day. On Twitter alone, I am following a diverse range of talent and TV personalities. I only follow “the ones I really care about,” with the exception of a few randoms. But the bottom line is: These famous people entertain and interest me with their daily 140-character thoughts and musings.

While I’m very disappointed that Kanye West does not cross-post his unnecessarily all-caps and exclamation-point-infused rantings on Twitter, HIS BLOG………WILL HAVE TO DO FOR NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!………. If you are looking for more celebrity blogs to check out, Bloggers Blog has a pretty nice list for you.

But Twitter – now that’s where all the fun is. With the exception of extremely busy and powerful talents like Madonna and Beyoncé, most celebrity tweets are pretty readily available because everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. For instance, I recently saw @jessicaalba on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and she discussed how she had just started using Twitter. She proceeded to take a picture of Fallon and herself with her camera phone to tweet to her fans.

Occurrences like these – where you can see a celebrity do one thing and then instantaneously see it again on their online profile – feel like a sort of breaking of the fourth wall. Not only can we obsess unhealthily about famous people we’ll never meet, but now we can be that much closer to them and pretend like we’re friends on Twitter?! Who wouldn’t fall for that! It really makes me wonder what kind of restraining order could have been filed against my Fifth Grade Self if Twitter had existed back during the days of Titanic and Leonardo DiCaprio had an account…

I mean…Ahem, yes…The matter at hand. Celebrity Twitter accounts can be amusing, envy-inducing, or even helpful. For example, I follow @Sn00ki because she constantly tweets self-taken photos of herself smirking in her bedroom; @mindykaling because she always has some funny commentary on pop culture events; @StacyLondonSays because she actually takes the time to give out fashion advice to her followers; @_M_I_A_ for her Kanye-esque typing style with an intense political stance; and @solangeknowles (my favorite tweeter of all) so I can drown in envy at her awesome fashion sense and cool lifestyle where she DJs for a hobby.

I’m not sure how those above-mentioned names all happen to be women (I really must be a feminist?), but that’s just me. My main point is that there’s some celeb-Twitter love out there for everyone. It must be the invasiveness and self-awareness of it all that really fascinates us. So if you get your kicks from knowing too much about famous people’s lives just like I do, I’d love to hear your favorite A-list or lower-list Twitter accounts.

And just for the hell of it in case anyone was wondering… it’s @colleenclaes.

Blogging as a Beacon of Hope in ‘Julie & Julia’

Amy Adams as Julie Powell in 'Julie & Julia,' 2009

Yes, I’m a little late on the Julie & Julia (2009) bandwagon. Since this isn’t for the purpose of review, let me summarize mine in one sentence: It was cute, sometimes annoying (mostly due to Julie and husband), but overall entertaining and hunger-inducing. Oh, and Meryl Streep was brilliant, of course…Okay I lied. Two sentences.

Aside from Streep’s performance as Julia Child, the part of the film that was most fascinating to me was Julie Powell. Not as a character, really, or even as a person (because she is real, after all.) Rather, it was her circumstance that was thought-provoking.

Her side of the story takes place in New York City 2002. 9/11 is ever-present in Powell’s life seeing as how she works as some sort of “customer service” representative for victims of the terrorist attack, or anyone complaining about plans to rebuild the World Trade Center. This, obviously, leaves a dark cloud hanging over her life. On top of that, she’s anxious about turning thirty because she has yet to accomplish her career goals.

There’s a scene early on in her storyline where Julie goes to meet up with “friends” for lunch. Though it makes absolutely no sense why this woman would be friends with these superficial and egotistical females, the lunch scene gives us a further glimpse into Julie’s situation. She’s not doing what she wants to do, people remind her of it constantly, and she feels like a failure. No, not just a failure. The best kind – a failed writer.

Now I don’t say that facetiously. Though, you have to admit, it’s an unfortunate common trend in the line of “failures.” But this is where Julie’s circumstance really starts to hit home. We find out that she graduated college with high hopes from herself and everyone else of becoming a successful writer. However, she’s bummed because she apparently had a book deal that fell through. She repeats self-deprecating remarks about her inability to finish anything, and yet she yearns to break free of her monotonous and emotionally draining job. She wants to be published.

And that’s where the blogging comes in. Blogs (“web logs”) have become increasingly popular in the late 90s and the 2000s. Julie entertains the idea of starting one, and her husband  encourages her saying it’s the easiest way to get recognized and published these days. After much debate on what to write about, it hits her that she loves cooking and has a special place in her heart for Julia Child. And thus, the rest is (recent) history.

Honestly, it was a bit strange to watch someone blog in a movie. I’m not sure why, but I guess it’s never really been explored so in-depth before in the context of a film. In this one, it’s half about blogging. And on top of it, Julie Powell becomes a successful writer because of the popularity of her blog, The Julie/Julia Project. More and more, the offers start pouring in, leading to book deals, agents, interviews, etc. (And as the end credits cheesily point out – a movie deal.)

I think Julie Powell’s character represents a lot of things, especially in the current economic times. She represents loss of dreams, disappointment upon graduation, and years of temp jobs she could’ve done better than. She also represents modern-day hope, success via online writing, and accomplishment when she least expected it.

This part of the film, I think, speaks very clearly to our generation – particularly the graduates in their twenties. To tell you the truth, blogging has been my sort of miniature savior in a time of recent post-graduation, bad economic climate, limited jobs, and seemingly nonexistent jobs in what I studied. As corny as it sounds, a comment and a page view trigger that little voice in the very back of my head saying, This is what you were supposed to do. So I’m thankful for blogging, the internet, and the accessible ways in which us writers and creatives can get our voices out there. Because without it? Well, times would really be tough then.

I think Julie Powell herself would agree.