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?

Valentine’s Day & Hollywood, Sittin’ in a Tree

Let me preface this by saying I’ve never really cared about Valentine’s Day. Sure, I want to do something for the holiday, but I don’t make a big hoopla about it. Honestly, most of my excitement for a Valentine’s Day celebration goes towards the molten chocolate cake I’ll order for dessert. (No offense to the significant other.)

Like all the cynics say around this time of year, it’s a made-up holiday for the greeting card industry to profit off of. Well, Hallmark might wanna watch out – because Hollywood producers and celebrities want in on it too. Take this year’s un-creatively titled Valentine’s Day, for instance. Opening today in theaters, this film is taking the ensemble cast and multi-storyline concepts to a new level, and is almost solely designed for Valentine’s Day couples in need of a date movie.

I mean, just look at all those famous, pretty faces in that pink heart on the poster! How could people not see it?! Unfortunately for these producers and the “director of Pretty Woman,” physically dragging my boyfriend (and myself) to the theater to see this seasonal one-weekend wonder is not my idea of a good Valentine’s Day. But that’s just me. I am curious to see in the box office results how many couples felt it would make for good V-Day plans. Or, more realistically, how many people just went because they had nothing else to do and their significant other thought it would be “cute.”

Now by the trailer, I understand that I’m supposed to believe this romantic comedy with multiple plots is different. It has the cynics, the women who hate Valentine’s Day, the ones who don’t have a perfect relationship, and the ones who think they are alone on this romantic holiday. But…I’m still not buying it. For me, it looks like a much-cheapened Love Actually (a movie I thoroughly enjoy) that’s riding on the coattails of the charm from the brilliant shorts collection, Paris je’taime. (And by the way, if you really want to stay in and watch some good stories about romance, check those ones out.)

Yes, a lot of movies come out around Valentine’s Day. But this one is too narrowed to the holiday, and seems to lack the meat and guts of a good, enjoyable film. (Don’t believe me because I haven’t seen the movie myself? Just read all the bad reviews.)

I guess it’s not just the direct Valentine’s Day marketing that bugs me. Whenever I see trailers for movies like Valentine’s Day or Tooth Fairy, or some completely horrible-looking generic action film, all I can think is: That’s where the money’s going? That’s what producers spend their time on? Really?

I’ve been called a “movie snob” and someone who’s “difficult to please” when it comes to films before, but for me it comes down to the sad reality of what we’re not seeing. By releasing movies like these, funding and promotions are going to pointless projects like Valentine’s Day – a film that is only relevant and marketable for one weekend – instead of God-only-knows what brilliant screenplay is just sitting on a script reader’s desk collecting dust.

“Eh, this one’s too hard to grasp, too complicated,” I imagine them saying. Push it aside, shrug, and make Valentine’s Day with 30 famous PYTs instead. That’s what really gets me.

But hey, it’s Hollywood after all. What more should I expect? And if Valentine’s Day was really made just for profit and sales, then what better partner for it than Hollywood? This, it seems, is a perfect match.

@-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.

TLC and the Celebrity Family

Kate Gosselin and her eight children. Photo credit: INFphoto.com

Yes, TLC is an acronym for “The Learning Channel,” but within the past few years, you might as well call it, “The Famous Families Channel.” (Though I’m not sure how catchy the acronym TFFC is.)

How did this all start? Well, Jon & Kate Plus 8, of course. Before it was a full-blown weekly series, it was a few specials. Back then (in 2007), Jon and Kate Gosselin were just two parents with two sets of multiples. They let the TLC (or Discovery Health, previously) cameras into their home and hospital rooms. They seemed…normal. An average couple with an extraordinary circumstance.

TLC caught on quick – “This makes for good TV.” Thus, the series. But what most people probably didn’t expect was the fame, the tabloids, the paparazzi, the diva stories, the public controversy. All of a sudden, it was as if TLC’s relatable big family from Pennsylvania was on the same step of the Fame Ladder as Mariah Carey.

Now Jon & Kate Plus 8 is no longer, with the series finale airing on November 23. A “spin-off” – Kate Plus 8 – is probably going to happen though. Fans can’t get enough of The Gosselins, yet they are disappointed in their fame-induced corruption all the same.

With The Gosselin family no longer really contributing to the “wholesome” family image that TLC wishes to present, the network has brought on some other options.

Just when it was looking bad for The Gosselins, 18 Kids and Counting started to become more marketable for the channel. The Duggar family seems more religious, more humble, and far less destined for paparazzi doom than Jon and Kate.

The other, Table for 12, sounds eerily close to being a desperate replacement for Jon & Kate Plus 8. The official website’s TV show index even describes the show with the following snippet: “Betty and Eric Hayes are raising three sets of multiples, totaling ten children.” The show is fairly new and currently in its second season.

I don’t know which question to ask – What happened to family? or What happened to television?

With the success (or failure, depending on how you look at it) of Jon and Kate Gosselin, is this the new trend? Parents with multiple children going on TLC for hopes of the same fortune? When did the media start caring about families in this way? Do you just have to have a lot of kids and a controversial divorce? Or are we so disillusioned with family life that we’ll sit and watch anyone with more than 2.5 kids?

And when did you get to become a celebrity just by being a parent on reality TV?

I have a lot of unanswered questions, and a lot of sincere confusion and discomfort about the whole situation. Whatever the answers are, I’m afraid that they all point to a modern-day lack of understanding of the importance of family, as well as a lack of original content and creativity on television.

I do have one suggestion for TLC though: Why don’t you put a gay-parented family on air already? Seriously, try it. Your viewers might actually learn something.