Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Potemkin Unattractiveness of Liz Lemon

I just read this post, 13 Ways of Looking at Liz Lemon (h/t Bill Simmon), which makes a number of observations about 30 Rock that are worth your time if you like the show. Probably the most interesting aspect of 30 Rock is the constantly advanced notion that Liz Lemon is unattractive when it's quite obvious, by a visual inspection, that she's not. Self-deprecation is a tried-and-true way of mining comedy from your personal life, but jokes about Tina Fey's unattractiveness ring about as hollow as Jerry Seinfeld doing jokes about flying coach now. Seinfeld is a gazillionaire who probably hasn't flown coach since 1989, and Tina Fey is definitely cute. So one might ask, perhaps with Seinfeld's particular intonations, what's the deal with Liz Lemon?

I wonder if this has something to do with a residual self-image issue. Fey used to be much heavier and more homely in general, so it's possible that she sees herself as an ugly person, culturally speaking. (I hate myself for writing something so Brooksian, by the way.) Perhaps that's why she feels she can get away with those kinds of jokes. But if these jokes are an attempt to get audiences on her side, in some way, the whole thing just strikes me as backwards. If anything, it smacks more of false humility, like Fey is trying to make a joke about being unattractive to solicit contrary opinions. I don't know if that's the goal, but it's not unreasonable to assume that it might be.

Then again, I guess it's easier to think of "Liz Lemon is ugly" jokes than it is to think of "Liz Lemon is totally sexy" jokes. As Jon Hamm's stint on the show proved, it's not that easy to make jokes about how attractive someone is. But about how ugly they are? Easy. My guess is that's the real reason why those jokes are there.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.