Friday, February 18, 2011

I think I'm out on 30 Rock

Spoilers, I guess.

I just can't take any more of the "Liz Lemon is absurdly, comically unattractive and unlucky in love" plot lines. It's simply too incongruous with Tina Fey's beauty, Liz's smarts, and her position as a successful, prominent head writer and producer of a major network television show.

A lot of people seem to get mad about this line of reasoning. They offer lots of arguments why it isn't valid. Some people point out that Tina Fey isn't Liz Lemon, which is true. But Liz Lemon definitely looks like Tina Fey, and I assure you, a woman that looks like Tina Fey will be approached at a bar. Some people say that Liz Lemon's odd personal quirks and poor fashion sense make it understandable that she's alone. Sorry, no. If I saw a woman at a bar that looked like Tina Fey, drinking a bizarre mixture of Sprite and white wine and ice, I'd say, "look at that gorgeous woman." If I saw a woman at a bar that looked like Tina Fey, wearing an old hoodie and a fanny pack, I'd say, "look at that gorgeous woman."

Some say that it's part of the fictive makeup of the show, and that while the actress playing her is beautiful, her character isn't. The problem here is that 30 Rock is a good show for its willingness to have regular characters who aren't conventionally Hollywood TV show attractive. No offense to the actors who play Pete, Frank, and Lutz, but they aren't boy band material and the show makes that plain. How am I suppose to synthesize their looks with Tina Fey's? Some have said that the point isn't that Liz Lemon is physically unattractive, but that simply doesn't survive scrutiny. (On last week's episode she was called a "lipless middle aged woman.")

What about the fact that she was just involved in a long relationship with an airline pilot that looks like Matt Damon? Isn't that an example of a person that only someone of value is likely to be dating? Yes, they show lots of ways that Damon's character is dysfunctional. But plenty of dysfunctional attractive people with desirable occupations are romantically successful. I don't know how to reconcile a character that ends it with a guy who looks like Matt Damon and then goes to the bar assured that no one will hit on her.

I want to stress that this isn't just a case of a character being considered unattractive. The plot of this episode, aside from a weak B and C plot, is that she's so unattractive, getting her laid involves an elaborate conspiracy by her friends to set her up with a Swiss prostitute.

This is well-worn territory, of course. You could say that I just need to suspend disbelief to enjoy the show, and you'd be right. But the fact that the suspension of disbelief is necessary to enjoy something doesn't mean that I have to do it. I think I've found the place where I'm just not willing to suspend disbelief with this show anymore, as talented as the cast and writers are.


Sarcastro said...

Yeah, but do you laugh at the show? And the 30 Rock plotlines are a hell of a lot less jarring than the documentary-style camera/reverse camera shots in shows like The Office and Parks & Rec that somehow never revel the presence of cameramen.

Josh said...

Mmm, I think the point isn't that Liz is actually unattractive, but that she -- like a lot of attractive women -- thinks she is. And consequently, she lets herself get treated that way; she's also kind of a dick. I mean, the big theme of 30 Rock is how its characters' neuroses get in the way of their happiness. She only ends up with Matt Damon because he happens to perfectly match her absurd standards. (Also, I don't see how you could do a story about a woman feeling perpetually unattractive and actually cast an unattractive woman. Do that, and it's not funny, just mean.) Anyway, personally, I don't think Tina Fey is so strikingly beautiful that it's impossible to believe.

All that said, the show in general has become a bit of a drag. The Liz's love life plots are getting old to me, not because I can't believe them, but just because they're belabored. The Tracy-and-Jenna fighting bits are tired. I still like it, but I'm not convinced it's going to recapture its old energy.

(On the other hand, I think about the wedding episode last season, and it was really top-notch. So maybe I'm just grouchy.)

Paul said...

Tina Fey's "beauty"? Dude, come on, dude. Tina Fey is an attractive person, even a good looking person. But "beautiful" is just far too generous; it's like calling Mad Men "smart." You, like many where Ms. Fey is concerned, seem to be blinded by a bit of a crush.

Elia Isquire said...

I agree with the post, but I'd also add that the show started resting on its laurels and treading water at least a good 2 seasons ago.

Anonymous said...

As Paul said, by Manhattan standards, Tina Fey is no great beauty. In my experience - and the show is grounded in NYC, culturally and geographically, there's a large population of women in her position, desperate for love after years of dating or serial monogamy; and not finding it anywhere. The same is true for many men, of course. And this is all anecdotal. But as a New Yorker who doesn't have a crush on her, the joke is somewhat believable.

Freddie said...

Perhaps you guys are right. Try this on for size: I guess I'm just tired of the plot point. Seems to have been beaten to death.

Paul said...

That's cool, and I agree with you, but I bailed for that reason before Season One was up.

Joe said...

The point is that she doesn't really want a boyfriend or to get laid. She's married to her job.

Her constant whining about not getting any is her way of reconciling what she really wants with what she's expected to want. Nothing unrealistic about this at all. It's probably the realest part of the show.