Friday, March 28, 2008

30 Rock: Liz Lemon Is My Hero. Enough Said.

As an independent, smart, young professional, I often feel that, while television thinks it is catering to my demographic, it falls short of offering me something that defines girls of my generation. I've talked here before about Meredith Grey, and the fact that she represents what's wrong with my age group: the indecisiveness, the poor life choices, and, of course, the tequila. I love her, I love her story, but I don't want to be her.

While writers create characters who they think represent "the modern woman," they create a caricature of this independent big-city girl who's really not like me at all.

Cashmere Mafia? Lipstick Jungle? I've never even met someone like those women. The girls who I hang out and work with are nothing like that.

And, yes, they're characters. On TV shows. Meant to entertain us. But I've been missing characters with whom I could share experiences, who I could identify with on a regular and situational basis. I've been looking for someone like early-series Monica Geller, who was neurotic and nit-picky and bad at relationships...but who knew what she wanted and worked hard to get it.

And finally, a full fourteen years after Friends went on the air, I watch a show centered around a character who I know.

Her name is Liz Lemon, and she is me.

It's so easy to identify with Liz. So much about her is exactly what my friends and I experience. She's sort of slouchy, she's not overly concerned with how she looks or what people think about her, and she's everybody's go-to girl for fixing situations.

Jack Donaghy freaks the crap out of Liz by pinpointing her as a "New York third-wave feminist, college educated, single and pretending to be happy about it, overscheduled, undersexed, you buy any magazine that says 'healthy body image' on the cover and every two years you take up knitting for...a week."

When I saw that episode, I looked sadly across the couch at my unfinished knitting project, a purple jacket that I might finish two years from now.

What Tina Fey as Liz does brilliantly, though, is to embrace the funny in this description. From hearing that, you might get the (wrong) idea that Liz is some pathetic, lonely loser. But she's not. Her social skills may be lacking, and she is sort of a geek, and she's certainly a stress eater, but so am I. And that's okay!

One of the things I love most about Liz is her approach to relationships, marriage, and babies. I feel like a lot of my peers are ready to really get into the work thing. We're on the verge of graduating or have just graduated from college, we're poised to take good jobs...and none of us really have boyfriends. Like, seriously, all of my guy friends have dates all the time, and I have no idea where they find these girls, because they're certainly not running in any of my circles. I think most of us appreciate the fact that, in the traditional sense, we would not be good girlfriends right now. I work forty hours a week, I'm taking fifteen credit hours, and I'm in a play. My social life is talking about The Hills with my roommate while we sit back to back writing papers at midnight.

Are we okay with it or are we just pretending?

Liz says she's okay with it, and we don't usually see her stressing out about finding a guy and having a baby, but that stuff definitely creeps up on her from time to time. And when it does, it's this unique combination of heartbreaking, honest, and hilarious. Take, for instance, when Liz goes along with Cerie to a wedding gown fitting and ends up not only maxing out a credit card to purchase a dress, but wearing it back to the office. She's not willing to part with that image of her wedding, yet she refuses to settle for a situation or a guy who doesn't meet her standards. This is why she's a little disgusted with Cerie for getting engaged after only five weeks of dating. [Cerie: "It'll be two months in three weeks."] To Liz, Cerie is rushing into things with someone she doesn't really know or respect...but she also has something that Liz really, really wants and doesn't know how to get.

That sentiment is doubly so for babies. When asked to hold her co-worker's baby, Liz ends up with "highway hypnosis," accidentally carting the baby home to her apartment. She wants kids, but can't picture herself doing it under a set of less-than-perfect circumstances, i.e. alone or with the wrong guy. (You may remember that Monica Geller had the same realization in a pre-Monica & Chandler episode of Friends.)

That's why I'm so, so intrigued by an upcoming episode recently teased by Kristin dos Santos. Apparently, Liz, who according to Tina Fey, "probably hooks up once every seven years," hooks up with two of her exes (Dennis and Floyd). She worries she might be pregnant and finds herself questioning who the potential babydaddy would be.

First of all, yes, please, bring back Jason Sudeikis (Floyd). While you're at it, send him over to The Office and have him play Jim's brother. Kthanksbye.

Secondly, I might judge Liz a little for getting back with Dennis--even for one night--after the way they ended things. (She ditched his sorry ass after finding out that he was being investigated by To Catch a Predator.) I can see her being whoa grossed out by the idea of having a baby with Dennis...it's not a pretty thought.

Where would she stand with Floyd on the subject? She might like the idea at first, thinking about Floyd moving back to New York, starting a little New York family with him, how freakin' cute a Floyd/Liz baby would be...

Ultimately, though, I think she'll be relieved by a negative test. She won't have to be suspicious of daddy drama for nine whole months (that's SO not what 30 Rock is about, anyway), and she knows that she wants the whole thing to happen on her own terms. I still don't think she's opposed to making it happen with Floyd, who's attractive and smart and sort of perfect for Liz, but "her own terms" includes New York and includes her job, which may still leave her at an impasse with Cleveland-aholic Floyd.

We shall see, I suppose, what fate/Tina Fey has in store for the delightful Ms. Lemon. Hopefully by the series' conclusion, Liz will not only have many, many more Emmys (and Tina, too!), but also a super-presh family like Tina Fey has herself.

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