Tina Fey and the Single Woman

What Women Really Think
April 11 2010 11:04 AM

Tina Fey and the Single Woman

Lately around the blogosphere there has been rumbling about the portrayal of Liz Lemon , the lead character played by Tina Fey on 30 Rock , this season. The perpetually single Liz has turned into something of a bunny boiler , embodying all the spinster stereotypes, particularly in a recent episode in which she tries to give an ex-boyfriend food poisoning when she finds out that he's marrying a hot young blonde.

One way of reading Liz Lemon is that her storylines are a meta-critique of the spinster stereotype. By this, I mean that the 30 Rock writers are showing the ridiculousness of the societal fear of single women by essentially making Liz into a Cathy cartoon. As a fan of 30 Rock generally and Tina Fey in particular, I tend to believe this is the case.


But this reading of Liz Lemon is complicated by the skits from last night's Tina Fey-hosted Saturday Night Live , almost all of which denigrated single women in some way. First there was the commercial for Duncan Hines' Brownie Husband , "The perfect blend of rich fudge and emotional intimacy," which shows a single working "auntie" who needs something that she can use to "stuff [her] feelings down with something [she has] feelings for." Then there was the skit with Justin Bieber, in which Tina Fey plays a Mary Kay Letourneau -type teacher who isn't sure if she wants to bang her student or make him her actual baby in a stroller. There was also a 9-inch-tall hooker and a fictional version of a Tiger Woods mistress commentating on the Masters.

It wasn't necessarily that the skits weren't funny-Brownie Husband (embedded below) made me laugh out loud-but it has come to the point where the pathetic single woman trope is such a constant refrain in Tina Fey's work that one has to wonder what she's really trying to say.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.