Tina Fey and the Single Woman

The XX Factor
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.


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