Tina Fey Won't Take Over Saturday Night Live. And That's Fine.

What Women Really Think
March 15 2013 3:32 PM

Stop Asking Tina Fey to Save Everything in Entertainment   

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Tina Fey is too awesome to spend her career cleaning up other people's messes.

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Tina Fey explained why she won’t consider taking over Saturday Night Live when Lorne Michaels decides to step down. "I feel like SNL is so defined by Lorne's taste and his sensibility," she said. "When he wants to stop, it should just stop.” In February, after Seth MacFarlane's sexist, unfunny turn at the Academy Awards, Fey said she wouldn't be interested in rescuing that particular plagued institution either. “I just feel like that gig is so hard. Especially for, like, a woman—the amount of months that would be spent trying on dresses alone," she said.

It's understandable that people want Tina Fey to swoop in and save the day. She's a well-regarded woman in Hollywood, she's freed up now that 30 Rock is over, and she and Amy Poehler were the rare hosts to actually ace their gig at the Golden Globes. But the idea that Fey should be the person who sets right events like the Oscars or shows like Saturday Night Live is lazy and unfair to her as an independent creator.

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Fey isn't the only person who's the subject of our pop culture savior dreams. When word came down that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm and would be producing new Star Wars movies, many fans immediately jumped to the idea that beloved sci-fi auteurs Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams should take over the franchise. It’s reasonable that people like both Whedon and Abrams' work and want reliable hands behind the helms of big properties. But both men were already running big franchises: Whedon had The Avengers, and Abrams, who did end up taking over Star Wars, had Star Trek.

Asking a few people to take over all of pop culture, even if they're good at what they do, means asking for pop culture that's more homogeneous. It means trading the kind of innovation that could produce the new Whedon, Abrams, or Fey for known quantities.

And asking Fey to take over everyone else's properties and events is an especially irritating manifestation of the idea that women have to clean up other people's messes. After MacFarlane went to the lamest gender joke well possible, the hope is that Fey's feminism would make up for his fubars. But why not just ask men to not be lazy in the first place? Giving Fey work doesn't magically erase the media sexism those of us who consume a lot of film and television have to put up with every day. And why should Fey, one of the greatest television comediennes of her generation, devote herself to continuing Lorne Michaels' legacy rather than continuing to build her own?

Alyssa Rosenberg writes about culture and television for Slate’s “XX Factor” blog. She also contributes to ThinkProgress and theatlantic.com.

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