guest blog by Julia Kennedy
As “30 Rock” finishes its seventh and final season this week, it’s worthwhile to reflect on how Liz Lemon has functioned as a leader on the show.
A lot has been written over the years about “30 Rock” and how it addresses feminism and gender politics. The show, a satirical, loosely semi-autobiographical exploration of the goofy yet lovable Liz Lemon’s personal and professional life, offers plenty of moments addressing current ideological debates: Are women funny? Can women have it all?
Throughout this season, the emphasis has been on wrapping up everyone’s stories, be they personal or professional. Jack, Liz’s boss, schemes to bring down NBC. Liz attempts to keep her show, “TGS,” running smoothly as well as balancing her relationship with her boyfriend, Criss. Much of the focus on Liz’s storylines have been on how she and Criss are trying to have a baby, as well as on her personal relationship with Jenna, her former best friend and the female star of “TGS.”
Liz is never shy to speak her mind, no matter how unusual her thoughts. In the second episode of the season, “Governor Dunston,” Liz explores the influence of political satire in popular media through TGS sketches that use the exact words of a bumbling Vice Presidential candidate.
In the following episode, “Stride of Pride,” the show takes on the real life debate raised by Christopher Hitchens in an infamous Vanity Fair article in 2007: Are women funny? 30 Rock delightfully lampoons the entire debate by offering Liz as the outraged feminist to Tracy’s offensive ignorance. Liz’s comical contributions to the argument ridicule the existence of such a question in the first place.
Further into the season, we lose some of Liz’s active leadership, but we do see glimpses as to how her functioning as the head writer and manager of big egos has given her a strong grounding in terms of relationship management, a key skill to have.
Tracy learns when working with a wild Octavia Spencer in the episode “Game Over” that Liz has been able to deal with his crazy antics for years now, and he gains an appreciation for her handling of him. Tracy says a great line in reference to the question of whether women can “have it all”: “Liz Lemon does it every day. And looks great doing it.”
Tracy tells Liz at the end of the episode, “If you can take care of me, you can take care of anything,” which gives her the strength to want to adopt an older child instead of looking for a baby. These lines fully indicate that Liz is a beyond competent employee, despite offering her own brand of quirkiness.
Liz Lemon and 30 Rock seem to serve as a conduit for many of Tina Fey’s personal opinions and experiences, so in a sense, it is Fey’s own exploration of leadership in the creation of this show and getting it out into the public that is more striking than any action Liz Lemon as a character could take. Liz is integral to her own world as the protagonist and as friend, mentee, and boss, in that she is able to manage her relationships and her work in her own way, but the real leadership being exercised is that 30 Rock, a funny, surreal, insanely intelligent comedy, comes from its fearless creator, Tina Fey.
Julia Kennedy is a Barnard College senior and French major, and is currently an intern for the Athena Film Festival. She started The Wonder Women Project as a blog for her Athena Scholar project to address the representation of women and leadership in television, and continues to look for inspiring female protagonists on screen.