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May 6, 2009 3:55 PM   Subscribe

I Want To GOP To There. 30 Rock has a weird conservative streak. Or does it?
posted by you just lost the game (71 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. I'd think some more about this plate of beans, but it looks as though it's already been all thought out.
posted by Brak at 4:04 PM on May 6, 2009


That's... an odd interpretation.

Also: Since the election I have all but stopped watching the Daily Show. I have not stopped watching 30 Rock. Should 30 rock be more political?
posted by Artw at 4:06 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


30 Rock mocks many people on it's show, and joke-of-the-moment political gags aren't necessary to make the show more conservative or liberal. I'd say Jack's character is satirizing the whole MegaCorp CEO mentality/look quite nicely. Liz's fear of the "terrorist" next door? Mocking American fear of anyone with a stereotypically middle-eastern appearance.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:07 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I read that earlier today and thought the author had completely missed the boat on the show's humor. Sometimes a banana is just a banana.

And this is coming from the Ferris-Bueller-is-Tyler-Durden guy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:09 PM on May 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


God I hate slate. I'm sorry but that article amounted to nonsense and does not make a case for the point at all. 30 Rock takes the Simpson-esque directly a-political route and completely tears apart all political notions. Sending up things like lemon's sense of white guilt and amounting the kind of feeling that proclaims jack as the secretive mouthpiece of the show is speculatively asinine.

More on Slate. Any website whose soul purpose is to play devil's advocate to preconceived notions, no matter how often they may be correct, creates an impetus where more often then not they are striving to create the alternative truth rather than just reporting the truth; which makes slate amount to nothing better than the journalistic equivalent of the contrarian a-hole. It's completely irresponsible I'll rail on this forever. It definitely ties into Macluen's theories of linking medium and message into a singular entity: because that is slate's outright purpose, they undermine their own validity.

Of course, which is not to say Devil's Advocate can't be useful. For the best example on how check out most of Chuck Klosterman's stuff in general.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 4:12 PM on May 6, 2009 [17 favorites]


Yep. Can't say as I read anything but subtle mockery of conservatism from 30 Rock, when it does do political. I find it tends to hit on race and social norms more than politics, but there's more than a handful of Jack's offhand comments about his political acquaintances and such that speak of sarcastic views of Republicans.

I think it's probably just a really bizarre over-interpretation of the show, but one I really don't get.

Nope, really don't get.

Plus, even with that article they'd be more likely to comment on the fact his name's Weiner.
posted by opsin at 4:13 PM on May 6, 2009


Also linking to a anecdotal Gawker blurb doesn't necessarily strike me as a solid counterpoint to the first article.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 4:17 PM on May 6, 2009


And in fact yes, I'd paint it more as, like Lacking Subtlety says, gibberish.

Saying that the Jack/Liz relationship is about conservatism versus liberalism is missing the point, nay, inventing one of his own. I think if anything, on that front, it's more about the capitalist versus the creative type. Painting politics onto their respective lifestyles is just a lame excuse to write a shitty article, and that he decides to take half of Jack's comments and then take them too seriously just shows that the guy's a moron.

Sounds to me like Slate are the Pitchfork of... What exactly is it they think they're about?
posted by opsin at 4:18 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


The rule at slate is that every day is opposite day. Gawker talks about it all the time.
posted by moxiedoll at 4:20 PM on May 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


And this is coming from the Ferris-Bueller-is-Tyler-Durden guy.

Wait, what?
posted by heathkit at 4:22 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, if Gawker is ragging on you for assembling shoddy articles out of cheap controversy you know you're in trouble.
posted by Artw at 4:22 PM on May 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


The rule at slate is that every day is opposite day. Gawker talks about it all the time.
posted by moxiedoll at 4:20 PM on May 6 [+] [!]


Opinion of Gawker +1
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 4:23 PM on May 6, 2009


It's like that one checkout line at the supermarket that has the slightly-more-interesting-than-People magazines.
posted by xod at 4:28 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think if anything, on that front, it's more about the capitalist versus the creative type.

I think it's just a parody of all the extreme personalities that Tina Fey and her colleagues met during years and years at SNL.

Nahh, too obvious, right? There must be a secret code somewhere.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:31 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actually think that 30 Rock does have a strange relationship with conservatism. Not that it's a conservative show; it's a lot more complicated than Slate implies. We live in a world where we really don't want the Jack Donaghys of the world to be right, but we secretly wonder, what if they are? And if they are, is it better to be loyal to what's right even in the face of the truth?

It feels, truth be told, like a reaction to liberal disillusionment. If the U.S. is a country that wages preemptive war and tortures prisoners, if we have come not nearly far enough on gender and race issues, if the softest whisper of a social safety net has people yelling about socialism, where do we go from here? In a country where Jack Donaghy is right, how do you strike a balance between survival and becoming Jack Donaghy?
posted by Jeanne at 4:35 PM on May 6, 2009 [20 favorites]


I actually think that 30 Rock does have a strange relationship with conservatism. Not that it's a conservative show; it's a lot more complicated than Slate implies. We live in a world where we really don't want the Jack Donaghys of the world to be right, but we secretly wonder, what if they are? And if they are, is it better to be loyal to what's right even in the face of the truth?

...which seems to be the element that Weiner is struggling with. One almost might suspect the author of Defending the new Killers Album of being young, full of shit, and very much wanting to stay that way forever.
posted by Artw at 4:39 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or maybe the writers don't give two figs about the message because they're trying to bring the funny, and Tina Fey is at her funniest when she's self-depreciating and Alec Baldwin is at his funniest when he's staggeringly confident?
posted by Bookhouse at 4:43 PM on May 6, 2009 [13 favorites]


Slate sucks, but I agree that they're onto something, even if the conclusion that 30 Rock is a conservative show is a silly one. One of my favorite things about it is that Jack's "Republican" leanings are often vindicated, even as he is mocked for them.

If you think this is meaningless, you're failing to see the banana.
posted by grobstein at 4:43 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Arggg, that slate guy doesn't get it at all.

A show has to make the most obvious jokes about the easiest targets EVER (Sarah Palin looks like Tina Fey! Bobby Jindal looks like Jack McBrayer! YUK YUK, comedy!) to show its liberalism?

And the fact that Jack's point of view usually wins is part of the joke. It's self-deprecating humor for Tina, Tina's character, and the viewers that identify with Tina's character. What is so funny about coming out on top?
posted by lampoil at 4:45 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think what's going on is that Alec Baldwin is an just amazingly appealing dude. Like when he called his daughter a thoughtless little pig I thought 'well maybe she really is an awful kid some kids are awful'. He plays a conservative character and he makes that character super charming and whatever point of view the character has sort of compelling. It's sort of like how back when I was watching the WWF they tried to make the Rock a bad guy. Tried to have him pull mean tricks and insult the home town for not being from hollywood. But people still cheered for him because he's a really handsome charming guy. So eventually the writers had to cave to the fans and just make him be good again and fight the Taliban wrestlers or something. That's what Alec Baldwin is like only double.
posted by I Foody at 4:47 PM on May 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


Very well said, Jeanne. That's kind of what my gut was going for, but it came out "rrrraaaarrrgggh!"
posted by lampoil at 4:47 PM on May 6, 2009


You know what's really weird? Seeing Daniel Baldwin in things that aren't Celebrity Rehab. Weirdly his character in Grey Gardens is very Jack Donaghy.
posted by Artw at 4:50 PM on May 6, 2009


I dunno. I'm detecting a lot of rather defensive reactions here. I love 30 Rock, and I'm plenty liberal, but even I thought there was something a bit odd about the message behind the Carrie Fisher episode. The show takes definitely takes shots at both sides of the liberal/conservative divide, and more at conservatives, but I'm not sure that you can dismiss the idea out of hand.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 4:51 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


...or we've just met hippies.
posted by Artw at 4:53 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This message is nowhere more striking than in the episode in which Liz hires an idol of her youth, the '70s comedy writer Rosemary Howard (Carrie Fisher). Rosemary hails from the heyday of feminist television comedy, and she encourages Liz to "push the envelope" in her own writing, to antagonize the powers that be the same way Rosemary once antagonized H.R. Haldeman. An irritated Jack axes them both, at which point Liz discovers that Rosemary chugs wine from a Thermos and lives in a sketchy outer-borough neighborhood ("Little Chechnya," ingeniously). The denouement is brutal. Rosemary has been driven mad, poor, barren, and obsolete by her lifelong commitment to radical ideals, and a horrified Liz flees to Jack's office, begs for her job back, and asks him to help her "do that thing that rich people do, make money into more money."

Never go with a hippie to a second location.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:57 PM on May 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


Rosemary has been driven mad, poor, barren, and obsolete by her lifelong commitment to radical ideals...

See, this is the very essence of missing the joke for the banana. She wasn't driven mad by a commitment to radical ideals, as if she was the mega, ur-liberal that died because she was unappreciated, and so we should all be ashamed.

She was driven mad because she had committed the sin of pride. Liz coming back to Jack and throwing herself at his feet is the joking conclusion that Liz has to do something out of context so she won't turn into the same prideful, alcoholic bitch destined to die alone. You could've reversed the roles and still have the same general set-up and punchline.

This is joke fodder about as old as Gilgamesh.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:25 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


30 Rock can make all the political jabs they want so long as they ditch Tracy Morgan.
Any episode focused on him is bound to be painful.

Also: Alec Baldwin - eventually I want to see him give someone a Cadillac El Dorado and a set of steak knives.
posted by madajb at 5:28 PM on May 6, 2009


30 Rock can make all the political jabs they want so long as they ditch Tracy Morgan.
Any episode focused on him is bound to be painful.


Oh, but what is it like to be so objectively wrong, madajb?
posted by Navelgazer at 5:35 PM on May 6, 2009 [22 favorites]


One of the worst aspects of television is the desire to pigeonhole characters into clearly defined compartments. How will the audience at home know this character is X when sometimes she's Y? It's so much easier to have the henpecked husband, the long-suffering wife, the wacky neighbor, the drinking buddies then to actually put some thought into developing characters the audience can identify with.

This tendency for lowest common denominator comedy runs from the networks who renew and reward such simplistic tripe to the hacks that churn out their three-camera, live studio audience pablum, to the critics who pat themselves on the back when they point out these conventions.

That's why 30 Rock is the funniest show on TV right now. Because its characters are well rounded while still being well defined. The fact that the conservative viewpoint sometimes prevails isn't evidence of a secret plot, it's just good writing.
posted by turaho at 5:37 PM on May 6, 2009


I think the Slate guy just had a deadline to meet and so he thought he'd ponder ambiguity in the humor of 30 Rock and go with it.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:41 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've reversed the averaged video of all the episodes I and am pretty sure it is a animated magic eye poster of Janet Jackson's nipple.
posted by srboisvert at 5:46 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


The article may have flawed logic, but lets at least give the writer credit for making me actually laugh out loud upon seeing the title.
posted by azarbayejani at 5:49 PM on May 6, 2009


The episode where Liz quit to write feminist screenplays with Carrie Fisher is like the time Liz refused a flu shot because it wasn't available to everybody and the time last week when she agreed to give up "special treatment". Liz is smart enough to recognize when she's being a hypocrite, and she's proud enough to make a Huge Production so that everyone will know that she's doing the right thing... but she's also lazy and selfish and otherwise bad enough that she inevitably comes crawling back to her privileged position by the end of the episode. And it's very funny. Even in the context of the story she isn't "right" - she's clearly wrong when she does the thing that (selfish!) Jack said she ought to do from the beginning... and therein lies the comedy and the imperfection that makes Liz a likeable and relateable character.
posted by moxiedoll at 5:53 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


it's more about the capitalist versus the creative type.

Except Lemon isn't the creative type. She's at least a hack, and a bit of a phony. Notice how every TGS sketch we get a glimpse of is awful. That's not just a jab at SNL: it shows us just how little creative talent Lemon, the writing staff, and the cast actually have. There isn't a "true" creative type represented on 30 Rock: they're all deluded hacks who think they're doing something special. It's part of what makes the show so hilarious. Bit like Ab Fab in that respect.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:02 PM on May 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Still my favorite moment of the show.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:05 PM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


See this, Jonah?

=> . <=

It's the point.

You missed it.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:26 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Detailed view:
__\     /__
__ > o < __
  /     \

posted by qvantamon at 6:37 PM on May 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Up next on Slate. Why is Lost anti-GPS?
posted by shadytrees at 6:43 PM on May 6, 2009


Just when it seems like Jonah almost gets what I get:

"Here, we're meant to shake our heads and chuckle—the show, ever slippery, is poking simultaneous fun at the flimsiness of Liz's liberal values, at Jack's callous hawkishness, and at the way both perspectives collude to make the world a worse place."

He follows it right up with this:

"More often, though, as in the Rosemary episode, we seem meant to accept Liz's Jack-ward drift, if not cheer it on outright, as part of her maturation."

First off, in my opinion, it's a poor sort of criticism what uses phrases, "we are meant" and suchlike. Creators have only the most tangential influence on what anyone gets out of their work. It's absurd to put this out as if the 30 Rock writers intend for me to find what Jonah finds in their show.

Here's what I get out of it. The first couple of seasons were a whip-smart comedy about about stereotypes and "conservative" and "liberal" were just like all the other stereotypes portrayed by all the other characters (many do more than one). In this season I see more repetition of their past tricks but also more efforts in exploring their caricatures as characters and seeking more humanity in them. And that last is what ultimately is what all these shows have to do if they want long term ratings or critical success.

If I were a writer on 30 Rock (I'm available!), I think, I'd find myself on a tricky aesthetic tightrope and as an fan, I'm very curious about what they'll do. Except for some Simpsons, I don't think I've seen a show where I've gotten so much out of such shallow materials. It's like turning lead into, if not gold, something yellow and shiny at least.
posted by wobh at 7:12 PM on May 6, 2009


For the love of Pete - it's a fucking sit-com. Does everything have to be over-analyzed on the internets?
posted by photoslob at 7:24 PM on May 6, 2009


South Park is politically "Moderate?"

If by "moderate" you mean "Coked Up Frat Boy Who Accidentally Votes Becuase He Thought It Was the Line To The Pre-Fag Bash Kegger."
posted by tkchrist at 7:26 PM on May 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


BANTER!
posted by Navelgazer at 7:56 PM on May 6, 2009


If by "moderate" you mean "Coked Up Frat Boy Who Accidentally Votes Becuase He Thought It Was the Line To The Pre-Fag Bash Kegger."

Sorry, the Family Guy hatefest is two doors down.
posted by chrominance at 8:58 PM on May 6, 2009


For the love of Pete - it's a fucking sit-com. Does everything have to be over-analyzed on the internets?

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ANALYZING SOMETHING?

Sorry, photoslob, nothing personal, but I feel like I have seen so much of this "It's just an X, why are you thinking about it so much?" sentiment lately, especially during the whole Ferris Bueller Fight Club discussions. What is wrong with analyzing something? Taking something apart and then putting it back together is one of the best ways I know to learn about something. Yes it's "just a sitcom," but unless you want the same sitcoms over and over again from now into infinity, maybe it would be helpful to dissect one of the best ones we've got to see what makes it tick.

I also think it is very interesting to look at the political humor on 30 Rock, as it is obviously quite complex (we've got citations just in this one thread claiming that it is both far-left and ultra-conservative). Personally, I think it is much more complicated than an either-or-situation, like Jeanne and I Foody and wobh have mentioned.

If you don't want to analyze it, fine, don't come in the thread then. Frankly, I can't think of anything that is so simple that my comprehension and enjoyment of it couldn't be improved by having a little think about it. If you think it's "just a sitcom" or "just a pop song" or "just a game" or "just a geocentric solar system" then I say that is your loss.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:30 PM on May 6, 2009 [12 favorites]


Since Liz is a flawed character rather than a monument to steely feminist confidence, the show as a whole is anti-feminist?

A political worldview is contained in such a microscopic plot development as Jack's liberal girlfriend pushing a class-action settlement?

Liz's anti-suspected-terrorist-freakout-resulting-in-an-innocent-man's-torture is a vindication of conservatism?

Worst pop-culture pseudoanalysis since Camille Paglia.
posted by univac at 9:41 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


... I love 30 Rock, and I'm plenty liberal, but even I thought there was something a bit odd about the message behind the Carrie Fisher episode...
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 4:51 PM on May 6


Just because you lost an arm fighting Republicans doesn't make you liberal, Stonewall.
posted by vorpal bunny at 9:52 PM on May 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yes it's "just a sitcom," but unless you want the same sitcoms over and over again from now into infinity, maybe it would be helpful to dissect one of the best ones we've got to see what makes it tick.

That's dead easy: Tina Fey. Clearly, we must dissect her.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:28 AM on May 7, 2009


Astronaut Jones
posted by Artw at 12:50 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


South Park is politically "Moderate?"

Yeah, that mistake pretty much calls the entire writer's thesis into question.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:45 AM on May 7, 2009


Tina Fey v. Sarah Palin 2016
posted by caddis at 3:55 AM on May 7, 2009


One thing that makes me think it's possible that real healthcare reform will happen in America, is that as a whole the Baby Boomers are a giant group and are decent at making their political voices heard. As more of them retire, more of them will find themselves in situations where they're fed up with the current system.
posted by drezdn at 4:55 AM on May 7, 2009


Oops wrong thread.
posted by drezdn at 4:55 AM on May 7, 2009


Twist!
posted by grubi at 6:02 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


That scene where Liz is trying to change the water in the water cooler, in last weeks episode, was hilarious. This, not so much.
posted by chunking express at 6:50 AM on May 7, 2009


Weiner conveniently has forgotten the story arc where Jack lost his job and went to work for Homeland Security (after stating that only a loser would work for the Bush Administration).
posted by Ber at 6:56 AM on May 7, 2009


Sorry, photoslob, nothing personal, but I feel like I have seen so much of this "It's just an X, why are you thinking about it so much?" sentiment lately, especially during the whole Ferris Bueller Fight Club discussions. What is wrong with analyzing something? Taking something apart and then putting it back together is one of the best ways I know to learn about something. Yes it's "just a sitcom," but unless you want the same sitcoms over and over again from now into infinity, maybe it would be helpful to dissect one of the best ones we've got to see what makes it tick.

Because the "analysis" invariably has nothing to do with what was created and is generally just a projection.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:38 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of the most charming things about ideologies is that if you try hard enough, everything you see can conform to them.

I mean, remember that listM of the "conservative" rock songs that somehow argued that Won't Get Fooled Again and Sympathy for the Devil were actually conservative? This is the same sort of reclaimation, where the chain goes "I'm conservative, yet I like 30 Rock. Therefore, 30 Rock must actually be conservative."

In part this is because of a fundamental difference in discourse—conservatives in America don't self-critique, whereas liberals do constantly. The Slate article confuses this self-critique for broader criticism, and this is magnified by the lack of historical understanding of liberalism. The Rosemary episode was a rejection of one form of liberalism, and about the change in liberal identity. That doesn't mean that it's a rejection of liberalism on the whole, or even that Liz's political capitulation should be taken as iconic for liberals.

Finally, that "Natural Order" episodes was one of the weaker ones for the show, in that Liz doesn't change water cooler bottles not because she's a woman but because she's the boss.
posted by klangklangston at 10:44 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


This article is horrible.

But there is a conservative-Jack vs liberal-Liz theme on the show. And, over and over again, when either of them lean on their reflex-conservative or reflex-liberal positions on things unthinkingly, they're each shown to be staggeringly wrong. Over and over and over again.

Maybe the writer only watched a single episode. It's hard to miss the pattern.

(PS: I do also think Tracy Morgajordan is best in small doses. When he has too many lines, especially all in one long scene, it gets hard to take.)
posted by rokusan at 12:15 PM on May 7, 2009


Tina Fey. Clearly, we must dissect her.

Hot.
posted by rokusan at 12:16 PM on May 7, 2009


I think 30 Rock is a pretty accurate reflection of the inner turmoil of most americans. On one hand, they want to be rich and far from dirty poor people, but on the other hand, they are dirty, poor people with overactive fantasy lives.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:27 PM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Because the "analysis" invariably has nothing to do with what was created and is generally just a projection.

Then we learn something about the analysts instead of the object being analyzed. Still learning something, still not wasting taxpayer dollars.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:12 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


As long as Tracy keeps bursting out with mildly self-aware lines like "Where are the French fries I did not ask for? You need to anticipate me!", I'm all for 'im.
posted by grubi at 1:50 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


You Tracy haters are just children. That's okay, though, because some times boys become men and men become wolves.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:55 PM on May 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


That's okay, though, because some times boys become men and men become wolves.

And that works so well because you have seen nine seconds of it. When they use Tracy that way, he's golden.

Now imagine the entire nine minute video taking up half the show. Baaaaaaad.
posted by rokusan at 4:06 PM on May 7, 2009


"On Seinfeld, Elaine was a frumpy-sexy career woman who slept around without censure, inspired suitors to get vasectomies, and made the birth control 'sponge' famous."

There's something oddly conservative about this framing. She wasn't "frumpy" - she actually had a stylish, cute wardrobe for the 80s. She simply wasn't overly sexual in her presentation. That equals "frumpy[-sexy]"? And Elaine didn't sleep around, which is a negatively loaded phrase; she dated men and had sex with them. There's just a faint whiff of conservatism there.

If you can't get Seinfeld right, you lose me.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:06 PM on May 7, 2009


She wasn't "frumpy" - she actually had a stylish, cute wardrobe for the 80s.

Okay, but the show aired almost entirely in the '90s.
posted by grobstein at 6:04 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Stupid people should not be paid to write. I am smart. Pay me instead.

But I'll probably end up writing some beer-fueled Modest Proposal thing where I suggest stupid people be rounded up and put to work on smallhold farms carved from industrial wasteland in American cities in an intellect-ranked return to feudalism and get fired anyway, so never mind.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:49 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


no that's wonderful stupid people love smallhold farms
posted by grobstein at 8:43 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


The best part is you can tell them it's an "agricultural resort" and they think they are on vacation
posted by Rock Steady at 9:49 AM on May 8, 2009


Is it not extremely obvious that the show's editorial opinion, to the extent that it has one, is that neither Jack nor Liz is happy at the extreme end of their respective socio-political spectrum?
posted by Caviar at 11:08 AM on May 11, 2009


"Sopranos" is conservative? Are they freaking kidding me?
posted by agregoli at 5:21 PM on May 11, 2009


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