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Liz Lemonism
March 25, 2010 11:14 AM   Subscribe

13 Ways of Looking at Liz Lemon. More feminist complaint about Liz Lemon.
posted by shakespeherian (246 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
worth it for the term 'the Coldplay of masturbation'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:15 AM on March 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


whatever, tina fey is talented and funny... thats all i care about in my sitcoms
posted by nathancaswell at 11:19 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


pop culture objectifies and marginalizes women, film at 11
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:23 AM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


I haven't read the article, but I just wanted to add that Tiger Beatdown is a fantastic name.
posted by Adam_S at 11:24 AM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


"fond of cupcakes and feminist theory but unsure how to make either one herself"

That's a lovely little line right there.
posted by redsparkler at 11:25 AM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I have to confess that I once compard my wife to Liz Lemon, but that's only because of my wife's absolute faith in decorganizing.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:27 AM on March 25, 2010


That first article was really just one long way of looking at Liz Lemon broken down into 13 pieces, which were less like separate ideas than individual stops on the same long train ride. Still kind of thought-provoking, though.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:27 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The first-link complaints seem awfully parochial to me: "Liz Lemonists" think of themselves as feminists, but don't share the political engagements I think of as important!

I guess if I was the same kind of feminist as the author, that might move me, but it doesn't.

Still, this is a step up from similar blog posts I have read. The "13 Ways" stylistic move worked surprisingly well. Good pacing.
posted by grobstein at 11:27 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've been hearing this argument a lot lately, it irks me as a feminist and as a 30 Rock fan, and I have two things to say.

1. Most of the jokes at Liz's expense actually aren't about her looks. They're about how she's a slob (see: the recurring lettuce-in-the-hair gag), how she's incredibly awkward and gauche, how she's in her mid/late thirties and not yet married, and how she's a total prude.
2. Tina Fey didn't always look like this. She lost a lot of weight and adopted her hot geek look around the time she started co-hosting Weekend Update with Jimmy Fallon. There are a few pictures of her floating around that prove that she looked very much like the younger Liz Lemon (who you see from time to time in flashbacks)-- she had an unflattering haircut, no personal style, and she was quite a bit heavier. That doesn't mean she's not gorgeous now, but she certainly doesn't suffer from "The Stupid."
posted by oinopaponton at 11:28 AM on March 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


The "13 Ways" stylistic move worked surprisingly well. Good pacing.

I'm not sure if the 13 Ways thing has become its own meme, but I'm pretty sure it originally stems from a Wallace Stevens poem.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:29 AM on March 25, 2010


Calling beautiful women ugly in TV and movies dates back farther than "30 Rock" - think of 45% of teen comedies from the late '90-early '00s. And it is kind of ridiculous, because I would spend my entire day at work trying to woo Liz Lemon, or my day at school trying to woo Rachel.
posted by moviehawk at 11:29 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am weary of the Liz-Lemon-faux-shrew-but-look-how-sexy blogspot trope, but that first link really breathed some life into it. Between that and the momentary 'shakespeherian and klang are the same person?!?' happy accident of disconnect, I've enjoyed my time here. Thanks.
posted by Kwine at 11:30 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Between that and the momentary 'shakespeherian and klang are the same person?!?' happy accident of disconnect, I've enjoyed my time here.

Oh yeah, totally didn't want anyone to catch on to that. Dammit.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:31 AM on March 25, 2010


How do Glossies Solve a Problem Like Tina Fey?, about her magazine covers. There's a 2nd page too.
posted by smackfu at 11:32 AM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure if the 13 Ways thing has become its own meme, but I'm pretty sure it originally stems from a Wallace Stevens poem.

[First time I've commented just to say I already knew that. =P Not proud.]
posted by grobstein at 11:33 AM on March 25, 2010


So I'm the only person on MeFi that doesn't know who or what a "Liz Lemon" is?
posted by DU at 11:39 AM on March 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


Ah, 30 Rock. That would explain it.
posted by DU at 11:40 AM on March 25, 2010


Ok, Tiger Beatdown is apparently a really great blog. I'm now awarding you TWO internet points instead of just the one, shakespeherian.
posted by Kwine at 11:43 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


That show is so funny anymore that it's almost not funny anymore. What I mean is that the writers are so relentlessly clever and the comic actors so good (AB, TM, JK, not so much TF) that for me it's turning into more of a spectacle than an entertainment. I find myself sitting on the couch nodding my head: "Yup, that's funny as hell. Yes. Excellent." but not really laughing much. I admire it more than I enjoy it. Except for Alec Baldwin, who's been a revelation.

As for the feminist portrayal: If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times -- stop looking for a reflection of reality in TV, America. The reality is on THIS side of the screen. If you're seeing a reflection of any kind, just close the drapes or turn off the lamp.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:43 AM on March 25, 2010 [25 favorites]


Liz Lemon is awesome because she is a flawed, neurotic, pathologically East Coast character who is also smart, successful, and hilarious. Criticizing Lemon for not being a banner-carrying representation of ultimate womanhood seems to miss the point of what a story is, let alone a misread of how Lemon fits into the 30 Rock universe. The Tiger Beatdown article pays lip service to the recognition that Lemon is meant to be a caricature and so on, but it does not seem borne out in the rest of the article.

Also, and again looking at the Tiger Beatdown article, here's this strange passage:
I have, for some time, been referring to a particularly irritating brand of privileged semi-feminism as “Liz Lemonism.” I associate this brand of feminism with a certain variety of white, coastal-city dwelling, fairly well-to-do heterosexual cisgendered woman, a woman with a comfortable white-collar job that is so very comfortable and so very white-collar that she is free to spend her spare time yearning for, and semi-believing that she could attain, something with more “meaning.” This woman doesn’t do Blogspot, but she does do Tumblr; she doesn’t do posts about sex workers’ rights, but she does do complaining about “raunch culture”; she doesn’t do anti-racism, disability activism, or trans ally work to any huge extent, but she does do “body image” (and oh, does she ever do body image, without taking much note of the fact that as a white, abled, cis person she conforms to the “beauty standard,” and benefits from conforming to it, in more ways than she will ever let on); she can’t have a conversation with you about Michelle Tea, Sugar High Glitter City, Kathy Acker, or Carolee Schneeman, but she can tell you that as a feminist she has a right to be Concerned About Porn; she’s Brooklyn not Queens, brunch not breakfast, flirty not slutty, fond of cupcakes and feminist theory but unsure how to make either one herself, and thoroughly incensed about Vajazzling.

It's goofy when (typically right-wing, typically-male) people think "feminism" only means "crunchy 'womyn' undergrad carrying protest signs" and not "the pursuit of equality and justice for women," and it's goofy here as well when seen in the strange stereotypical reverse: where the modern, venal, privileged (how DARE she!) woman who is not a vocal enough supporter of certain causes nor familiar with the right cultural references is a semi-feminist. These Liz Lemonists are as much a part of feminism as anything else - the perhaps-horrifying realization that modern women are not these incorporeal spheres of nothing but goodness and social action, but human beings with quirks and egos. Shudder to think that the fight was always behalf of those often-selfish, usually-neurotic humans, and not the much-vaunted ideal-women-in-the-general!

That said, it was very thought-provoking. Thanks!
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:44 AM on March 25, 2010 [53 favorites]


Liz Lemon has paint on her overalls for sure.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:46 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I dislike Liz Lemon for the same reason I disliked Carrie Bradshaw: not as much because of the fictional character, but because of the people who take the character's existence and popularity as validation for various obnoxious traits: self-involvement, purposeful "cute" wackyness/awkwardness, shallow knowledge (the "I pretty much do whatever Oprah tells me" syndrome), etc.

It bugs me in the same way it once bugged me that a few Sex and the City fans I knew thought being an adult woman meant forking over a bunch of cash to strap on overpriced heels and down candy-flavored martinis at a "hip" restaurant while talking endlessly about themselves.
posted by sallybrown at 11:49 AM on March 25, 2010 [18 favorites]


I have quite a few problems with the article, but the endearing thing about it is how strident and ideologically pure it will be, then all of a sudden it will switch gears into a fangirlish rant about a closely-followed show. Sort of like:

Of course, the character is nothing but a fiction foisted on the masses by the Captialist pig-dog paper tigers and their Zionist-Leninist puppets, and like all such fictions will be thrown into the dustbin of history, but where the hell is Twofer? And why can't Liz have a boyfriend for more than three episodes? I sure do miss Liz and Jenna's relationship and all the rest of the writers; 30 rock was better when it wasn't just the Liz-Jack-Kenneth show!
posted by Theodore Sign at 11:50 AM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I dislike Liz Lemon for the same reason I disliked Carrie Bradshaw: not as much because of the fictional character, but because of the people who take the character's existence and popularity as validation for various obnoxious traits: self-involvement, purposeful "cute" wackyness/awkwardness, shallow knowledge (the "I pretty much do whatever Oprah tells me" syndrome), etc.

This reminds me of one classic SubGenius rant in which it was said that a SubGenius often reminds his/her fellows of a TV character without meaning to, where as a pink will actively emulate a TV character.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:51 AM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Wow, I know it's easy to make fun of symbolism-based critiques of images, but really, the Esquire cover with Tina Fey on page 2 of the "How do Glossies Solve a Problem Like Tina Fey?" is kind of shocking to me. They made a smart, funny, grown woman look like a cross between a teenager, a sex doll, and a dead girl.
posted by threeants at 11:52 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


pop culture objectifies and marginalizes women

Anybody who saw Mean Girls knows that Fey wrote herself a part with gratuitous water-on-white-t-shirt action and thus knows that Tina Fey objectified and marginalized herself.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:53 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tina Fey jumped the shark and landed in the movie Date Night.
posted by studentbaker at 11:53 AM on March 25, 2010


An interesting distillation of how viewers are meant to think of Liz Lemon -- not ugly, mind, just given to indulging potentially-unhealthy whims at the expense of a "classy" veneer -- is the twitter hashtag #iamlizlemon
(FULL DSCLOSURE I ALSO USEDE IT IN A TWURT)
posted by Greg Nog at 11:54 AM on March 25, 2010


Very thought-provoking if a bit overthought (she doesn't post much anymore out of fear that real life Liz Lemons might enjoy her blog? WTF.)

She seems surprised that successful, popular, attractive people are actually still insecure (and it's men as much as women). Yes, it seems counterintuitive until you remember that they're human too.
posted by msalt at 11:54 AM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


I associate this brand of feminism with a certain variety of white, coastal-city dwelling, fairly well-to-do heterosexual cisgendered woman, a woman with a comfortable white-collar job that is so very comfortable and so very white-collar that she is free to spend her spare time yearning for, and semi-believing that she could attain, something with more “meaning.”
This is me, although I do know how to make cupcakes and am not concerned about porn (and am currently, though temporarily, poor). But otherwise, sure. And I think this is a valid criticism; Liz Lemon's character's feminism is very, very important to her, is in fact her defining worldview, but she's surrounded herself with women she can easily look down on and defines her success in life by well she plays along with the boys and/or convinces them to date her. She's a feminist character whose appeal is in small part based on her utter inability to threaten the status quo (which is, as feminism, kind of useless). I love 30 Rock, but it's kind of annoying how, within the world of the show, Jack's character is always right.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:55 AM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Since that time, each man that I have dated has made a point of saying how much I remind him of the main character on that show, Liz Lemon.

She spends quite a bit of time illustrating the ways mention she's like Liz Lemon when she's breaking up with them (I would go further to say she only notices the reference when she's in a breakup as it is a highly emotional time and little things imprint in our memory).

I feel for her as I get the same neurosis when people compare me to someone famous. I will invariably pick the negative aspects of that famous person and then sort of over-think it.

If we really want to pick apart this stereotype let's do it right. First, the show derives a lot of its comedy from the idea that Liz Lemon is different from everyone else. There are other females on the show that interact with Liz Lemon, but they essentially reinforce the contrast. There's the similarly high achieving actress who is obsessed with her look and image (while Lemon is not), there's the too cool for school girl who's effortlessly beautiful and whose every scene reinforces this. All of Jack's girlfriends exude the confidence that Liz lacks.

Which brings me to my next point, the only real corollary to Liz Lemon is Jack Donaghy. They're both indepedent, smart, cunning and answer essentially to no one. Jack Donaghy is played as a rabid caricature of the alpha male. He cares only about power, retaining or gaining power, but still with enough humanism to allow us to emphasize with his situation.

In nearly every other sitcom out there Jack Donaghy is the female character. Is she the powerful boss? Then she doesn't care about anything but her job, has no family, etc. We're all familiar with this stereotype, see: Eva Green in Casino Royale.

Tina Fey is playing the Woody Allen roles of 30 years ago. Smart, neurotic. Can't seem to fall in love but when it happens it is with a beautiful person and entirely dysfunctional throughout, usually due to his own over-intellectualization. And I bet 30 years ago every smart, nerdy sort of neurotic guy was compared to Woody Allen (which leads to a horribly recursive situation where I'm sure someone was being neurotic about being compared to Woody Allen).

Seriously, are there like no other sympathetic female characters on 30 Rock?

No, because it takes place on a variety show on NBC. Jane Krakowski is as close as we come but because of her stardom we, as viewers, don't relate to her. She's the Elaine of the show and if we want to compare it to Seinfeld it is worth mentioning that there's nearly no sympathetic characters in that cast.

It doesn’t let up, the message of Liz’s ugliness.

It has nothing to do with her physical appearance. She lacks confidence, she's a bit of a nerd and the jokes play off that. We laugh because we all know the real Liz, who is this smart, wonderful person. Besides how are we to believe that she's ugly when the character has supposedly slept with both John Hamm and James Franco? Again, reinforcing to the viewer that Liz is us. When we get the impossibly beautiful they inevitably have a tragic flaw, i.e., we get lucky.
posted by geoff. at 11:57 AM on March 25, 2010 [28 favorites]


Anybody remember that Janeane Garofalo? I'm pretty sure we were having the same conversation about her 12 years or so ago, FWIW.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:57 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Because if smart women who know how smart they are intimidate men (and they do), and beautiful women who know how beautiful they are intimidate men (and they do), there is, logically, nothing more intimidating than a woman who is fully aware that she is both smart and beautiful.
This is one of the myths that some feminists persist in trotting out that bugs me a lot. If only people realized how special I was, they'd stop putting me down! It's an idea that damages everyone. If you're conventionally beautiful or obviously smart, it doesn't automatically get you respect, fear or power, as the author suggests. If you want people to respect you, you have to accomplish something that has value. Respect, power, fear doesn't follow from intrinsic worth, as the author assumes.

The John Hamm episodes are a great example of this: there is no Zone. It's a fantasy. That's why those episodes are funny, exaggeration and distortion. Mimbos really don't have a lot of power (repect, fear) in my experience. They get dismissed as pretty boys. Likewise, the clever but unproductive get dismissed as shallow flashes in the pan, one-hit wonders.

Respect (or personal social power) is earned over the long-term. It isn't privilege. I get that women have trouble gaining respect, power, whatever you call it, as easily for their accomplishments, but that's not my thesis. It is the automatic assumption of worth in the author's statement, her expression of her own privilege really, that I take issue with. It's a lazy assumption that holds women back, imo.
posted by bonehead at 12:00 PM on March 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


i like my women anti-cis-gendered.
posted by Hammond Rye at 12:02 PM on March 25, 2010


"I love 30 Rock, but it's kind of annoying how, within the world of the show, Jack's character is always right."

Iammalebut...

I always took the Liz/Jack relationship as more of a political metaphor than a gender one: Liz is the left-leaning heart (but ineffectual), and Jack is the right leaning-sensible (but empty) brain. Jack wins, because cynicism wins.
posted by rosswald at 12:12 PM on March 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


Anybody remember that Janeane Garofalo?

I have a TV, so I do.
posted by kmz at 12:12 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


These Liz Lemonists are as much a part of feminism as anything else - the perhaps-horrifying realization that modern women are not these incorporeal spheres of nothing but goodness and social action

This passage seemed very strange to me too. What's really interesting is that her antidote to "Liz Lemonism" is even more narcissistic! She realized that the critical fight for social equality lies with white, middle-class, cis, straight, first-world, American, coastal city-living urbanites realizing just how privileged they are! Noblesse oblige, or something. Isn't this basically the same kind of thinking behind the racist undertones in Avatar, where the tension in the movie is whether the native tribe will be destroyed by the white colonial imperialists, or saved by them?
posted by AlsoMike at 12:14 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, am I the only person totally derailed from this conversation by the word "Vajazzling" used in the first link. I mean, what the what?
posted by Bookhouse at 12:14 PM on March 25, 2010


I am not convinced that my ability to discuss Kathy Acker makes me a better person or feminist. That's the only, admittedly unuseful, thought that popped into my empty Woosterish head.
posted by everichon at 12:15 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fiction that is good fails to conform to someones agenda.
posted by Artw at 12:16 PM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


Calling beautiful women ugly in TV and movies dates back farther than "30 Rock"

Yeah, it was particularly well called out in Not Another Teen Movie, where they take the, quite beautiful, Chyler Leigh and make her absolutely hideous by adding glasses, a pony-tail, and as drjimmy11 commented, paint on her overalls. (Ewww).

As for Lemon, I never really felt that, as written, she is supposed to be ugly in anything other than a sort of self-loathing way. It's not about what she physically looks like, so much as the mess of insecurities and bizarre personality traits that shape her character.

And the show would cease to be funny if they got rid of that core part. Tina Fey's ability to make fun of herself is absolutely the best part of the program.
posted by quin at 12:17 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This misses the point in so many ways! They don't think Jenna is sympathetic? They also talk about how Jenna and Liz have no friendship and so Liz must interact with the men. Jenna and Liz have the same exact relationship Liz has with everyone on the show; she has to manage their egos and shenanigans. It's basically the premise. It's true that Pete is her one fellow somewhat-sane friend, but so what?

Anyway, even more, Liz Lemon comes from a self-effacing humor. This isn't Joe America mocking women. The show passes the Bechdel test and then some. Liz is one of the best female characters on TV as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:18 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I sort of stopped reading at:

Seriously, are there like no other sympathetic female characters on 30 Rock?

Are there any sympathetic characters of any kind on 30 Rock, besides Liz Lemon? Possibly Kenneth, but that's about it.
posted by electroboy at 12:19 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just in case anyone is thinking of reading the first article and taking it seriously, the author thinks the show has too much Kenneth.
posted by Artw at 12:20 PM on March 25, 2010 [31 favorites]


While we're nitpicking, I was also put off by the article's repeated assertion that "Cerie" is meant to be stupid. Maybe I'm misremembering, but I don't think that's it at all. Rather, she is oblivious to her young-and-hot privilege.
posted by grobstein at 12:21 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Liz Lemon - by accident or design - is a bit of a fantasy figure for men and women. Men see a gorgeous - but sexually available, because she's so insecure and inept when it comes to dating - woman who is also a geek and into lots of stereotypical "guy" stuff. Women see a woman who looks great even though she eats whatever she wants and rarely exercises, and has a great job and beautiful NYC apartment despite her (alleged) lack of business/career acumen.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:21 PM on March 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


I don't have my mind completely wrapped around all this Liz Lemon analysis, but one telling point about her character was the episode where she went to her high school reunion. She had memories in which the girls in her school were either her friends or were bullies, but once she got to the reunion she was confronted by the truth: that Liz's self-centeredness and insulting wit caused troubles for the people around her: Liz was the bully in her high school. A lot of 30 Rock's development of Liz is that she sees herself as the Carrie Bradshaw, or emulating of being that Carrie Bradshaw person, when in fact she is actually far more flawed than she's willing to acknowledge or change.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:21 PM on March 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


How do Glossies Solve a Problem Like Tina Fey?, about her magazine covers. There's a 2nd page too.

Wow, Fey could totally pass for Sigorney Weaver on the Esquire cover.
posted by Scoo at 12:22 PM on March 25, 2010


Old Tina Fay photo. Oh man, those eyebrows are thick like a brick. Still cute, though! Can't say the same about this one.
posted by Mach5 at 12:23 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know nothing and care less about Tina Fey, but thank you for showing me Tiger Beatdown!
posted by serazin at 12:23 PM on March 25, 2010


Stitcherbeast, I didn't read that as saying "feminists have to be super hippies made of goodness and light," I read it as frustration with people calling themselves feminists but being unequipped or unwilling to address the gendered system of privilege implied by the term. Seems reasonable to me.
posted by regicide is good for you at 12:24 PM on March 25, 2010


Nos. 5-6:

Seriously, are there like no other sympathetic female characters on 30 Rock?

There ARE no sympathetic characters on 30 Rock, period. Everyone inside the show's circle is nuts, and everyone outside is semi-normal. That's the point. This is fucking comedy, people.

jeesus h. jabbering christ
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:24 PM on March 25, 2010 [17 favorites]


To me, half (more?) of the pleasure of 30 Rock is that *I* am Edie Falco. It's a Bush administration show; it was conceived in the days when all progressives ever did was lose and lose and lose. Get up in the morning, lose. Have lunch, go home from work, watch TV and think about how much we lost.

30 Rock made that funny. Transgressively hate-fucking the Republican head of NBC and microwaves was *exactly* what I felt like doing.
posted by rdc at 12:24 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


In nearly every other sitcom out there Jack Donaghy is the female character. Is she the powerful boss? Then she doesn't care about anything but her job, has no family, etc. We're all familiar with this stereotype, see: Eva Green in Casino Royale.

Tina Fey is playing the Woody Allen roles of 30 years ago. Smart, neurotic. Can't seem to fall in love but when it happens it is with a beautiful person and entirely dysfunctional throughout, usually due to his own over-intellectualization. And I bet 30 years ago every smart, nerdy sort of neurotic guy was compared to Woody Allen (which leads to a horribly recursive situation where I'm sure someone was being neurotic about being compared to Woody Allen).
Exactly. Liz's role is the role normally reserved for the male lead in a goofy comedy series, and as smart as the writing is, 30 Rock is a very silly show. I mean, Donkey Spell, fer crissakes?

Take all those forgettable late 90's/early aughties shows about a pathetic male protagonist who JUST CAN'T WIN in love or in life. How many of those guys were actually ugly or all that unappealing on paper? Part of the joke is the unreality of it all, and with 30 rock they dial this to its absurdist maximum.

Liz is a bit like Lucille Ball: the writers (meaning Tiny Fey, I gather) are unafraid to make her a pratfalling loser one minute, and a real "hotty" the next, while still allowing her to be smart. Most comedy shows with female leads are not as willing to compromise their character's "integrity."
posted by Theodore Sign at 12:25 PM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Liz Lemon is my lifestyle guru.
posted by sararah at 12:26 PM on March 25, 2010


Liz Lemon lives every week like it's Shark Week.
posted by brain_drain at 12:28 PM on March 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


That show is so funny anymore that it's almost not funny anymore. What I mean is that the writers are so relentlessly clever and the comic actors so good (AB, TM, JK, not so much TF) that for me it's turning into more of a spectacle than an entertainment. I find myself sitting on the couch nodding my head: "Yup, that's funny as hell. Yes. Excellent." but not really laughing much. I admire it more than I enjoy it. Except for Alec Baldwin, who's been a revelation.

Honestly, it's just gotten to the point where every episode seems purely about whackiness. It might be foggy memory mixed with nostalgia, but older eps seemed to have more meaty storylines. Every character is now a huge caricature that's almost impossible to relate to.

As for the feminist portrayal: If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times -- stop looking for a reflection of reality in TV, America. The reality is on THIS side of the screen. If you're seeing a reflection of any kind, just close the drapes or turn off the lamp.

Ah, the old "it's just a TV show (or movie, song, video game, etc), sit back and enjoy and don't think about it" trope. Pop culture shapes and is shaped by the general culture. It matters when there's a major black character on a TV show for the first time. It matters when gay characters tend to always be evil and/or end up dead.

And you can be a fan and still find faults with a show. Joss Whedon's works have many problematic aspects, but I still love them, even as I acknowledge their faults.
posted by kmz at 12:31 PM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


Stitcherbeast, I didn't read that as saying "feminists have to be super hippies made of goodness and light," I read it as frustration with people calling themselves feminists but being unequipped or unwilling to address the gendered system of privilege implied by the term. Seems reasonable to me.

We'll have to disagree, then. I saw the "semi-feminist" snark as an unhelpful No True Scotsman, especially when she was going into how she supposedly posts less nowadays because of all the Liz Lemonists running around. To me, it smacks of saying that I'm not really a humanitarian because I mostly work with DV survivors and immigrants, when in reality I'll only be a semi-humanitarian until I also just-as-vocally focus my concerns on the environment, on Israel-Palestine, on malaria prevention, and also until I properly acquaint myself with the writings of Castoriadis and the plays of Brecht.

If the intention is to be a call to arms to get more to care about all the valid concerns in the world, then she's Doing It Wrong - those kinds of lazy blanket insults constitute bad communication and induce groans over action.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:35 PM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


It matters when there's a major black character on a TV show for the first time.

I think you mean this.
posted by electroboy at 12:35 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


50+ comments in and no one has yet linked to the Hollywood Homely entry on TV Tropes? We're slipping here, people. (And examples date back at least to the 1970s.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:35 PM on March 25, 2010


> Honestly, it's just gotten to the point where every episode seems purely about whackiness.

Otherwise known as "Arrested Development Syndrome" (although I don't think 30 Rock is that far gone yet).
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:36 PM on March 25, 2010


I believe that the moon does not exist. I believe that vampires are the world's greatest golfers but their curse is they never get a chance to prove it. I believe that there are 31 letters in the white alphabet. Wait...what was the question?
posted by Babblesort at 12:38 PM on March 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


Bookhouse, vajazzling is, I'm afraid, just what it sounds like. Bedazzling + lady parts, using stick-on "jewels."

(Technically it should be called vulvjazzling, but I've long since given up on anyone using those anatomical terms correctly.)
posted by ErikaB at 12:40 PM on March 25, 2010


I was also put off by the article's repeated assertion that "Cerie" is meant to be stupid. Maybe I'm misremembering, but I don't think that's it at all. Rather, she is oblivious to her young-and-hot privilege.

You know, I wouldn't even go that far; for as much as Cerie seems to be in the role of token bimbo, she seems well aware of exactly how much she can get away with (which is: almost everything). She tells Kenneth he can spread rumors that he slept with her because she knows precisely how other people view her, she worries about the dwindling window she has to be a "hot mom"; far from being stupid, she just seems to be happy to utilize every ounce of privilege she knows she has.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:40 PM on March 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


If you're conventionally beautiful or obviously smart, it doesn't automatically get you respect, fear or power, as the author suggests.

Oh c'mon. It depends how beautiful you are, but c'mon. Very attractive people are treated much better than conventionally ugly people.

You're saying that gorgeous women do not intimidate men. They intimidate me. I'll admit it. I'm more educated than attractive, so intelligent women are less intimidating, but yes, they are both intimidating.

I don't think it's a myth at all, but I think you're misinterpreting the author's intent. She's not claiming that she wouldn't get put down if people knew how special she was. (I think) she's claiming that men are attracted to Liz Lemonists because they don't know (or pretend not to know) how attractive they are, meaning you don't have to treat the Lemonists with as much special care as you do the Beautiful People.

On re-reading your comment, bonehead, I think we live in different universes... you're really saying that the attractive, white woman in Barney's doesn't garner more de facto respect than a homeless, black woman? Maybe I misunderstand.

I guess I had a different opinion than most. I though the first article was right on target.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:41 PM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Honestly, it's just gotten to the point where every episode seems purely about whackiness. It might be foggy memory mixed with nostalgia, but older eps seemed to have more meaty storylines. Every character is now a huge caricature that's almost impossible to relate to.

-That's a plus, it approaches Green Acres in total inanity and absurdity.

I feel for the young blogger who doesn't want to be compared to a sitcom pastiche, but her 13 points are so much drivel.

All she had to say was one point, "It's fucking farcical fiction, written for cheap laffs, I am not here for cheap laffs!"

I love her use of the word cisgender too, that's cutting edge PC.
posted by Max Power at 12:45 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I dislike Liz Lemon for the same reason I disliked Carrie Bradshaw: not as much because of the fictional character, but because of the people who take the character's existence and popularity as validation for various obnoxious traits: self-involvement, purposeful "cute" wackyness/awkwardness, shallow knowledge (the "I pretty much do whatever Oprah tells me" syndrome), etc.

Woah woah WOAH! Carrie Bradshaw was a pitiful excuse for a character, a miserably self-involved, navel-gazing nitwit with offensively bad taste in men. I absolutely hated the fact that women I knew thought it was OK to be like her, even a little bit. Liz Lemon is totally different. Of course she's horribly flawed, but at least she's fine with who she is and has the courage of her convictions. Besides, I'm not sure anyone ever deliberately justifies their own behaviour by referring to Liz Lemon. We know Liz has weird issues; that's the whole point of the show. Sex and the City made it seem like Carrie was somehow normal, because regardless of her issues she was still presented as being fabulous and polished and endearingly quirky. Liz is endearing despite herself, and always somewhat icky as well.

Of course, I'm probably biased because I think Tina Fey is a genius. Besides, I don't think it's fair to hold the character of Liz Lemon accountable to feminist ideals. Carrie Bradshaw yes--lots of girls probably want to grow up to be like glamourous, exciting Carrie. No one aspires to be the hapless Sabor de Soledad eating Liz Lemon.
posted by Go Banana at 12:46 PM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


pop culture objectifies and marginalizes women

Anybody who saw Mean Girls knows that Fey wrote herself a part with gratuitous water-on-white-t-shirt action and thus knows that Tina Fey objectified and marginalized herself.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:53 PM on March 25 [+] [!]


yep, when women participate in their own objectification/marginalization, that totally makes it right. in a related development, FGM/footbinding/child marriage are also (shocking!) usually the province of women.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:54 PM on March 25, 2010


I love her use of the word cisgender too, that's cutting edge PC.

What word would you prefer?

I personally love when people use "PC" as an insult. That's cutting edge "I'm an asshole."
posted by kmz at 12:57 PM on March 25, 2010 [31 favorites]


My impression of that paragraph was a lot like Sticherbeast's. I consider myself a feminist, but I admit I have never heard of Michelle Tea, Sugar High Glitter City, Kathy Acker, or Carolee Schneeman. In fact, that whole paragraph describes me reasonably accurately, although I don't identify with any New York boroughs and of course I know how to make cupcakes and I dislike Tumblr. And, I mean, I can understand how someone could be frustrated with people who casually identify with a cause but don't throw any action into it, but the Tiger Beatdown author might as well be saying, "hey, large demographic of women who might find this blog enlightening and inspiring, and be sympathetic to some of these ideas: you suck and I don't want your kind here. You're no feminists." Which seems a little counterproductive to me. Shouldn't feminism apply to all women, even if they're pretty or wealthy?
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:58 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love her use of the word cisgender too, that's cutting edge PC.

...so do you have any actual problems with the term?
posted by threeants at 12:59 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


in a related development, FGM/footbinding/child marriage are also (shocking!) usually the province of women.

OH NO YOU DIDN'T
posted by brain_drain at 1:00 PM on March 25, 2010


I consider myself a feminist, but I admit I have never heard of ... Kathy Acker ... and I dislike Tumblr.

Well, let's change that!
posted by Greg Nog at 1:00 PM on March 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


Thank you Go Banana, thank you Metafilter! You make me feel as inarticulate as I am - yet somehow vindicated and validated in my intuitive reactions.

Go Banana, I had a similar reaction as you - except the only clear thought I had was "WTF? Liz Lemon is awesome...Carrie Bradshaw should have been thrown down a well."
posted by Xoebe at 1:02 PM on March 25, 2010


My favourite tv characters inevitably do disappointing things. That's because I watch good tv.

I'm sure a Mary Sue channel would get a ton of subscribers, but I wouldn't be one of them.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:05 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think I've said this before: 30 Rock is hilarious, but finding Liz Lemon sympathetic is like finding Edina Monsoon sympathetic. The overall arc of the show is about an intelligent person who is in a rush to sell out her talent and ideals for power. It's awesome.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:05 PM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad For Women.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:07 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


The overall arc of the show is about an intelligent person who is in a rush to sell out her talent and ideals for power

"Suck it monkeys, I'm going corporate!"
posted by Think_Long at 1:07 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, you guys shouldn't watch Gossip Girl.
posted by Artw at 1:08 PM on March 25, 2010


I learned the word "cisgender" today and I am unhappy about it. I get the point that if there is "trans," logically there would be "cis," and I get that it's a way to show solidarity to those who identify as "trans" by even calling attention to it.

It seems pejorative and apologetic somehow, whereas "trans" is something stronger and prouder.
posted by frecklefaerie at 1:09 PM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Very attractive people are treated much better than conventionally ugly people.

Wow that kind of sounds like the incredibly attractive doctor neighbor that Liz Lemon dates that is terrible at his job and at everything else (sex, cooking, jokes), but thinks he's amazing at everything cause everyone always treats him good because he's so attractive.

30 rock wins!
posted by nathancaswell at 1:09 PM on March 25, 2010


Shouldn't feminism apply to all women, even if they're pretty or wealthy?

Of course. I think the main point the author is trying to make is that LL's "problems" as related to her gender are not very typical of the ordinary woman, and it's weird to see them picked up on as such. (Whether that latter clause is true or not is very debatable, I would think.)

Which is fine, of course. As several have mentioned, "it's just a tv show."

Aside from the Carrie Fisher episode, is there any indication that Liz Lemon would even label herself a feminist?

finding Liz Lemon sympathetic is like finding Edina Monsoon sympathetic

Oh no. See that twitter tag above (OK, maybe those folks are empathizing, but that's similar). I think millions of people sympathize with "poor" Liz Lemon. I think that's exactly what the author is reacting against. I don't think Eddy is a good comparison at all.

30 rock wins!

I watch the show nearly every week. My wife loves it. I sorta feel like stupidsexyFlanders. I can appreciate the humor and it's generally entertaining, but I don't laugh much anymore. Even at Tracy Morgan.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:15 PM on March 25, 2010


I watch the show nearly every week. My wife loves it. I sorta feel like stupidsexyFlanders. I can appreciate the humor and it's generally entertaining, but I don't laugh much anymore. Even at Tracy Morgan.

Yeah, the show has definitely gone down hill. There are the occasional laugh out loud funny episodes (Valentines day episode this year) but the peak IMO was pretty obviously two seasons ago, right before she got all the added press because of the Palin impression. The episode where she hangs out with the Fight Club divorcees was the apex as far as I'm concerned. I think her schedule probably got a lot more busy and the quality of the writing suffered a little. They tried to make up for it by parlaying the increased exposure into more celebrity cameos, which works sometimes (Oprah) and not others (Steve Martin).
posted by nathancaswell at 1:21 PM on March 25, 2010


I think I've said this before: 30 Rock is hilarious, but finding Liz Lemon sympathetic is like finding Edina Monsoon sympathetic. The overall arc of the show is about an intelligent person who is in a rush to sell out her talent and ideals for power. It's awesome.

Yeah, Liz Lemon has some good qualities and seems to be a good person, but she's not exactly an artist. I can't remember who said it, but someone in a previous 30 Rock thread pointed out that every time we see TGS, it is really, really awful.
She's not exactly a visionary artiste who has come to realize the error of her free-thinking ways. Which is good, because that would make for a preachy, annoying comedy show. On 30 Rock, even the good people are kind of awful.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 1:23 PM on March 25, 2010


The running joke that TGS is a *terrible* show is one of my favorite things.
posted by The Whelk at 1:25 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


in a related development, FGM/footbinding/child marriage are also (shocking!) usually the province of women.

OH NO YOU DIDN'T
posted by brain_drain at 4:00 PM on March 25 [+] [!]


yeah, totally my bad, I did. I was reading this for school and now I'm super GRAR about it.

I'll just see myself out, shall I?
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:25 PM on March 25, 2010


The running joke that TGS is a *terrible* show is one of my favorite things.

"Gaybraham Lincoln" looked pretty funny.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:26 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Liz Lemon has some good qualities and seems to be a good person, but she's not exactly an artist. I can't remember who said it, but someone in a previous 30 Rock thread pointed out that every time we see TGS, it is really, really awful.

I always took that to be an amusing running jab at SNL.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:26 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of course. I think the main point the author is trying to make is that LL's "problems" as related to her gender are not very typical of the ordinary woman, and it's weird to see them picked up on as such. (Whether that latter clause is true or not is very debatable, I would think.)

I would be astonished to learn that a large section of the show's demographic weren't white, professional, educated women in the 25-40 age range, and to that extent, those people's problems are not going to be a hundred million miles away from Lemon's comically exaggerated problems.

Aside from the Carrie Fisher episode, is there any indication that Liz Lemon would even label herself a feminist?

I don't care what Lemon herself would say here, but by dint of being a professional woman who fights to be taken every bit as seriously as her male counterparts, then yes, she is a feminist.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:29 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Amanda Marcotte's take on critiques of 30 Rock's supposed conservative politics:

The whole point of Liz is that she’s a weak person who gives into her ugliest urges, and subsequently, when she buys into reactionary politics, it’s evidence that reactionaries are weak people who are motivated by selfishness and fear. And this is why Jack and she have their weird codependent relationship. Liz is skeptical of Jack’s conservative proclamations, but she buys into them in the end (as he knows she will), because she’s really an asshole.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:30 PM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


pop culture objectifies and marginalizes womenpretty much everyone, sooner or later, film at 11

FTFY. Incidentally, regarding this:

She had an unflattering haircut, no personal style, and she was quite a bit heavier.

I met her once, in Chicago, a long time ago (I'm sure she doesn't remember me.) The reason I remembered her in the years following (before she got famous as well) is because she had a mad talent that no amount of not-visually-prepped-to-be-a-star could possibly suppress.

And I liked her haircut, thank-you-very-much.
posted by davejay at 1:38 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Beauty is pretty subjective. I think Tina Fey has better bone structure/better face/beauty than Jennifer Aniston, but Jennifer Aniston is very sexy. Bridget Moynihan is strikingly beautiful but Gisele Bundchen is sexy. Angelina Jolie is beautiful and sexy at the same time. Chace Crawford and Zac Efron are pretty boys and not sexy. Hugh Jackman is sexy, except when he does musicals. There's beauty/beautiful and there's sexy. Then there's not doing anything with yourself (that's me, but I'm trying to learn the secrets of using eyeliner and makeup), and that's Liz Lemon in a stained sweatshirt with lettuce in her hair wearing clothes from Dress Barn (except when she dated Floyd in the end of the first season and dressed really great) (disclosure: I have long hair and get food in it, luckily, in the privacy of my own home or office). Lemon has the goods but doesn't work them (most of the time). So she doesn't seem beautiful until she cleans up. It doesn't mean she isn't beautiful. It just means she looks sloppy.

Her little daughter, Alice, though, is a major cutie pie. She's like the most adorable thing with those big eyes.
posted by anniecat at 1:38 PM on March 25, 2010


Oh, and it goes so much without saying that I forgot to say it: super nice, and from friends who've known her longer/better, always has been.
posted by davejay at 1:38 PM on March 25, 2010


Liz Lemon lives every week like it's Shark Week.
We're about four quotes from launching lizlemonfacts.com, people. We can do it!
posted by verb at 1:42 PM on March 25, 2010


It's like this.
posted by anniecat at 1:43 PM on March 25, 2010


Don Geiss frozen in carbonite.

If you need me, I'll be giggling for the next 45 minutes like I did last Thursday.
posted by bondcliff at 1:43 PM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


I learned the word "cisgender" today and I am unhappy about it. I get the point that if there is "trans," logically there would be "cis," and I get that it's a way to show solidarity to those who identify as "trans" by even calling attention to it.

It seems pejorative and apologetic somehow, whereas "trans" is something stronger and prouder.


frecklefaerie, I'm not sure what context you heard the word 'cisgendered' used in, but my experience has been that the term is as neutral as 'trans', merely a decription. Since you believe it is a term that makes sense, I'm curious what else you might call someone who is comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth. It seems like useful shorthand to me.
posted by stinker at 1:47 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


While I'm a fan of 30 Rock and Liz Lemon, even with her weird contradictions of "she's awkward with neuroses like me for sure, but she's still a thin, pretty conventionally attractive white woman" and inspires buckets of hate fuel in me whenever I meet guys who are trying too hard to be awesomely aware who always have to point out how unconventional their objects of attraction are (guy:"...yea, ugh, totally, guys with their Barbie standards for beauty. I'm more of a Tina Fey kind of guy, she's so funny on 30 Rock and so hot too with those glasses and that scar is oddly sexy (they always point out how the scar is oddly sexy, wtf is that? they want a cookie for liking flaws or something?)...or like Natalie Portman, she's so beautiful...yet SMART..." me: "So...I care about who you find attractive, becaaauuusse...."), there are some issues that kind of peck at me sometimes as you can witness from the bits in between the commas previous. Nonetheless, I feel like the show and the writers are also self-aware of this and do handle it in a way that's generally smart, and on a certain level I wave it away as how the point of the show is showing off the exagerrated absurdities of the setting (New York, show business) and all of the characters are sort of part of that.

Instead, I would like to point to you when this sort of "I'm an outsider everywoman" thing is done very wrong. Liz Lemon is not the Liz that we need to worry about. It's Liz from "My Life as Liz." This show inspired such apopleptic RAGE in me that it seriously sets me into rant mode because this show is such utter bullshit. And I don't mean the "scripted reality show" format, but I just mean content of the show in general. Liz Lee, our misfit teen outsider is ostracized by the popular girls, has a group of trusty guy friends, is just too cool for school in quite the literal sense that she doesn't fit in because she's just TOO AWESOME for the inanities of American teen life. OK, nothing new, in fact quite innocuous in its derivativeness. The problem is the whole thing is done so hamfisted, it's almost problematic, nay, poisonous.

Her guy friends? They're more like her harem/cheerleaders. They only exist to slop upon her their asexual devotion, regardless of the fact that she's never really shown socializing with them outside of going to them to grant them her Queen Bee of the nerds presence whenever she has a problem or needs emotional support...whilst she continuously yearns for that cool in a non-jock, yet with perfectly coiffed all-American Eagle looking hairdo awesome guy (whose also shown dating a bespectacled young lady in a forced element of drama and also as a cue saying, oh hai guys, look at him, he's into a lady with glasses, he's not like those OTHER guys even though...he looks like every single other guy walking the halls in this show.)

Most teeth-grindingly annoying is the portrayal of her antagonists. The popular girls aren't just mean girls, they're absolutely evil. Oh, and absolutely, absolutely slutty. In one episode revolving all around a school talent show, the popular girls decide to do their rendition of "Single Ladies," and they're soooo excited because omg, look at how my boobs look in this, and it's going to be SOOOO sexy guys. The entire "war" between Liz and the popular girls is highly despicable. Liz with her "oh, shucks, alt-me?" persona, versus the blond, tanned, mean girls again isn't anything new, but once more, it's just done in such a terrible hamfisted way, all it does reinforce this unhealthy attitude of "well we're not like those sluts" animosity amongst women. Liz herself is sometimes shown engaging in behavior that equals the cruelty of these popular girls, but it's all good because Liz is us. If you're verion of "us" is a pandering to all the black lipstick wearing, doodling band logos on notebooks, going bowling on prom night because you didn't have a date, nerd version of whatever that "us" is. It's basically Geek Chic Mary Sue fanfic masturbation material.

God I'm so glad to get that off my chest. It's like an exorcism. No, no. It's like finally peeing out a kidney stone because I have to admit to my burning shame that I was tricked into watching this shitty gimmick of an MTV show. Jersey Shore had more pathos and earnestness in a single episode than the entire season of My Life as Liz did.
posted by kkokkodalk at 1:50 PM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


Atom Eyes' link reminded me of Leslie Knope, whom I find fascinating, whether from a feminist perspective or not. I wish she got as much attention.

I'm probably biased because I think Tina Fey is a genius.

Part of my problem with Liz Lemon as cultural icon is that I think (or hope) Fey meant Lemon to be at least somewhat satirical--the Oprah-worship and shallow opinions and self-involvedness--and the women I've heard comparing themselves to Lemon often don't see those faults as faults, but rather awesome Lemon-like traits, quirky or cool behaviors that are meant to be laughed at, yes, but also ultimately embraced.

I have a lot of respect for Fey, especially for the episode where Lemon attends her reunion and discovers that while she thought of herself as persecuted in high school, it turns out she made others feel that way too. I think the show is best when Lemon is confronted with her flawed view of herself and the world.
posted by sallybrown at 1:53 PM on March 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


Beauty and handsomeness is always* something that can be used to advantage. Everyone, consciously or not, treats you a little bit differently. You have to be a truly awful person for people not to forgive your transgressions more easily; by some you are seen as more competent, by others more charming or intelligent. No it doesn't automatically get you respect or power, but it sure as hell is a nice head start.

I think sometimes that whatever evolutionary strategy created filters that favor us mating with symmetrical partners, has applied those same standards to everything else we use our judgement for.

I liked the first article. Especially the sentence people tend to leave out when they are cherry picking quotes I am describing a stereotype. No one woman fits all of these qualifications, or is this woman precisely.

She also isn't railing against Liz Leminists for failing to support the causes she espouses, but for failing to support any cause that doesn't intersect with their own self interest. Even though she'd probably recognize that she's set up a bit of a strawwoman, there's some truth to this. Anyone in activism has probably seen wedge issues come up where people in alliance agree about generalities, but fight over priorities.

*working with the blind excepted.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:55 PM on March 25, 2010


I can't remember who said it, but someone in a previous 30 Rock thread pointed out that every time we see TGS, it is really, really awful.

That might have been me. It's still one of my favorite things about the show, and I read it as more of a dig at Liz than it is at SNL (though that's definitely there too).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:56 PM on March 25, 2010


What word would you prefer?

I personally love when people use "PC" as an insult. That's cutting edge "I'm an asshole."


Touchy touchy aren't we?

...so do you have any actual problems with the term?

To respond to both at once, I think the traditional word is "heterosexual", which the author herself used adjectively just before cisgender. To use both in a row comes off as some kind of slight or slur to someone comfortable in their (genetically) assigned gender.

Do I have problems with the word cisgender? I guess not, it seems we are all victims of circumstance when we view the world in this light.
posted by Max Power at 1:57 PM on March 25, 2010


yep, when women participate in their own objectification/marginalization, that totally makes it right.

Never claimed it was right. I just remained unmoved by the plight of someone who gives up a perfectly wellpaying and fulfilling job writing for SNL to not only participate in but actively encourage / promote / create their own objectification for money or fame.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:59 PM on March 25, 2010


As to anybody whose going to ask why I stuck through watching anything more than one episode of My Life As Liz, a) I was just in utter disbelief this show was really doing what I thought it was doing and b) I'm sorry, the Hatorade, it's just so cool and goddamn refreshing. Fucking nectar of the gods.
posted by kkokkodalk at 2:00 PM on March 25, 2010


I think the traditional word is "heterosexual", which the author herself used adjectively just before cisgender

Just a clarification here: Heterosexual = attracted to a person of the opposite sex, Cisgender = identifies with the gender assigned at birth. I think this is a useful terminology to describe two very different things.
posted by stinker at 2:01 PM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


I just remained unmoved by the plight of someone who gives up a perfectly wellpaying and fulfilling job writing for SNL to not only participate in but actively encourage / promote / create their own objectification for money or fame.

This is every professional actor on the face of the planet, is it not?
posted by nathancaswell at 2:02 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Minus the SNL part of course
posted by nathancaswell at 2:02 PM on March 25, 2010


Atom Eyes' link reminded me of Leslie Knope

I consider Parks and Recreation to be the better show, now. It's consistently laugh-out-loud funny and hasn't (yet) become a parody of itself.
posted by ekroh at 2:03 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just a clarification here: Heterosexual = attracted to a person of the opposite sex, Cisgender = identifies with the gender assigned at birth. I think this is a useful terminology to describe two very different things.

Yeah, I was about to say this. 'Heterosexual' doesn't mean 'cisgender' or vice-versa. Without looking at any surveys or anything, I'd be willing to bet that most homosexuals are cisgender.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:05 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


To respond to both at once, I think the traditional word is "heterosexual", which the author herself used adjectively just before cisgender.

*blinks* You really think cisgendered means heterosexual? Cis/trans and straight/gay are related but orthogonal issues.
posted by kmz at 2:05 PM on March 25, 2010


Anyone around here old enough to remember when Dan Quayle criticized Murphy Brown for being an unwed mother and the joke was that Dan Quayle didn't realize she was fictional? Applies here.
posted by mattholomew at 2:13 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


> Because if smart women who know how smart they are intimidate men (and they do), and beautiful women who know how beautiful they are intimidate men (and they do)

Because if all squares are green squares, then the fact that in this world, the only squares are green squares is a real problem.

***
A sense of grievance can help bring issues to the fore. But that same sense of grievance can bog down the attempt to effectively explore those issues.
posted by darth_tedious at 2:17 PM on March 25, 2010


Thirteen Ways of Looking at Liz Lemon: A Google Poem

I

Elizabeth "Liz" Lemon is the main character of the American television series 30 Rock

II

Liz Lemon is that, but she's also something more:

III

Liz Lemon, is the only real woman on modern television today

IV

Liz Lemon is a workaholic whose life revolves around her job

V

“But Liz Lemon is such a failure!” They say

VI

Or more precisely, Liz Lemon is the kind of woman who'd keep you from doing something like that in the first place

VII

So how Liz Lemon is this?

VIII

Liz Lemon is all these things and more

IX

And Liz Lemon is there with me

X

This is why the character of Liz Lemon is the ultimate symbol of how feminism should be taught

XI

Liz Lemon is truly my hero,

XII

but I've never really paid attention to her apartment

XIII

Liz Lemon is my spirit animal
posted by xod at 2:19 PM on March 25, 2010 [20 favorites]


rosswald: I always took the Liz/Jack relationship as more of a political metaphor than a gender one: Liz is the left-leaning heart (but ineffectual), and Jack is the right leaning-sensible (but empty) brain. Jack wins, because cynicism wins.

Yeah, because making the chick "emotional" and the dude "intellectual" isn't gendered AT ALL NO SIRREE
posted by speicus at 2:20 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I thought Liz Lemon is supposed to be unattractive because she dresses poorly, hates sex, and is obsessed with having children.

In the dating world, those things actually do make someone unattractive.
posted by Sloop John B at 2:22 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]



Just a clarification here: Heterosexual = attracted to a person of the opposite sex, Cisgender = identifies with the gender assigned at birth. I think this is a useful terminology to describe two very different things.


I hear ya talking, there is also this from wikipedia ""someone who is comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth"

Which also does not define sexual preference. But her need to add cisgender as a descriptive comes off as a slur merely because she added it, implying a lack of thought to her already imaginary privileged female.

KMZ, I'm trying here, BUT I still think she's bending over backwards to define something that needs no definition.
posted by Max Power at 2:23 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would be astonished to learn that a large section of the show's demographic weren't white, professional, educated women in the 25-40 age range, and to that extent, those people's problems are not going to be a hundred million miles away from Lemon's comically exaggerated problems.

Isuspect part of the point of the article is that is you are a white, professional, educated women in the 25-40 age range then you are a bad and wrong person and should feel bad.
posted by Artw at 2:24 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


And, plus, you know, you're not a tranny so there's that wrong about you as well.
posted by Artw at 2:24 PM on March 25, 2010


But her need to add cisgender as a descriptive comes off as a slur merely because she added it, implying a lack of thought to her already imaginary privileged female.

Could you rephrase this? For whatever reason, I'm unable to figure out what the hell you're saying.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:31 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]



KMZ, I'm trying here, BUT I still think she's bending over backwards to define something that needs no definition.


This is a reflection of the privilege of identifying with your recognized gender. If it needs no definition it is because there is only one way to be, no need for differentiation. If there is more than possibility of gender identity, however, we need terms to describe them. Obviously a definition is needed if we want to be explicit about gender identity, of which there are many varieties.

This is similar in my mind to the inability of whites to consider their own "whiteness". No clarification is needed because "white" is the default, the self. Only "other" groups require an identifier. In everyday speech, therefore, a white person will invoke race only when they are talking about someone of a different race. If race is not mentioned by a white person in conversation, the race of the person being described is assumed to be white.
posted by stinker at 2:35 PM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


But her need to add cisgender as a descriptive comes off as a slur merely because she added it, implying a lack of thought to her already imaginary privileged female.

Context required at this point: the blog author is a poster at one of the big feminist group blogs, which in the relatively recent past had a bit of drama about the way they cover trans issues, which in turn raised awareness among said authors of said trans issues; hence this author's decision to add "cisgendered" to the list of privileges. It's not meant as an attack on cis people; it's meant to be inclusive to her trans readers.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:36 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's a myth at all, but I think you're misinterpreting the author's intent. She's not claiming that she wouldn't get put down if people knew how special she was. (I think) she's claiming that men are attracted to Liz Lemonists because they don't know (or pretend not to know) how attractive they are, meaning you don't have to treat the Lemonists with as much special care as you do the Beautiful People.

I'm not saying that. I'm saying that's she's confusing (unfair) privilege with (earned) respect.

Her concern is that LL should be privileged, but isn't: Liz Lemon is... the pretty girl who doesn’t think she’s pretty. There’s none of the sexual power or confidence.... I read her as saying that Liz's problems would be solved if LL just realized that she was smart and pretty! Then she could claim her privilege, instead of (the underserving) Cerie! After all, she's the smart funny, one, Cerie's just the cute one. See the following discussion of Cerie's "bimbo" character, with the assumption that Liz aspires to Cerie's privilege.

So the message is that Liz should, in the author's opinion, assume her (rightful) privilege because she's actually, secretly hawt, rather than because properly insist on being respected as the one who actually gets shit done around TGS office. In other words, Liz is devalued, in the author's opinion because Liz is not afforded her natural privilege her intrinsic beauty.

This, without mentioning at all in the article Liz's lack of respect by her coworkers (except by Jack, the irony of which is one of the show's great pleasures) for her uber-competence.
posted by bonehead at 2:36 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Artw: "And, plus, you know, you're not a tranny so there's that wrong about you as well."

You non-trannies make me sick.

uh, hamburger?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:36 PM on March 25, 2010


I consider Parks and Recreation to be the better show, now. It's consistently laugh-out-loud funny and hasn't (yet) become a parody of itself.

Well, that does fit with the NBC sitcom life cycle, which seems to be:

Season 1 -- figure things out while you're the 106th ranked show on TV

Seasons 2 and 3 -- figure yourself out, write scripts that crack with energy and remind you of when Cheers and Seinfeld and Friends were just knocking it out of the park week on week

Season 4 -- doldrums start, start leaning on cliches, try not to, scripts get uneven

Season 5 -- A little better, but you keep falling in that rut for 3-4 episodes

Seasons 6 and 7 -- It's clear you're off your peak and people are starting to talk about Season 3 as Historically Great TV even as they're watching the Season 7 half-baked finale

Seasons 8 and 9 -- You really should just get off TV altogether, but NBC pays you $5M an episode to phone it in. I'm looking at you, Mr. Seinfeld.

Season 10 -- Seriously, there was no point to the tenth season of Friends. It would have been better if Phoebe had killed Ross so Rachel could have been her lover forever while Chandler and Monica turned into Republican suburban douchebags no one talks to anymore while Joey moves to California to star in a sitcom that no one watches. But NBC was out of ideas and just wouldn't develop any talent that could be a Thursday night tentpole. Is it any surprise it was Zucker, the man who wouldn't let Conan or Jay go and tried to have it both ways, was behind convincing them to do Season 10?

I kinda think 30 Rock hit the wall this year (Season 4) -- it's been wildly uneven, and at times Liz and Jack have seen very, very unlikeable, like Seinfeld level unlikeable.

The Office starting having the same problems in season 4. Now in season 7 (really, season 7) they really do seem all over the place, unable to decide whether to go with Pitiful Michael or Jim And Pam The Schmoopy Couple Stuck In Dead-End Jobs as the plot point of the week, while poor Dwight just gets stuck stealing the thunder when he can. I really hope NBC tells them next year is their final season so they can refocus the writing.
posted by dw at 2:37 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Office starting having the same problems in season 4. Now in season 7 (really, season 7) they really do seem all over the place, unable to decide whether to go with Pitiful Michael or Jim And Pam The Schmoopy Couple Stuck In Dead-End Jobs as the plot point of the week, while poor Dwight just gets stuck stealing the thunder when he can. I really hope NBC tells them next year is their final season so they can refocus the writing.

I'm sort of stealing this idea from the AV Club (well, but also expanding on it!), but my dream for The Office is that the overall plot arc of the show is that of Jim slowly turning into Michael, and that the final episode of the series would be a scene-for-scene recreation of the first episode, but with Jim in the Michael role. It would be the most genius thing every committed to television, exploring the ways in which nice-guy-goofoff becomes asshole-goofoff, why we like who we like and dislike who we dislike, and how easily audiences' sympathies can be manipulated.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:43 PM on March 25, 2010 [33 favorites]


Community is starting to hit its stride as well. I blame the increased Starburns screen time.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:45 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Community is probably my favorite show on teevee right now.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:47 PM on March 25, 2010


upthread i used the word "anti-cis-gender" to indicate i was having trouble decoding the meaning of cis-gender.

the feministing.com post reads:
[...]while beauty is of course subjective, these two women absolutely meet our culture's standard of female beauty: they're young, white, slim, cis-gendered, well-proportioned and able-bodied, with long shiny hair and smooth skin.
while TigerBeatdown employs cis-gendered as a sorta scornful modifier
I have, for some time, been referring to a particularly irritating brand of privileged semi-feminism as “Liz Lemonism.” I associate this brand of feminism with a certain variety of white, coastal-city dwelling, fairly well-to-do heterosexual cisgendered woman, a woman with a comfortable white-collar job that is so very comfortable and so very white-collar that she is free to spend her spare time yearning for, and semi-believing that she could attain, something with more “meaning.”
(emphasis mine)
going entirely by context when presented with a word many of us have never seen before, it comes loaded with the connotation that cis-genderhood is particularly irritating.
posted by Hammond Rye at 2:50 PM on March 25, 2010


Artw : Just in case anyone is thinking of reading the first article and taking it seriously, the author thinks the show has too much Kenneth.

Ooh, I missed that. A damning indictment, that is.

Because how can you not love a show that has Kennith, reacting to an inaudible frequency that affects people progressively worse the further over 40 they are, by staggering past an open doorway, clutching his hands to his ears, shrieking "What's happening to me?!"

That scene fucking ruined me. I couldn't stop laughing and actually had to leave the room for a minute.
posted by quin at 2:50 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isuspect part of the point of the article is that is you are a white, professional, educated women in the 25-40 age range then you are a bad and wrong person and should feel bad.

Read it again (or read it the first time).
posted by mrgrimm at 2:51 PM on March 25, 2010


cisgender

It reminds me of when I learned the PC way to, when speaking of the disabled, to refer to folks without disability as "non-disabled."

"Wait," I said. "That construction makes 'disabled' the norm, which gets modified by the prefix 'non.' It would be as if I started referring to women as 'non-male.'"

"Please just shut the fuck up," said my wife, who works with the disabled for a living.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:51 PM on March 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


cis-genderdom? cis gendercenticism? see, there's something tricky about throwing around neologisms.
posted by Hammond Rye at 2:53 PM on March 25, 2010


This thread is giving me the cheesy blasters.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:54 PM on March 25, 2010


plus there's this subtext that cis-gendering is healthy and trans-gendering is bad for your cholesterol or something. Also, you need more Omega-3 gendering (like from fish with biccyles, or something).
posted by bonehead at 2:54 PM on March 25, 2010


Also can I just say that I am very sorry to have missed this callout in which klangklangston and I are the same person.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:58 PM on March 25, 2010


Atom Eyes' link reminded me of Leslie Knope, whom I find fascinating, whether from a feminist perspective or not.

For sure. There's easily double the mileage of anything here in the recent episode where Ron gets the award for Pawnee Woman of the Year. It helps that Leslie spends so much more time being interesting and funny herself than Liz, who is frequently saddled with straight-man duties.

I'm sort of stealing this idea from the AV Club (well, but also expanding on it!), but my dream for The Office is that the overall plot arc of the show is that of Jim slowly turning into Michael, and that the final episode of the series would be a scene-for-scene recreation of the first episode, but with Jim in the Michael role. It would be the most genius thing every committed to television, exploring the ways in which nice-guy-goofoff becomes asshole-goofoff, why we like who we like and dislike who we dislike, and how easily audiences' sympathies can be manipulated.

Yes, yes, a billion times yes. That is (or should be) the thesis of the show. It's also why I enjoy arguing that the American Office is more depressing than the British Office, even though I'm not very familiar with the British version. In the American version, he gets everything he's dreamed of, and it turns him into fucking Michael. I mean, holy shit.
posted by Copronymus at 2:59 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


(actually come to think of it if we're coining new words i'd go with cis-gendercentric since it describes an attitude rather than a physical characteristic)
posted by Hammond Rye at 2:59 PM on March 25, 2010


This thread is giving me the cheesy blasters.

I'm what's inside of you!
posted by The Whelk at 3:00 PM on March 25, 2010


Read it again (or read it the first time).

Pff. It's an article about media and it's got the word "priveledge" in it, why the fuck would I want to waste my time reading it again? Reading it the first time for anything other than lulz is pretty much a waste of attention, and it really doesn't have enough of those to make going back worthwhile.
posted by Artw at 3:07 PM on March 25, 2010


Somewhat OT: I keep hearing good things about Parks and Rec. I guess it's worth it to go back and catch up? I watched the pilot and was mostly meh on it. It's the only Thursday night NBC comedy I don't watch. (Community is utterly brilliant.)
posted by kmz at 3:13 PM on March 25, 2010


kmz: everyone agrees that the first season was pretty meh, and didn't pick up until the second to last episode. Now the supporting cast is what makes the show, and the boring straight roles have been pushed to the sidelines. It is all awesome. The NBC lineup from current greatest to least greatest goes: Community > Parks and Rec > 30 Rock > The Office (which feels like a chore to watch sometimes*)

*How fucked up is that? When voluntarily watching a tv show, a comedy of all things, feels like a chore.
posted by Think_Long at 3:18 PM on March 25, 2010


I've said it before; some people seem to take this show way too seriously.
posted by opsin at 3:22 PM on March 25, 2010


Think of "30 Rock" as "Green Acres" set in TV land and on the urban East Coast. Liz is Mr. Douglas, the central character, who initially seems to be the only person on the show who is sane. Soon enough, you find out said character is more deluded than anyone else. This is Sit-Com 101 stuff.
posted by raysmj at 3:44 PM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yes, yes, a billion times yes. That is (or should be) the thesis of the show. It's also why I enjoy arguing that the American Office is more depressing than the British Office, even though I'm not very familiar with the British version. In the American version, he gets everything he's dreamed of, and it turns him into fucking Michael. I mean, holy shit.
Having watched both, I don't think that's really possible. It being more depressing, I mean. I do love this twist, though, and it's been hinted at and laughed at enough times in the show already that there's a pretty smooth path towards it. When Charles came in and started cleaning up the office in Season 5, Jim's defense of his "Assistant Regional Manager" title was the sort of horrifying look-what-he's-become moment that could foreshadow it.

Also, I want a sitcom named 'Plate of Beans.'
posted by verb at 3:47 PM on March 25, 2010


So... when people ask me who my perfect woman is and I say "Tina Fey" I'm actually being a chauvinistic pig?

Crap. -_-
posted by Talez at 3:53 PM on March 25, 2010


opsin: "I've said it before; some people seem to take this show way too seriously."

Didn't we already do all this over Ally McBeal?
posted by Joe Beese at 4:00 PM on March 25, 2010


Yes, yes, a billion times yes. That is (or should be) the thesis of the show. It's also why I enjoy arguing that the American Office is more depressing than the British Office, even though I'm not very familiar with the British version. In the American version, he gets everything he's dreamed of, and it turns him into fucking Michael.

Wow does everyone have this theory? I have a friend who actually does writing on a different show who really wants this to happen. That gives me some hope that the writers of the show are doing this intentionally (which was sort of apparent when they were in the co-manager situation).

The problem from a character development perspective is that a large part of Michael's motivations are driven by his loneliness. The office is his family, friends and entire life. You can't really run with this idea as long as Pam & Jim are together. You can't kill Pam as that's just too heavy for the show. You can't have Jim be a complete asshole and cheating on her or causing the divorce as you lose all sympathy for him. What you can do, however, is have him be kind of aloof and child like as shown during the birth episode. Have Pam conduct an affair, Jim find out and have them realize they just weren't meant for each other outside the confines of a school yard crush.

Wrap it up in a two-three show story arc and do so with as little drama as possible. You have a man who has nothing but the office he works for, child-like and a strange ego that puts him in the middle of the universe. Your Jim-to-Michael bildungsroman is complete.
posted by geoff. at 4:00 PM on March 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


Ugh, I spent way too much time giving critical analysis to NBC's Thursday night lineup. I feel dirty.
posted by geoff. at 4:02 PM on March 25, 2010


The problem from a character development perspective is that a large part of Michael's motivations are driven by his loneliness.

Loneliness is surely a big part of his character, but I think his prime directive is more his need to be liked by everybody. This need is absolute and overrides everything, even his career. I think Jim kind of has that same need - his constant mediation between feuding parties (sales vs. accounting), playing out practical jokes so everyone in the office thinks he's the funny one, etc. etc. Jim is definitely more with it than Michael ever is, but that doesn't mean things can't change. I think it would be totally possible for Jim to be the next Michael.
posted by Think_Long at 4:08 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I don't really watch the show that much, but a couple of months ago I read this by Amanda Marcotte which sort of pre-answers this. Her point was that Liz Lemon isn't really meant to be the "voice of the show" but rather a character to mock. It was more about Lemon's lack of "liberalism" rather then her lack of "feminism" as a whole.
To really understand what’s going on with “30 Rock”, you have to accept two of the show’s most basic premises fully: 1) Liz is a fuck-up and 2) Jack is a master of a world created by people like him for people like him. These two facts are unrelated in a causal way, but they do go a long way to explaining the characters’ very believable friendship. More importantly, they explain why it’s both true that Jack is always right and in control, and yet the moral center of the show is still (mostly) liberal.

Let’s start with #1. Liz is undeniably a fuck-up in most ways, except that she has a very narrow talent for running a crappy variety comedy show. Over the course of the show, we’ve learned that Liz is lazy, a glutton, anti-social, a bully, insecure, prone to fantasies, and emotionally screwed up to the point where she can’t have normal relationships. These facts have caused some feminists to bunch up, but I’m pretty happy overall with it. If we don’t want women relegated to window dressing in comedy, they have to play deeply flawed characters, because comedy is built around laughing at deeply flawed people navigate the world, making light of our own flaws and making us feel superior. Liz is a lot like George on “Seinfeld” in that way. I’m ecstatic to see women occupying comic roles that were previously reserved for men. Amy Poehler is doing something similar on “Parks and Recreation”, and if you aren’t watching that show, shame on you. It’s the funniest thing on TV right now.

Because of this, it’s part of Liz’s brokenness that she can’t actually be the liberal she wants to be. That’s why she jokes that she’ll say she voted for Obama, but will vote for McCain. The show actually makes this pretty clear, especially in the episode where she calls in her innocent Arab neighbor as a terrorist when he was just auditioning for “The Amazing Race”. Or the episode where she gets a corporate job, and tells everyone to suck it. The whole point of Liz is that she’s a weak person who gives into her ugliest urges, and subsequently, when she buys into reactionary politics, it’s evidence that reactionaries are weak people who are motivated by selfishness and fear. And this is why Jack and she have their weird codependent relationship. Liz is skeptical of Jack’s conservative proclamations, but she buys into them in the end (as he knows she will), because she’s really an asshole.

But in the world of “30 Rock”, assholes win. We’re so used to thinking of someone “winning” in a show as vindication for their moral viewpoint, but isn’t that lowering expectations? TV, even light comedies, shouldn’t be about moral uplift like it’s some tract from a “Chicken Soup” book. On “30 Rock”, like in the real world, assholes win at the game they wrote so that they will win. And Jack is the king of that.
Interesting point.
posted by delmoi at 4:13 PM on March 25, 2010 [16 favorites]


I sincerely thought that's where the co-manager thing was going, and then when Kathy Bates came in and said 'Only one of you can be manager' and it was Jim for like five minutes I was ecstatic but then of course they went back to status quo ho-hum.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:16 PM on March 25, 2010


Michael - potentially the new David Wallace
Jim - potentially the new Jan
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:18 PM on March 25, 2010


You know what's good? A strip of lemon zest in a glass of very cold Lillet.
posted by everichon at 4:21 PM on March 25, 2010


"There is...a persistent fantasy, among a certain variety of dude, that someday they will meet the most beautiful woman in the entire world and no-one else will realize how beautiful she is."

This makes a lot of sense.
posted by limeonaire at 4:23 PM on March 25, 2010


Do we get favourites just for saying 30 Rock lines? Because if so:

PAC MAN! I'M JEWISH!
posted by Jofus at 4:29 PM on March 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


doesn't do Blogspot, but she does do Tumblr

Is this really an example of something that make someone a crappy feminist?
posted by naoko at 4:31 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or even something that makes someone a certain type of feminist? I had no idea Blogspot vs. Tumblr was such an inherently political choice. Since when do activists have to blog, anyway?
posted by naoko at 4:33 PM on March 25, 2010


You can say whatever you want about 30 Rock but the episode where they had the HDTV monitor set up for Liz's talk show was the hardest I have laughed at anything this season other than Big Bang Theory.

The Office ended at Season Four. There never were any other seasons. That is all.
posted by Ber at 4:36 PM on March 25, 2010


Is this really an example of something that make someone a crappy feminist?

I get the impression that her point is that Tumblr is not only more "of the now," but it's also more for images/quotes/reblogging, whereas Blogspot is for those who write at length. Of course, who said that feminists have to be active in the blogosphere at all?

Remarks like that undermine her other points.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:38 PM on March 25, 2010


"Has the body been identified?"
"Yes. By itself." Puts on shades. "And it's comfortable with that." Stares into middle distance and we cut to...

CIS:Gendered
posted by Sparx at 4:42 PM on March 25, 2010 [35 favorites]


"Has the body been identified?"
"Yes. By itself." Puts on shades. "And it's comfortable with that." Stares into middle distance and we cut to...

CIS:Gendered


You forgot the "YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
posted by Talez at 4:48 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Office ended at Season Four. There never were any other seasons. That is all.

Lolwut?

One word for you: Parkour!
posted by Talez at 4:58 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


30 Rock is a show where some of the funniest lines are totally buried due to momentum (or USED to be, rather, the pacing has been all off recently, although the last few have picked it back up) so I have a place in my heart for Jenna's oft-buried gems. They're funnier cause thier totally tossed aside and not commented on like say

"..cause that boat I was educated on sank!"

or

"..that's how I met that mobster!"
posted by The Whelk at 5:04 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


who said that feminists have to be active in the blogosphere at all?

twix commercials
posted by Hammond Rye at 5:10 PM on March 25, 2010


twix commercials

i hate you i hate you i hate you i hate you
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:13 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course, who said that feminists have to be active in the blogosphere at all?

Remarks like that undermine her other points.

FWIW, I really don't read this bit as her attempting to define a certain type of feminist (it's not like she dislikes women with white-collar jobs, I'm sure) or a certain type of woman, but describing a stereotype, a phantom not-very-serious kind of person who she views as something to work against allowing existence rather than denigrating people for not being political enough or whathaveyou, and that's why she wants people to think more critically about Liz Lemon rather than allowing Liz Lemon to be their 'black friend' that allows them to be racist, only for feminism.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:24 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


see, in my imaginary twix commercial i'll say something careless and the girl will be all WTF pig! and i'll be like, "oh, i didn't mean to sound so CIS-GENDERED but my upbringing was sooo oppressively normative" and she'll fuck me.

that's the only reason us guys ever read feminist blog rants anyway amirite? because i'm attracted to maggie gyllenhaal types instead of megan fox because megan fox is unattainable
But we also need to address that the fact of her imaginary ugliness, the fact that we are constantly told she is all brain and no body, fits into some very specific male fantasies, the sort of fantasies that are summed up in the commonly-used phrase “Thinking Man’s Sex Symbol.”

You can often tell by a man’s record collection or bookshelf which female celebrities he is going to call “hot” — whether he’s a Megan Fox man, or a Maggie Gyllenhaal sort of fellow. The issue is that the Maggie Gyllenhaal crush is often thought to be more sophisticated and evolved, by the man who has it, when the fact is that they are both extremely lovely girls. There’s nothing wrong with liking extremely lovely girls. But the thought that Megan Fox is somehow too obviously hot, too mainstream, the Coldplay of masturbation, is just plain silly. There’s something going on there, and it’s worth looking at, and it has a lot to do with the fact that Tina Fey, Thinking Man’s Sex Symbol, attained her TMSS status by playing a character that we are constantly asked to find awkward, over-brainy, and unattractive.
thank you for helping perfect my cis-gendered rap so i can get laid
posted by Hammond Rye at 5:31 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


thank you for helping perfect my cis-gendered rap so i can get laid

This kind of thing isn't funny, please refrain from doing it.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:34 PM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


FWIW, I really don't read this bit as her attempting to define a certain type of feminist (it's not like she dislikes women with white-collar jobs, I'm sure) or a certain type of woman, but describing a stereotype, a phantom not-very-serious kind of person who she views as something to work against allowing existence rather than denigrating people for not being political enough or whathaveyou, and that's why she wants people to think more critically about Liz Lemon rather than allowing Liz Lemon to be their 'black friend' that allows them to be racist, only for feminism.

If that's true, then her invocation of "Liz Lemonists" literally does not have coherent meaning. She was obviously sketching out a self-consciously stereotypical image of a white, urban, educated, professional, privileged, cisgendered hemi-demi-semi-feminist as corresponding generally to women who live in the real world.

...

Unrelatedly, some of us find Megan Fox less-than-perfectly attractive because she's so plastic and pouty-pouty-try-too-hard. Even my unattainable bimbo fantasies show better taste!
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:40 PM on March 25, 2010


"coldplay of masturbation" is just as accusatory as a male-bashing construction.
posted by Hammond Rye at 5:42 PM on March 25, 2010


"Shouldn't feminism apply to all women, even if they're pretty or wealthy?"

A lot of feminist rhetoric relies on defining who is and who is not privileged. Shouldn't feminism apply to all women? Yes it should. Does it? Not yet.
posted by vapidave at 5:43 PM on March 25, 2010


i went too far i'll admit no amount of [hamburger] can smooth that one over.
posted by Hammond Rye at 5:45 PM on March 25, 2010


Who the fuck is Liz Lemon and why do you people care?
posted by jonmc at 5:47 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


IS THIS SOMETHING I'D NEED TO HAVE A TELEVISION TO HAVE A TELEVISION
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:49 PM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


twix commercials

Well, don't feel too bad, that girl's idealistic streak got her in bed with Don Draper. Quite a step up from that loser.
posted by delmoi at 5:54 PM on March 25, 2010


I still laugh when I remember that she described Jon Hamm as looking like 'a cartoon pilot.'
posted by shakespeherian at 5:56 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I've said it before; some people seem to take this show way too seriously."

Didn't we already do all this over Ally McBeal?

Oh, yes. When I was a graduate student in English Literature in 1999 or so, we had a visiting scholar present a paper on the bathrooms in Ally McBeal and Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway's Party.
posted by not that girl at 7:01 PM on March 25, 2010


Part of my problem with Liz Lemon as cultural icon is that I think (or hope) Fey meant Lemon to be at least somewhat satirical--the Oprah-worship and shallow opinions and self-involvedness

I agree with you, sallybrown, that Liz Lemon is (at least in part) intended to be a satire and a criticism of comfortable mediocrity. Liz considers herself a committed liberal, a feminist, an anti-racist, an intellectual, but she is mired in her weaknesses: she knuckles under to the partriarchy, to corporate interests, to her own unintentional racism and xenophobia, to the most banal of mass-market infotainment. As for her political convitions, she flat-out says, "There is an 80% chance that in the next election I will tell all my friends that I'm voting for Barack Obama but I will secretly vote for John McCain." Liz Lemon is a portrait of easy mediocrity and social fear overcoming noble intentions.
posted by Elsa at 7:03 PM on March 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


I don't give two farts in a windstorm about race, gender, or disability*. You'd think that places me at the logical endpoint of the related empowering movements, but not so much.


* save as an occasional consideration in logistics, ie sunscreen, bathrooms, or stairs.
posted by ActualStackhouse at 7:03 PM on March 25, 2010


My favorite joke in 30 Rock: "Cajun Style!" said by that commentator guy who's on all the news programs. (My SO and I just call him Skeletor, so I don't know his real name.)

Close second: "Dr. Spaceman!"

I don't have anything to say about the feminism in the show. I just wanted to say: funny tv good!
posted by Ms. Saint at 7:07 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think Ms. Saint has gotten to the heart of the issue.
posted by clockzero at 7:11 PM on March 25, 2010


30 Rock is an unprecedented satire. All of the characters are totally repellent representations. What happened to Rachel Dratch, this poster wants to know. Is she available to host my wedding?
posted by parmanparman at 7:35 PM on March 25, 2010


Unrelatedly, some of us find Megan Fox less-than-perfectly attractive because she's so plastic and pouty-pouty-try-too-hard. Even my unattainable bimbo fantasies show better taste!

I would not mind looking like Megan Fox.
posted by anniecat at 7:36 PM on March 25, 2010


Unrelatedly, some of us find Megan Fox less-than-perfectly attractive because she's so plastic and pouty-pouty-try-too-hard. Even my unattainable bimbo fantasies show better taste!

I would not mind looking like Megan Fox.


I think I would mind, actually, which shocks me a little. I'd miss my face, flawed as it may be.
posted by sallybrown at 7:40 PM on March 25, 2010


I'd just like to point out that Jack Donaghy's actual quote was "I thought you made love like a fat girl! So present; so grateful!"
posted by dogwelder at 8:39 PM on March 25, 2010


Hell, as long as we are doing this:

Jack: This company has a very strict "Bros Before Hos" policy.
posted by Theodore Sign at 8:46 PM on March 25, 2010


Here's the thing about the "Thinking Man's Sex Symbol" bit. It's half-bullshit. But only half.

We find attractive what we find attractive, and there's not a lot of nobility in our "choices" as far as that's concerned. None, really.

But on the other hand, though we like to think that "the dick has a mind of its own," it doesn't, really. It's informed by the brain, which responds to signals of our development.

I get that Megan Fox is attractive, but she doesn't do anything for me. Same with Angelina Jolie. There's nothing "noble" or "cool" about that, it's just how it is. But I know I am attracted to women who come off as smart, independent, and if I'm being totally honest with myself, nerdy.

I barely know what I'm trying to say, really, except that we have levels of our subconscious which become trained to be attracted to certain things. Those subconscious layers then instruct our physical responses in turn. Certain men will be more attracted to Tina Fey, then, not just because of her physical attributes but because of the whole range of things that they glean about her, on that subconscious level.

But bragging about it is absurd. Also, 30 Rock has still got it, it's high-water mark so far has got to be Episode 210 (aka "Coffee and T.V.) ad I really need to watch Community at some point, but I just keep forgetting to tivo it.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:54 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Liz Lemon is a portrait of easy mediocrity and social fear overcoming noble intentions.

30 Rock seems so comfortable with its deeply cynical outlook that it's difficult to tell if it is a satire. Half the time I don't know if the writers are shilling for NBC, or just winking at you about shilling for NBC. But they are shilling, either way. Perhaps that's the mark of good satire, when you can't tell if it is satire or not.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:51 PM on March 25, 2010


I think the whole thing about Liz Lemonists was more self-aware than a lot of people are painting this. I don't know, maybe I am inserting my own personality in there a bit -- I too wear hip glasses and have a tumblr and all the sort of coastal hipster markers of the Liz Lemonists -- and Liz Lemonism is a very easy trap to fall into if you have this sort of personality and live an easy white-collar type life. Being a good person (not just a good feminist) is kind of a fight against Liz Lemon.

I really liked the piece; I didn't totally agree with it because I think some of the things it's criticizing 30 Rock for are things that it's doing on purpose for satirical means. But I don't know that it always goes over that way. You know how a certain kind of dude always likes Fight Club? Or the fact that the Michael Scotts of the world always seem to really dig The Office? I always tend to think pop culture's job isn't to make social points more obvious to dumb people, but at what point does it start doing social harm?

(My answer: Family Guy.)
posted by SoftRain at 10:50 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I, too, wish Twofer and Jonathan got more time on the show.
posted by Nattie at 12:42 AM on March 26, 2010


>>thank you for helping perfect my cis-gendered rap so i can get laid

>This kind of thing isn't funny, please refrain from doing it.


But haven't we all met a bunch of guys who learned how to (very, very superficially) use the discourse of feminism to get laid? I knew tons of them in college, which is not coincidentally probably the moment in life when that tactic is the most effective. They knew exactly how to use words like "cis-gendered" to give the impression of being egalitarian and "supportive of the cause," when really all they wanted was to get in her pants. I'm not even really criticizing that as a technique -- my impression was that everyone ended up happy, so where's the harm? But it's a really common phenomenon, even if discussing it can be uncomfortable for all concerned.

There is ... a persistent fantasy, among a certain variety of dude, that someday they will meet the most beautiful woman in the entire world and no-one else will realize how beautiful she is. ... She’ll never realize that, if you don’t treat her right, plenty of other men will be willing to treat her better, because she is a catch and a half. She won’t have that sort of autonomy, that sort of confidence

Someone quoted the first sentence above, and it struck me as accurate, too. I'd add, though, that this fantasy is heavily about not having to compete with other men -- of sidestepping a (perhaps imagined) competition for the attractive woman by finding one that no other men might be interested in. This is the fantasy that underlies all those tiresome scenes where the actress takes off her glasses and magically becomes "hot." It's not about inner beauty or confidence or anything positive like that -- it's a really negative imagination about getting a prize possession for a discount price. (In fairness, it's a shared fantasy -- you see the same story, albeit told from the other perspective, in a million romances written by and for women, where the hot guy spots, chooses, and brings out of her shell the semi-dumpy main character.)
posted by Forktine at 3:25 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't care what anyone says, The Office is brilliant this season. I'm sorry but Kevin screaming into Pam's boobs trying to make them engorge is hilarious and the Andy/Erin storyline is fantastic.
posted by Talez at 4:46 AM on March 26, 2010


Forktine: "But it's a really common phenomenon, even if discussing it can be uncomfortable for all concerned."

It is, and I don't want people to refrain from discussing it. However, MetaFilter would become a really shitty place really quickly if everyone took it upon themselves to discuss things by satirically playing a character who believes abysmal things. The mods have made this point repeatedly about things like making over-the-top faux-racist comments, etc. They're very easily misunderstood, and it's a lot better in all directions to just say what you actually mean rather than saying the opposite because being offensive is funny.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:08 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Crying about a chicken and a baby? I thought this was a comedy show!"
posted by mikepop at 6:45 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Writing about this very problem, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein writes that 30 Rock "didn't have the nerve to cast an actually frumpy actress in Liz Lemon's role. About half the jokes focus on Lemon's looks, and they're all undercut when the camera focuses on the slim, beautiful Tina Fey."

Oh my God. Is this what happens when you have no sense of humor? The joke is preciselythe camera focusing on Tina Fey's looks after a comment has been made about her ugliness. What is funny is her lack of confidence, the fact that the other characters know it, and exploit it. The truth at the heart of this joke is that most women who think they are unattractive (like Lemon does, and that's why the joke works) actually are quite attractive, but it's the lack of confidence that undermines them.

This article reinforces my belief that the laugh track was invented upon the discovery that the audience was too stiff and/or dumb to know when a joke has been told, so it serves as a retroactive cue.

If you are going to start throwing around words like 'cis-gendered' in relation to a fucking situation comedy on network television, please at least attempt a rudimentary understanding of how comedy works.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:52 AM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't give two farts in a windstorm about race, gender, or disability*. You'd think that places me at the logical endpoint of the related empowering movements, but not so much.

Ah, like "Stephen Colbert", you don't see race or gender. Good for you!

And man, I would have never guessed "cisgendered" was such a touchy word for people. Did people ever get so het up over "heterosexual"?
posted by kmz at 7:11 AM on March 26, 2010


here's a fitting illustration of a challenge to cis-gendered standards of beauty:

JD Samson of the band Le Tigre has refused to wax her facial hair as a militantly observable "fuck you" to convention.
SAMSON: This mustache I’ve grown since puberty has left me stuck in “the public.” I‘m used to people looking at my hermy face. But I actually feel better now that I can be a positive image for other dykes with facial hair. I spent way too much time afraid to look anyone in the eye on the street, but when I’m onstage or when someone recognizes me, I feel much more comfortable sportin‘ my ’stache with bells hanging from it.
of course i prefer the word cis-gendered to "hermy face"

i don't recall ever seeing liz lemon come out of the bathroom with depilatory on her lip but we've probably all seen that on a sitcom somewhere
posted by Hammond Rye at 7:38 AM on March 26, 2010


Liz Lemons Shortly lived tache wasn't a patch on Sarah Silvermans.
posted by Artw at 7:52 AM on March 26, 2010


And man, I would have never guessed "cisgendered" was such a touchy word for people.

I dislike it (outside of specific theory writing where it is describing something concrete and necessary) because it is an ugly word. Some words are beautiful, others workaday; some, like "cisgendered" (with or without the hyphen) are ugly. It's a patchwork word, totally artificial, and uses a prefix "cis" that is uncommon in English. We don't normally ("cisally"?) use "cis" to modify words to emphasize their normativity -- we don't constrast "cis-roads" with "bike-paths," for example, or "cis-families" with "non-breeders."

So it's not the concept that bothers me (and I'm certainly ok with its use in jargony academic prose), but the sheer ugliness of the word itself. The real test of all neologisms, of course, is whether or not they catch on and become part of our discourse -- if this word does cross over from its small foothold in theory- and activist-speak, then I'll have to learn to love it, just as I've learned to accept other words.
posted by Forktine at 8:11 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It bothers me because it's such a purpose-driven word; like "pro-life"or "death tax", it is explicitly designed to drive the way people think about an issue, to redefine comfort with gender as not normal but an undeserved, vaguely inappropriate privilege.

I also disagree that goal of course. We can acknowledge that some things are not normal without stigmatizing them. It is normal to feel comfortable with the gender nature intended for you; no one needs to apologize for that or consider it a special privilege.
posted by msalt at 8:26 AM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I dislike it (outside of specific theory writing where it is describing something concrete and necessary) because it is an ugly word. Some words are beautiful, others workaday; some, like "cisgendered" (with or without the hyphen) are ugly. It's a patchwork word, totally artificial, and uses a prefix "cis" that is uncommon in English. We don't normally ("cisally"?) use "cis" to modify words to emphasize their normativity -- we don't constrast "cis-roads" with "bike-paths," for example, or "cis-families" with "non-breeders."

You've got a lot of gall. A lot of cisalpine gall!

Nah actually I agree that "cis" is awkward and perhaps incorrect in this context.
posted by grobstein at 8:53 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


It does sound nicely pseudoscientific.
posted by Artw at 8:54 AM on March 26, 2010


Forktine: "But it's a really common phenomenon, even if discussing it can be uncomfortable for all concerned."

shakespeherian:It is, and I don't want people to refrain from discussing it. However, MetaFilter would become a really shitty place really quickly if everyone took it upon themselves to discuss things by satirically playing a character who believes abysmal things.


No one had connected the "I like girls like Liz Lemon" to using "the discourse of feminism to get laid" ideas in a way that made me question my own motives for reading feminism-related threads on MeFi until Hammond Rye's comment & he apologized for going over the top.

Did I read the creepy/dangerous men threads because I don't want to be a dirty old man or because I don't want to appear to be a dirty old man?
posted by morganw at 9:18 AM on March 26, 2010


Think of "30 Rock" as "Green Acres" set in TV land and on the urban East Coast. Liz is Mr. Douglas, the central character, who initially seems to be the only person on the show who is sane. Soon enough, you find out said character is more deluded than anyone else. This is Sit-Com 101 stuff.

See: Dave Nelson (if not that episode, then the one with Stargate Defender).

This article reinforces my belief that the laugh track was invented upon the discovery that the audience was too stiff and/or dumb to know when a joke has been told, so it serves as a retroactive cue.

30 Rock doesn't use a laugh track. Most of the popular sitcoms don't anymore.

If you are going to start throwing around words like 'cis-gendered' in relation to a fucking situation comedy on network television, please at least attempt a rudimentary understanding of how comedy works.

I think cis-gendered is definitely relevant to a discussion of representations of feminism on TV.

And man, I would have never guessed "cisgendered" was such a touchy word for people. Did people ever get so het up over "heterosexual"?

Me neither, but tI think he answer to your question is yes. The response here to the use of "cisgendered" reminds me of the use of "heterosexual" 15-20 years ago, as in "why do you even need to mention that?" The answer to the why question is obvious to me: because transgender women face a different set of issues than cisgendered women. It's that simple. I read the word, acknowledged it, and thought little of it.

The fact that is was used once as a qualifer for Liz's character and has caused this much attention indicates something about our opinions about the transgendered.

It is normal to feel comfortable with the gender nature intended for you; no one needs to apologize for that or consider it a special privilege.

Is it not also "normal" not to feel comfortable with the sex nature "intended" for you. I believe it is, but you apparently do not?

We can acknowledge that some things are not normal without stigmatizing them.

I'm curious to hear some examples of that.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:28 AM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


msalt: "It bothers me because it's such a purpose-driven word; like "pro-life"or "death tax", it is explicitly designed to drive the way people think about an issue, to redefine comfort with gender as not normal but an undeserved, vaguely inappropriate privilege."

Oh dear god. No. Cisgendered is designed to balance transgendered, cissexual to transsexual, so that no-one has to compare being transsexual with being normal, with all the pejorative implications of that comparison. You can talk about how ugly the word is, how uncommon the prefix is, but it is a word intended to introduce neutrality to a discourse that completely lacked it; the very opposite of a value judgment. It exists for the same reason that straight exists to balance gay and heterosexual to-- and so on.

I have no clue why people insist on getting in such a pathetic flap about these fairly innocuous new(ish) words, although I suspect there's a sort of background resentment to trans people having had any influence over discourse that isn't directly about them.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:41 AM on March 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


My only beef with 'cisgender' is that it's malphonious. Dysphonious? YKWIM.
posted by everichon at 9:47 AM on March 26, 2010


And yes, while I do think that some people have developed a slightly pointless tendency to go all-out on the shopping list of privileges/disadvantages in conversations that don't necessarily require their mention, I fail to see why that one word gets special attention out of all the others listed ("white, coastal-city dwelling, fairly well-to-do heterosexual cisgendered woman, a woman with a comfortable white-collar job") when someone's cis/trans status can have just as much impact on their worldview as their sexuality, skin colour, disability, or current city of choice.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:52 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Wow! Time to Rescues the Prince(ss)!"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:56 AM on March 26, 2010


I fail to see why that one word gets special attention out of all the others listed

Because it's the only uncommon word in that list. People don't like words they don't know.
posted by smackfu at 10:23 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


(For example, the NY Times has never used that word.)
posted by smackfu at 10:25 AM on March 26, 2010


Is it not also "normal" not to feel comfortable with the sex nature "intended" for you. I believe it is, but you apparently do not?

One of the difficulties of discussing transgender is that is it entirely subjective, unlike race, ableness, class, etc. I don't know what psychologists say about comfort with gender. Certainly most people I know have felt like they don't quite fit what society describes as the "right" way for the gender role expected for them; I cry at movies, for example.

That is not at all the same thing as what trangendered people I know describe as their feeling of not being in the right body. That feeling seems to be extraordinary and a very difficult thing to wrestle with, and it breaks my heart to hear about it. They uniformly describe it as something being not right, or as something having gone wrong somewhere along the way. So, you are right, I do not think that is a normal feeling.
posted by msalt at 10:39 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


ArmyOfKittens: Oh dear god. No. Cisgendered is designed to balance transgendered, cissexual to transsexual, so that no-one has to compare being transsexual with being normal, with all the pejorative implications of that comparison.

Well, the fact that it's designed to do anything is my biggest problem with it. I prefer words that develop organically, rather than as ideological tools. But also: there is such a thing as normal. It's a shame people are sometimes mean to people who aren't normal, but you're not going to solve that by straining to invent "neutral" words.

I have no clue why people insist on getting in such a pathetic flap about these fairly innocuous new(ish) words, although I suspect there's a sort of background resentment to trans people having had any influence over discourse that isn't directly about them.

Here's a clue for you -- maybe people get upset because you speak about them with such perjorative words ("pathetic") and make assumptions about them having petty, pissy motives?
posted by msalt at 10:46 AM on March 26, 2010


smackfu you do realize that the NYTimes search you linked to does actually return a hit, right?
posted by stinker at 11:10 AM on March 26, 2010


I do, but for some odd reason the NY Times search also searches user comments, which makes it a lot less useful. The one result that search picks up is to some random comment.
posted by smackfu at 11:16 AM on March 26, 2010


They uniformly describe it as something being not right, or as something having gone wrong somewhere along the way. So, you are right, I do not think that is a normal feeling.

I think in a culture where identifying strongly with your given gender is rewarded with being considered 'normal' it's little wonder that transgendered people feel 'wrong'. Transgendered children, btw, show very little such dissonance, and generally only in the face of those who insist that a child behave as cisgendered.
posted by stinker at 11:19 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


the implication is that a cisgendered person is oblivious to the standard of beauty their existence represents.

if you don't know the definition of the word "cisgender" then you embody cisgender bias by your ignorance.

familiarity with the word seems to be confined to gender study jargon -- until it is popularized i suspect its usage will be used to establish the credibility of gender discourse. employing "cisgender" as a modifier seems to call attention to ones sensitivity simply by choosing to include it.
posted by Hammond Rye at 11:21 AM on March 26, 2010


i would add that given the pervasiveness of surgical gender assignment at birth without consentcertainly warrents coining a term to differentiate sexual development without judgement
posted by Hammond Rye at 11:39 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you think that "heterosexual" means ignorant or oblivious? Do you think that "white" or "male" means ignorant? I don't.

When the word becomes more popular will you accept it then? That seems like a strange criterion to me.
posted by stinker at 11:40 AM on March 26, 2010


Cisgendered is designed to balance transgendered, cissexual to transsexual, so that no-one has to compare being transsexual with being normal, with all the pejorative implications of that comparison. You can talk about how ugly the word is, how uncommon the prefix is, but it is a word intended to introduce neutrality to a discourse that completely lacked it; the very opposite of a value judgment.

Right, but you're saying that neutral language is better than value-laden language, which is itself a value judgment. If we're talking about a (somewhat) academic discourse, this seems perfectly fine--you want to be neutral, so invent some neutral jargon. But it doesn't seem like this is striking a blow for society's greater acceptance of trans people. How does this change the mind of the father who forces his trans son to play football to toughen him up?

We used to have a method for making people who don't fall into the "normal" category feel accepted - it's called politeness. This was thrown out in the 60s because it was seen as a kind of oppressive conformity to social norms, but to replace it, we are supposed to engage in endless politically-correct navel-gazing about whether our masturbatory fantasies aren't reflective of some inherent bias, privilege, etc. OK, this is a slight exaggeration maybe, but isn't this policing of our internal thoughts and feelings even more oppressive and authoritarian? Why can't we just expect people be polite to each other in public and leave them to enjoy their masturbation fantasies, or whatever, in private? The Colbert-esque belief that human beings are naturally blind to categories and it is only oppressive social ideals codified in language that causes them to act like dicks (if you will excuse my gender normativity) seems wrong. We should accept that people act like dicks and enforce a code of politeness and discretion to address the cultural problem, and strong legal measures to address active discrimination. I think this would be far more effective.

Incidentally, Megan Fox has a genetic anomaly called brachydactyly, so if there is a politically-correct masturbation fantasy, she is probably a good candidate.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:51 AM on March 26, 2010


One thing I was a little dissatisfied with in the Tiger Beatdown article (thought-provoking as it may be) was that in the hurry to scroll through all the other female characters while searching for someone sympathetic (point #6), Sady skipped over Angie Jordan. Granted, Sherri Shepherd hasn't had a big role, but she's been around and she's funny. Her interaction with Liz contains one of my favorite--and most cutting--exchanges on the show:

Liz [seeing Angie's ring, trying to be ingratiating]: Bling-bling! That is ghetto-fabulous!
Angie [acidly]: This belonged to Brooke Astor.

You can talk about the Liz Lemon-style feminist being so, so white and that she "doesn't do anti-racism," but that seems pretty tacked-on as the complaint doesn't really apply to the show: how many other major-network sitcoms feature three regular black characters and address race-based humor so directly and frequently?
posted by kittyprecious at 12:28 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here is the problem I see with rewriting the English language to make it neutral.

Essentially there are all these issues we have in our culture that we are still in the process of working out. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, the list goes on and on. And there is this impulse by many people to change the words and the phrases that are attached to these negative unresolved issues within ourselves and our culture. And sometimes that makes sense, especially when particular words are used as cruel insults and that was the words only purpose, but then you get into other words. Words that while they remind of us uncomfortable issues still lying right under the surface, are nonetheless not insults. And there is this impulse to cleanse our speech of these words and replace them with new neutral words with the idea that if we all start saying these neutral words the issues and the biases and the ugliness associated with the old words will also go away, but that just isn't how it works.

You can changed handicapped to handicapable or cis-gendered instead well to just normal or average, but you haven't changed people's underlying discomfort with either issue. Which is why I think we always go in cycles with these politically correct terms. Every decade or so there is a new term we are supposed to use and now the old one is now at least slightly pejorative. And it's because just like the old words reminded us of these difficult ugly issues lying under the surface, very soon the new "neutral" words we invented become associated with those same difficult ugly issues that we were attempting to eradicate with the new word, but really we just added a new word to the thesaurus because you have to really change society, not just words. And this is so difficult. There are no quick fixes.

In regards to the term cisgendered in particular, my problem with it is that it exists, as others have said, so that there are trans people and cis people and not trans and normal. Because being abnormal is bad, but why does it have to be bad? That's the real issue we as a society have to struggle with. It has to be ok to be abnormal. Most, if not all of us, are abnormal to some extent. We as a society need to be ok with abnormal. We don't need new words, we need to deal with the underlying issues that we are running away from by trying to invent new words. It should be ok to have transgendered and normal gendered people. Because normal is the norm and it is the norm to be cisgendered. It doesn't mean it's bad to be trans, but it's outside the norm and that needs to be ok. That's where we really need to get to.
posted by whoaali at 12:29 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


30 Rock is an unprecedented satire. All of the characters are totally repellent representations.

If you are going to start throwing around words like 'cis-gendered' in relation to a fucking situation comedy on network television, please at least attempt a rudimentary understanding of how comedy works.

Yeah, I was mostly here for the first article. None of the character's on 30 Rock are believable as living breathing human beings. They are all caricatures. Lemon is supposed to be inconsistent, this is what makes Jack's abhorrent but consistent politics a nice foil.


But in the stream of consciousness article I liked this part:

I came up with a perfect metaphor for how I feel about feminism. I was standing in my tiny living room, and I said:
“Okay, so here’s me. Privileged in basically every way. White, middle-class, cis, straight, first-world American, whatever. Except, I’m a lady. That’s the one way I might be oppressed a little. So here’s me standing in my privilege.”
I walked over and stood in the doorway to my study.
“Here’s me in feminism. In the doorway.”
I stepped over the threshold and into my study, which is a much larger room.
“And here’s me in the entire rest of the world, dealing with all the ways people have their humanity denied, dealing with concern and solidarity with basically everybody who is not privileged. And realizing there are way more people without full, uncompromised privilege than with it, and that this is kind of an essential fact of the human experience. Dealing with, like, the experience of being human on Planet Earth.”
Feminism being, in this metaphor, not the endpoint, not the destination, but the necessary way in to the actual problem; feminism being not the room, but the door. Liz Lemonism is a door with a wall of brick behind it: you don’t get anywhere after you’ve opened it. So my imaginary enemy, the woman who is not a feminist but a Liz Lemonist, gets to the point at which she can start to politicize her specific problems, but she can’t get any further. And what she does then is to boil “feminism” down to an excuse to permit herself certain rudenesses and complain about certain issues only as they pertain to her own personal life.


I think it’s especially relevant given those flame wars that were happening where straight, white males were getting yelled at for attempting to express their feelings of understanding to various oppressed groups because people were mean to them(the straight white males) in high school. I think this is a good way to look at that impulse that the SWMs were trying to express. Being oppressed in one way might be a good window into what it feels like to be oppressed in other ways, but should not be used as a shield to hide antisocial/impolite behavior behind. Which is totally reasonable.

Also get compared to Lemon a lot. Doesn't really upset me. I also get told that people think they've met me before a lot. Guess what? If you have brown hair people just think you look like other people with brown hair. It's a thing. Get used to it.
posted by edbles at 12:55 PM on March 26, 2010


Her interaction with Liz contains one of my favorite--and most cutting--exchanges on the show:
....
Angie [acidly]: This belonged to
Brooke Astor.


kittyprecious, this is one of my favorite exchanges on the show, too! It sums up Liz in a lot of ways. She's trying to relate to Angie in what Liz presumes are Angie's terms and in doing so exposes her own racist assumptions, as well as her inability to relate to most women except through sterotypically femininized topics: jewelry, dating, Oprah.

It also says a lot about social stereotyping, how our knowledge or assumptions about a person's background shape our perceptions of their behavior and appearance. When is a big diamond read as prestige and power; when is it read as conspicuous consumption, and how is the interpretation influenced by the wearer's race or perceived background and by the observer's prejudices and unconscious assumptions?

I'm not understanding the resistance to cisgendered as a term. How is it damaging* to already-privileged people (who were born in the body that's right for them) to be able to recognize a neutral term to differentiate between their body's state and another person's body's state?

*Not to suggest that "damaging to already-privileged group" is necessarily a reason to discourage us from employing a useful and clear term.

posted by Elsa at 1:08 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


how many other major-network sitcoms feature three regular black characters and address race-based humor so directly and frequently?

Community only has two black main characters, but does frequent race-based humor. Then again, Donald Glover wrote for 30 Rock back when Grizz and DotCom were used more often.
posted by drezdn at 1:28 PM on March 26, 2010


DotCom is my absolute favorite ever since this exchange.

DotCom says something informative and corrects Jack.

Jack: DotCom your need to be the smartest one in the room is offputting.
DotCom:(really forlornly) I guess that's why I'm still single.

Like a punch to the face for my own personality defects. One of the things I really like about that show is that the characterization of DotCom and the other characters even in what seems like throwaway jokes remains consistent, his appearances in Chekhov, his attempts at a high art audition. AWESOME.
posted by edbles at 1:43 PM on March 26, 2010


msalt: "Well, the fact that it's designed to do anything is my biggest problem with it. I prefer words that develop organically, rather than as ideological tools. But also: there is such a thing as normal.

If you want to call approaching transgender studies without bias "ideological" then be my guest, I suppose; one person's "ideology" is another person's "stop stepping on my fucking face". As for organic, free-range words, well, each to their own.

It's a shame people are sometimes mean to people who aren't normal, but you're not going to solve that by straining to invent "neutral" words.

Really? I mean, I'm not saying it's all anyone has to do, but it helps. Having a word for "non-trans" that's not just "normal" or "non-trans" is a step along the way. It's harder for an idea to become widespread if you don't have a word for it.

Here's a clue for you -- maybe people get upset because you speak about them with such perjorative words ("pathetic") and make assumptions about them having petty, pissy motives?"

Hardly. This is probably the pissiest I've got in a long time on any mefi thread that touches on trans stuff, and that's just because it caught me on a bad day. Believe me when I say: I can be the nicest person in the world about this stuff and people will still spit in my face. Besides, the ridiculous flap about a simple word started before I entered the thread and certainly before I actually engaged on the issue.

People don't like trannies. They don't like it when we get out of our cages and join the rest of the culture and they certainly don't like it when we engage like real people. I've been surprised and disappointed by too many people I've otherwise admired to have any illusions on that front any more. People derail a thread to tear apart a word coined by people like me and used mainly by people like me and our allies? I'm only not more pissed off because I've seen mefi be better than this before.

side-note: this has been a bit of a rough week and I've had it up to god-damn here with clueless cis people. so the me of next week apologises for my rude tone and uppity nature.

A final thought on the "normal" issue. I really, really fail to see the problem people have with new words that are supposed to balance the word that the majority picked for the minority. "Normal" is a huge word that means all sorts of things to all sorts of people, is heavily dependent on context, has implicit value judgments attached, and is frankly woolly and pretty useless. "Cissexual", "able-bodied", "heterosexual", "neurotypical", and so on all mean one specific thing each. They are useful words for discussing specific topics.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:56 PM on March 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


AlsoMike: "Right, but you're saying that neutral language is better than value-laden language, which is itself a value judgment."

Sort of. Imagine you run a youth group for trans kids. You're talking to them all evening, trying to shore up their self-esteem (which takes a hammering all day, at school and at home), build their confidence, and give them hope, and what's the word you use for the people who scare them, who bully them, who they resent because they've got what feels like the most precious thing in the world but who don't even care enough to notice? "Normal". Until that really is a neutral, valueless word, you'd better have another way to talk to those kids or you're not going to be doing them any favours.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:11 PM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I guess I should be thankful that in all of the times I've been told I look like Tina Fey (an event strongly associated with me wearing my glasses), no one has ever mentioned any resemblance to Liz Lemon.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:34 PM on March 26, 2010


This is the type of thread where everyone rushes in to shout, "No no no, I like X, please don't 'critical theory' it because then I can't like it any more."

Just because something has problematic elements doesn't mean you're bad for liking it. You can be attracted to Tina Fey, Liz Lemon, or any point in between and still be a good person. But come on, people. Why do we always have to jump on the "I like something, therefore it's perfect, therefore this person making points about this thing is wrong and therefore feminism is annoying."

Nerd boners don't happen for Carrie Bradshaw, therefore we're allowed to "critical theory" (yes I use it as a verb, it's the worst) it. Shoes-cosmos-babies talk isn't engaging in the way that 30 Rock is, therefore SATC can be deconstructed but 30 Rock can't because it's hilarious.

I love 30 Rock (although I haven't watched in a season or two), I love Tina Fey and I love Tracy Morgan (which has no bearing on this comment but he is the funniest and I love him). But I can still admit that Liz Lemon practices "TV Feminism" - ie, feminism that doesn't particularly exist anywhere except in the pablum version of reality that is advertiser-safe and nonchallenging to heteronormative viewpoints so that people don't feel threatened by it. I get it. I mean, Jack's character's viewpoints aren't particularly ideologically "on message" either - he's a weird mishmash of conservative stereotypes but without the really scary ones because, come on, we don't want to alienate our (presumed) middle-class liberal base.

I've probably read a dozen Tina Fey interviews and while she's a feminist in the sense that she self identifies as one (yay) and does her own thing (yay), her of feminism includes justifying her own objectification/glamour puss makeover fairy tale story that makes Tina Fey a brand instead of a person. She actively spins the narrative that she used to be "fat and ugly" because she was 25lbs overweight and had short, icky hair and eyebrows. Then magically one day Lorne Michaels told her to lose 30lbs and she could be a star! And she did, and then she was! And she's still a feminist, guys, can't you see her glasses and her adoration for Mary Tyler Moore? The shitty thing about it is that young women consume "Tina Fey - The Brand" and then emulate that - the type of feminism that doesn't actually try to challenge or upset any normative ideas or behaviors, but basically to reinforce them. I don't believe in feminism, I believe in feminisms, and so yes, we can go ahead and call it feminism (not that it's up to me) it's just not one I particularly care about or for. Sort of like how Sarah Palin's a feminist. They aren't the same kind, mind you. They just have very similar backstories and eyewear.

The characters on 30 Rock are all absurd, that's why it's a great show. But they are also coming from the particular white, privileged viewpoint that all television comes from. Despite creating and being (as far as I understand) very invovled in the writing process, Fey does have a team of mostly white males who make episodes happpen and write the actual jokes. Fey comes from years of being the head writer under Lorne Michaels at SNL, with a team of almost entirely boys. From my (relatively limited) experiences in the comedy world, that type of experience primes a "girl writer" to be "one of the guys" - it's the reason she's successful.

Michaels wasn't going to hire someone who was going to challenge America - he hired someone who could corall a nearly entirely-male writing staff into making America laugh (and if you watched most of the years Fey was head writer, we can all agree most of that was garbage - with the exception of the sketches she wrote herself and a few other shining jewels). That's what she's doing on 30 Rock as well. You think one person can write full episodes, supervise the rewrites, pose in a miniskirt for Vogue after four hours of hair and makeup, go on every talk show ever, and star in a show? Hell no! That's where the (mostly) boys come in. After the boy writers/directors are done the men at the network come in to dull the "comedy edge" to an advertiser/censor/America-friendly pablum and start shooting.

Mean Girls was a great, fun movie. I own it. But I have to admit that it's got the exact same quality about it - challenging a couple of norms while at the exact same time mostly reinforcing them. Lindsay Lohan is the main character who is the perfect balance between hot-evil Barbie Doll Rachel McAdams and nontraditional, gay-friendly, coded as "ugly" (although actually gorgeous), nonfeminine Lizzy Caplan. The one you identify with is the one in the middle - and the middle is boring. Just like Liz Lemon. I'm allowed to say that because I don't want to fuck her. Tina Fey is sharp, smart, capable, sexy. Liz Lemon is neurotic and boring and a cartoon of what women who are white, privileged 30-somethings worry they are going to become. Comedy comes from tension - the fear of turning into Liz Lemon provides a tension that women can identify with.

I would always rather engage with media like 30 Rock and Mean Girls than with, I dunno, Two and a Half Men, but it doesn't make them perfect. Sex and the City got to engage with women's sexuality and choices in an interesting way - but when you watch the scrubbed, sanitized 1/2 hour syndicated version it's terrible - pure consumerism and frippery without the edge or thought behind it (which yes, SATC had, at least the first few seasons anyway). What else do you expect from broadcast television? There will be ten or more terrible shows in the next few years that try to take the "essence" of 30 Rock to copycat its runaway success - there will be characters like "wacky idiosyncratic black dudes" and "creepy/adorable southern christians" and "wacky put-upon single pretty nerdish ladies" and "egomaniacal conservative boss types" - because networks are greedy and they boil everything good down into a tasteless mush which they cram down America's (and by extension, the world's) gaping maw. But the truly stupid part is that they won't get it right because they'll filter out the little (and lessening every season) edge that 30 Rock manages to retain through all the hoops it has to jump through to be allowed to be on TV. Tina Fey toes that line because she has to - if she were more extreme, or challenging, Tina The Brand - and by extension 30 Rock - wouldn't exist.

See? Critical thinking here, all based on something I love. Is it wrong? You might think so! I'm ok with that! We're all great! Hugs all around. 30 Rock doesn't really do feminism right, and it's great to discuss this! And we only touched upon feminisms, just a little! Tomorrow I'll write a 1,000 word comment about where 30 Rock goes wrong with regards to gender, and then the next day I'll write about about where it goes wrong with race, and then class....oh fuck it.

Summary: If 30 Rock were on cable and cared 80% less about catering to white, upper-middle class privilege, it would probably be the best show ever made.
posted by SassHat at 3:15 PM on March 26, 2010 [17 favorites]


And 30 Rock isn't even that good any more!
posted by smackfu at 3:23 PM on March 26, 2010


Why do we always have to jump on the "I like something, therefore it's perfect, therefore this person making points about this thing is wrong and therefore feminism is annoying."

I would turn that around and say, why does a discussion of whether 30 Rock is feminist (or not) have to turn into an argument over cisgender privilege? I don't think the cause is advanced when successful women are criticized as bad feminists because they don't simultaneously fight against every other oppression in the world.

While liberals split hairs over who among us is more privileged, conservatives score easy populist points (mocking these abstruse discussions) and quietly push their agenda (dismantling the civil rights division under Bush, etc.). No wonder it's so hard to make progress.
posted by msalt at 5:39 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


30 Rock seems so comfortable with its deeply cynical outlook that it's difficult to tell if it is a satire. Half the time I don't know if the writers are shilling for NBC, or just winking at you about shilling for NBC. But they are shilling, either way. Perhaps that's the mark of good satire, when you can't tell if it is satire or not.

This reminds me so much of David Foster Wallace's essay E Unibus Pluram - the idea that commercial tv attracts viewers through this sort of winking, inviting them to congratulate themselves on being clever and cynical enough to see through corporate advertising.

I adore 30 Rock, but this thread seems to be a big pile of overthink, so count me in!
posted by naoko at 6:43 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


ArmyOfKittens wrote: "being normal, with all the pejorative implications of that comparison"

So, what you're saying is that the problem is that to some people 'abnormal' means 'bad,' rather than 'different'.
posted by wierdo at 7:54 PM on March 26, 2010


It bothers me because it's such a purpose-driven word; like "pro-life"or "death tax", it is explicitly designed to drive the way people think about an issue, to redefine comfort with gender as not normal but an undeserved, vaguely inappropriate privilege.

Msalt, I feel like you don't understand how the word "privilege" is used if you have a problem with it. I was born female and I enjoy being a girl - I don't "deserve" that and I don't feel like it's inappropriate nor do I feel one single bit bad about it... but I recognize it as a form of privilege. I was at a function a couple of weeks ago where a trans woman was in attendance and wow I cannot tell you the amount of psst! and omg! and did you see? and wait, is that? bubbling all around her. Jesus, how exhausting and dispiriting that must be. No matter how shit I might look on any given day, I never have to deal with that. Which is nice for me. And that's all anyone's asking anyone to acknowledge.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:54 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really didn't like either essay because they both suppose that Liz Lemon is supposed to be ugly. And that's not true - if it were, I'd hate the show because it'd just be (the very lovely) Tina Fey fishing for compliments - and who wants to watch that? What Liz is is crazy and gross and frigid - huge difference. Liz didn't break up with Jon Hamm because she wasn't good looking enough for him - she was! She is - even within the TV reality of the show - absolutely hot enough to pull the handsomest guy in the world. She broke up with him because he was SO UNBELIEVABLY good looking that everyone he'd ever met had let him coast no matter what he did - so he taught tennis but can't play, is an MD but can't do the heimlich maneuver, is shit in bed, etc.... She made the only reasonable choice within the cartoon-reality of the show and it had nothing to do with her own attractiveness.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:01 PM on March 26, 2010


Moxiedoll: Msalt, I feel like you don't understand how the word "privilege" is used if you have a problem with it.

Could be. Or maybe not. In the first essay, Sady describes this imaginary "white, coastal-city dwelling, fairly well-to-do heterosexual cisgendered woman, a woman with a comfortable white-collar job that is so very comfortable" as her "enemy" and can't even blog anymore for fear that such a woman might enjoy her words. That's pretty typical of the scorn applied to "privileged" people as the term is usually used. It has a strong sense of unfair advantage, and implies a moral superiority of underprivileged people.

It's always good to recognize when we're lucky, and to be compassionate and understanding about people who don't share our luck. And let's face it, just about everyone on Metafilter is unbelievably lucky as this world goes. But the word "privilege" carries a lot of weight beyond that. Otherwise, why hate someone for being lucky?
posted by msalt at 12:19 AM on March 27, 2010


wierdo: "So, what you're saying is that the problem is that to some people 'abnormal' means 'bad,' rather than 'different'."

As one of the abnormal, who these days doesn't have to look it, but once upon a time couldn't avoid it: yes, definitely.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:15 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


It has a strong sense of unfair advantage, and implies a moral superiority of underprivileged people.

But it is an unfair advantage. In our society, given otherwise identical circumstances:
- a white person has an advantage over a black person (or person of any other race);
- a man has an advantage over a woman;
- a straight person has an advantage over a gay person;
- an able-bodied person has an advantage over a disabled person;
- a cis person has an advantage over a trans person;
- a rich person has an advantage over a poor person;
- etc.

This doesn't mean that the privileged person is always more successful than the non-privileged person; it means that their odds of success are better. And "luck" doesn't really encompass this kind of advantage because it comes from a dominant system of thought that favors certain kinds of people subtly enough that it's hard for them to even see how they're being favored.

Acknowledging privilege is not a value judgment upon people with privilege -- it's a value judgment on the system(s). Sady is not criticizing the Liz Lemons of the world simply for being "white, coastal-city dwelling, fairly well-to-do heterosexual cisgendered woman, a woman with a comfortable white-collar job that is so very comfortable," but for having all those privileges and being oblivious to the way that shapes their worldviews.

I also need to point out that this discussion wouldn't have shifted from general feminism to cisgender privilege if the people who dislike the term hadn't singled it out. Those of us who use the term noticed Sady's acknowledgment of cisgender as a privilege and moved on. So complaining about those mean, hair-splitting, judgmental liberals who use words like "cisgendered" and jump on people for not being perfect lefties is ... a little off.
posted by bettafish at 5:50 AM on March 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


bettafish: very well-observed and expressed, thanks.

However, the shift from feminism to various privileges (including cisgendered) was not a derail that started in these comments. Sady's main point is not liking Liz Lemon because she's not processing her various privileges correctly. Hence, this type of weak feminist is her "enemy" and makes it impossible for her to write, for fear these Lemonistas might enjoy her words. That is literally and admittedly self-defeating over-analysis.

As cerebralized as they are, a lot of these attitudes are rooted in resentment against popular people, successful people, attractive people, the ones who "have it easier than me." MeFites are by and large brainy types who weren't jocks and cheerleaders, and it's not easy to acknowledge how beings outsiders shapes our feelings. I certainly include myself in that.

My point is that feminism is hurt, not helped, when the main enemy becomes allies who are doing it wrong, instead of the people openly fighting against you. Pick your battles.
posted by msalt at 10:48 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


msalt: "My point is that feminism is hurt, not helped, when the main enemy becomes allies who are doing it wrong, instead of the people openly fighting against you. Pick your battles."

The problem with that approach is that, if you're not careful, the feminist issues that get the media attention, the money, and the assistance, are the issues closest to white, middle-class, able-bodied, (etc.) women; if minority women don't speak up we get ignored, and if we don't at least try to control the discourse about us then we get misrepresented or, worse, discounted.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:13 PM on March 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Msalt, in the nicest way possible, I think it's a bit presumptuous of you to tell feminist activists who they think their enemies are or how and where they should spend their energy. Besides which, ability to self-assess is vital for any viable political movement.
posted by bettafish at 4:19 PM on March 27, 2010


Also, what ArmyofKittens said.
posted by bettafish at 4:20 PM on March 27, 2010


Feminism can take care of itself. In the West, it's been around in various recognizable permutations for over a century now. In fact, quite a number of those permutations exist simultaneously (though often not peacefully) under one tent, which is why I find it helpful to refer to "strands of feminism" or "feminisms," because the kind of feminism I embrace is not the feminism of Steinem or the feminism of MacKinnon or the feminism of Wolf. The various strands suit various people and make their varied contributions to the amorphous goal of "equality." Some people see the splintered nature of contemporary feminisms as a flaw, but I see it as a strength - a movement that requires generations and broad-based behavior changes to accomplish, and that is striving towards a shifting goal is stronger, ultimately, for having gadflies and goads and pragmatists and visionaries and negotiators and taggers-along under the same canopy, however much in-fighting may arise.

What is far more in need of protection than a diverse body of thought and activism are the rights and lives of people who suffer harm over and over because they're identified as abnormal, as unnatural, as wrong in their very being. That's cruel. And while my interactions with trangendered people have been limited, I have yet to interact with any who have said that using the term "cisgendered" adds to their challenges, and several who have indicated that the use of "cisgendered" makes them more comfortable. That's why I use it, and encourage others to use it, and argue with putative allies who don't use it - I've been told it makes a tangible difference in transgendered people's lives. And I think this is worth making other people uncomfortable over, personally, because there's a wide, wide gap between experiencing discomfort and experiencing cruelty.

I'm really not one for policing the borders of feminism, or telling people that they're doing it wrong. But I do think it's helpful to our amorphous goal of equality to tell people that they could be doing it better.
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:43 PM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Msalt, in the nicest way possible, I think it's a bit presumptuous of you to tell feminist activists who they think their enemies are or how and where they should spend their energy.

Perhaps I wasn't clear. Sady, the author of the first link, told all of us that Liz Lemonists are her enemy; that didn't come from me.

This whole discussion is presumptuous, of course; Sady telling a fictional character how to act, Mefites doing the same, Mefites telling Sady she's right or wrong, us telling each other we're presumptuous. Who are any of us to tell others what to do? And yet, that's Metafilter for ya.
posted by msalt at 8:16 PM on March 27, 2010


I feel like these articles are somewhat missing the point, or at least what I've perceived to be the point, of the Liz Lemon is Ugly stuff on 30Rock. The point is not that Liz Lemon is ugly. The point is that Liz Lemon is not ugly, but that Liz Lemon exists in a world where the only standard for pretty is to be a stick thin blonde who eats a baby carrot for lunch and then throws it up so she doesn't have to digest all those calories but has breast implants so guys will still find her Sex-ay.

Liz isn't an ubersquare, just someone with some non-ironic interest in mainstream things that are widely regarded as a bit dorky and midwestern. But she exists in a world where being edgy and hip is important so interests that would seem perfectly normal against another backdrop are considered awkward and mocked openly.

So, Liz feels awkward, defensive and ugly, despite not really being any of those things.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:19 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tina Fey: the 24-year-old virgin (on David Letterman)
posted by grouse at 9:42 AM on April 11, 2010


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