by Diana Martinez
My two favorite television shows of all time center around women’s roles in two huge parts of the media, television and politics. 30 Rock, created by, written by, and starring Tina Fey, is about television networks. Parks and Recreation, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, starring Amy Poehler, focuses on government. In both fields of work, women’s exposure to the public shapes society’s perceptions of females.
Unfortunately in reality, women and feminists have not been respected as they should in both realms, so I’m glad that popular television is beginning to set the record straight on the definitions of both.
The problem with feminism is that it has become too much of a label. There are too many false stereotypes about feminists. Many think they’re hairy and loud, others find them touchy and judgmental. Liz Lemon (Fey) and Leslie Knope (Poehler) exemplify the idea of normal women; albeit, with many of their own insane problems, but they are regular people who can be funny, flawed, and still feminine.
Many of the problems Liz and Leslie deal with mirror the issues many working women face today: leadership obstacles, eating/health problems, pressure from society to marry, mid-life crises. Sure, these ladies are a real mess- but so are all of the characters on the shows, and so are all of us at times in our lives–ESPECIALLY if we choose to be leaders in this “man’s world.”
These protagonists portray feminists as fun, creative, important and still huge believers in equality. Both Liz and Leslie have a sense of humor, but make it known when they find anything offensive. Even though Liz considers herself a feminist, she sometimes slips up. It reminds me that I don’t have to over-think everything I do and that I’m human and can make choices without having to worry about whether it compromises my image as a feminist. Leslie definitely over-contemplates her decisions; she articulates that as a female in politics, she must set an example and raise herself to a higher standard since she has patriarchy working against her. However, she definitely knows how to laugh and have a good time.
The sexist comments people make in these shows are funny not because they are sexist, but because the characters sound absolutely ridiculous saying them. They point out how stupid sexism is. This goes for other issues, such as classism, ageism, and racism as well. In 30 Rock, after Jack is told he needs to find a maid that is a documented citizen, he exclaims, “Pay a white person those wages? They’d starve!” Obviously it is not funny that people think this way, but the blatant idiocy of his remarks makes them comical. Not everyone in the real world says things this ludicrous, but they may as well, since it all stimulates the same marginalization. This exaggerated satire reveals that even though an offhand comment may sound small, its true meaning has stemmed from patriarchy and the sexist message ultimately stays behind.
I especially love 30 Rock because it calls attention to evident sexism in the media. The featured TV spots in some episodes are called “MILF Island” and “Bitchunter!!” Crazy, no? But you may as well give these titles to the shows on current cable channels. The show doesn’t let bigotry hide, it points out sexism and exaggerates it in order to show you that it exists everywhere in the real world. It tells us that even while we relax we have to watch out for stereotypes, because they penetrate the media everyday.
30 Rock and Parks and Recreation have been winning awards and receiving critical acclamation for their perspectives. They are on NBC, one of network television’s most popular channels, and they have famous actors and guest stars to intrigue more and more viewers. As terrifyingly offensive the media has become, shows like this bring a little hope for us SPARK ladies. The public can now see that learning about feminism can be fun and entertaining, not just another lecture.
Diana’s Recommended Episodes To Watch:
30 Rock: The “C” Word, Que Sorpresa!