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Everything I Know About Life I Learned From Liz Lemon

I recently revised this article based on feedback. New version below!

Liz: You know how I hate it when people cheat or break the rules?

Pete: Yes, I do.

Liz: Well, I just spent 150 bucks on hot dogs.

 

Within the first five minutes of the pilot episode of 30 Rock I knew Liz Lemon was my kind of girl. I was so excited to see a leading female character that loved food and following rules just as much as I do. She was someone who would rather get an extra 20 minutes of precious sleep than primp herself up every morning, a rare trait to see in a female television character. Liz was the type of lady who could totally hold her own, and I who totally wanted to hang out with. The women of Sex and the City were fabulous and fun to watch, but I'll be damned if I'm walking 10 blocks through midtown Manhattan in stilettos. And as much as I'd love to think I'm as effortlessly hip and witty as Jessa on Girls... I'm just not. A gal in a sensible shoe with an affinity for hard cheeses is much more my speed.

 

When 30 Rock began in 2006 Paris Hilton was just starting to fade away but the Kardashians were starting to appear front and center in our lives. Famous for being famous (and rich and beautiful and connected) was in full swing and being a regular gal was seemingly less and less popular. Now, I’m not here to shame or berate the Kardashians or any other celebutantes, but my goodness did things start to get out of hand. A makeup artist friend of mine had a pre-teen girl sit in her chair and request to look like Kim K. Eight year olds had cell phones. Clothing companies were (and still are) making bikinis for babies for crying out loud! Bringing Liz Lemon into the TV world was like a wonderful breath of fresh air. She wore sneakers and ate frozen dinners. She was like me; I just didn’t know it yet.

 

In 2006 I was in my third year of college and fell halfway into some sort of a social black hole. I had been going out at least 5 nights a week to bars or parties or out dancing. I wasn’t out doing keg stands every night but I was definitely having a couple of drinks almost every day. On top of that, living in a small city means I saw the same people every time I went out. So now in come the clothes and the make-up and the hair and the “don’t wear the same outfit twice in one week” stress. Then there was the socializing. I like people and all but sometimes it felt like Groundhog Day: same scene, different setting. And I was SO. TIRED. Tired of taking care of people who drank too much, fighting my way to the bar for a warm $2 beer, and coming home smelling like a stale ash tray. I was getting so bored trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be when Liz Lemon entered the world and saved me from myself.

 

Okay maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but watching how she embraced her awkward weirdness certainly sparked something in me. She knew who she was and she embraced it. She maybe referenced Star Wars far too much (I’m more of a Potterhead myself, but to each her own), stayed home too often watching TV, and didn’t exercise nearly enough, but that was all okay. And you know why? Because she was smart and funny and could speak German and she ran her own damn TV show. And all of that is pretty cool, too.

 

Liz: I know who I am. I know I'm not the funnest person in the group. I'm not the one you call when you want to go clubbing on the town and party dance all night.

Jack: Why are you speaking like a Persian immigrant?

 

Now fast forward to today. If I related so well to Liz’s unpolished approach to life, how many other ladies out there did also? 30 Rock aired it’s series finale earlier this year and while many articles have been written on the shows impact on feminism, among other issues, why are our televisions still ambushed with Real Housewives, Bridezillas, and a constant barrage of dating shows?

 

Now I’m not saying Liz Lemon is the end-all, be-all for inspiring female TV characters. There is still a small group of badass ladies being broadcast into our homes every week—Congresswoman Leslie Knope on Parks & Rec and Dr. Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project, among a handful of others—but that is just the problem. In our world of 3,000+ cable channels, Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes, a handful is just a drop in the bucket. The first step to getting producers and television executives to offer us more programming with strong female leads is by being aware of what we watch. We as a society have become so used to seeing girls and women in such one-dimensional roles that we might not even process how unfair it is. So the next time you sit down to watch a TV show or a movie, watch with intent. Try and see something deeper in the female characters than just the need to find the perfect pair of shoes, or the perfect man. Ladies, think about how you would really like to be portrayed. Men, think about how you would want someone to view your female loved ones. If you don’t see any of those qualities in the character you are watching, it just might be time to change the channel and send a message.

 

Maybe the Tao of Lemon is something that won’t be appreciated in it’s own time, or possibly it just hasn’t settled in people’s brains yet. There are a lot of Liz Lemons out there in this world, and while the fame machine keeps churning out stars they are here in the background plugging away: reading, learning, creating, trying, failing, trying again, and succeeding. They may rule the world out loud or be hidden in the shadows but one thing is for sure, whatever they do in this world, we will all be better off for it.

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First Version:

Liz: "You know how I hate it when people cheat or break the rules?"

Pete: "Yes, I do."

Liz: "Well, I just spent 150 bucks on hot dogs."

Within the first five minutes of the pilot episode of 30 Rock I knew Liz Lemon was my kind of girl. I was so excited to see a leading female character that loved food and following rules just as much as I do. Someone with an appearance that said "I would rather sleep an extra 20 minutes than wash my hair." A lady who could totally hang, and I totally wanted to hang with. The women of Sex and the City were fabulous and fun to watch, but I'll be damned if I'm walking 10 blocks through midtown Manhattan in stilettos. And as much as I'd love to think I'm just as cool and witty as Jessa or Hannah on Girls... I'm just not. A gal in a sensible shoe with an affinity for hard cheeses is much more my speed.

When 30 Rock began in 2006 Paris Hilton was just starting to fade away and the Kardashians were starting to appear front and center in our lives. Famous for being famous (and rich and beautiful and connected) was in full swing and being a regular gal was seemingly less and less popular. Now, I’m not here to shame or berate the Kardashians or any other celebutantes, but good God did things start to get out of hand. A makeup artist friend of mine had a young teen girl come to her chair and request to look like Kim K. Eight year olds had cell phones. Clothing companies were (and still are) making bikinis for babies for Christ’s sake! Bringing Liz Lemon into the TV world was like a wonderful breath of fresh air. She wore sneakers and ate frozen dinners and didn’t like to party. She was like me, I just didn’t know it yet.

In 2006 I was in my third year of college and fell halfway into what I will call the Awesome Trap. I had been going out at least 5 nights a week to bars (drinking) or parties (with alcohol) or out dancing (and drinking). I wasn’t out getting wasted every night but I was definitely having a couple drinks almost every day. On top of that, living in a small city meant I saw the same people every time I went out. So now in come the clothes and the make-up and the hair and the “don’t wear the same outfit twice in one week” stress. Then there was the socializing. I like people and all but sometimes it felt like Groundhog Day: same scene, different setting. And I was SO. TIRED. Tired of taking care of drunk people, tired of fighting my way to the bar for a $2 beer, tired of coming home smelling like a stale ash tray. I was getting so bored trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be when Liz Lemon entered my life and saved me from myself.

Okay maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but watching how she embraced her awkward weirdness certainly sparked something in me. She knew who she was and she embraced it. She maybe referenced Star Wars far too much, stayed home too often watching TV and didn’t exercise nearly enough but that was okay. And you know why? Because she was hilarious and could speak German and she ran her own damn TV show. And that stuff is pretty cool, too.

Liz: I know who I am. I know I'm not the funnest person in the group. I'm not the one you call when you want to go clubbing on the town and party dance all night.

Jack: Why are you speaking like a Persian immigrant?

Now fast forward to today. If I related so well to Liz’s unpolished approach to life, how many other ladies out there did also? 30 Rock was cancelled earlier this year and while many articles have been written on the shows impact on feminism, among other issues, why are our televisions still ambushed with Real Housewives, The Millionaire Matchmaker and a constant barrage of dating shows? Where are all the little Liz’s, the role models who show us that it’s ok to be weird and about 90% confident about it?  Maybe the Tao of Lemon is something that won’t be appreciated in its time, or possibly her life theory just hasn’t settled in people’s brains yet. There are a lot of Liz Lemons out there in this world, and while the fame machine keeps churning out stars they are here in the background plugging away, reading, learning, creating, trying, failing, trying again and succeeding. They may rule the world out loud or be hidden in the shadows but one thing is for sure, whatever they do in this world, we will all be better off for it.

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