Drudge linked to Newsweek’s pan of Tina Fey’s memoir. I was going to gloat over the line “she can be a little too clever by half.” While that’s certainly true, as I read the article, I realized that the Newsweek people want Tina Fey to be a role model for girls. Why? Because her biggest claim to fame is making fun of, and trying to destroy a successful conservative woman? They were hoping that Fey would give us insight into what it means to be a successful American woman. As if girls need to look outside of their own families for role models.
As a woman, Fey seems to get what it is to be an ambitious, anxious, modern female without the built-in safety nets that so many men take for granted. As a comedian, she has the unique ability to explicate contemporary gender politics without coming across as overtly political. As a writer, she’s able to sidle up and deal a stunning blow to silly bulls–t with a lacerating one-liner or perfectly timed pause. As an icon, her ugly-duckling outsider turned gorgeous tough-girl shtick, while overplayed, is an aspirational siren call to many: the American Dream writ small-screen. But as an author, Fey takes such careful pains not to commit to a position or offend anyone’s sensibilities that she comes off like one of the politicians she and her colleagues so roundly mock. (“There was an assumption that I was personally attacking Sarah Palin by impersonating her on TV” is Fey’s version of “Those weren’t crosshairs, those were surveyors’ symbols.”) As a person, she never emerges.
This is the way comedy works. But this is a memoir, not a humor sketch, and Fey is in the unique and enviable position to say something important and definitive: about being a woman, about boys’ clubs, about contemporary feminism and female representations in pop culture. (I can go on.) If a woman with Fey’s measure of success and cultural influence won’t give us the straight dope, who will? Part of me suspects that this is unfair to expect of her, that because of her prominence (and the relative paucity of other females at her level) Fey has become the go-to girl to represent and illuminate the hopes, fears, and dreams of generations of women. I imagine that she’s aware of this, and finds it both flattering and annoying. I imagine she wishes she could do better. Maybe next time.
Do we really need Tina Fey to “illuminate the hopes, fears, and dreams of generations of women?” Isn’t that why we have mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters? Sure, celebrities can write books about how to make it in show biz, but to say generations of women are depending on some celebrity to teach them the meaning of life is ridiculous. The notion is just as ridiculous as the skits that propelled Tina Fey to fame. Since when do we teach our children that the path to success is tearing someone else down?
Update: That Mr. G Guy linked – thanks!
Update 2: I mistakenly indicated that Fey is unmarried with no children. That is incorrect and the post has been corrected. My apologies.