When Life Gives You Lemon…

Liz Lemon got married this week.

She may be fictional, but this event, which played out on this week’s episode of “30 Rock”, has shaken me a bit.  Even though Liz Lemon isn’t a real person, I can’t help but have a visceral reaction to the nuptials of a character my close friends frequently compare to me.

The reason I earned the nickname “The Tina Fey of Poker” is not so much for any resemblance to Fey, but because the disheveled world of the haplessly single career-oriented Liz Lemon bears a strong resemblance to my own life.  We even made a “Jess and BJ” episode in which I “played” her and several other gags on our short-lived poker recap extravaganza came from the show, like fake boyfriend, astronaut Mike Dexter.

You would think a single girl who hopes to someday be married, like myself, would be happy to see her fictional counterpart tie the knot, but I found myself feeling mostly angry that the show took this turn.  Mary Richards didn’t get married.  Sally Rogers didn’t get married. Murphy Brown had a husband once, but it was in the fictional time before the run of the TV show. She got by just fine on her own.  

It sounds terrible to admit it, but I am just going to come out and say it–I don’t want Liz Lemon to get everything she wants.  Nay, I need Liz Lemon not to get everything she wants.  I need Liz Lemon to learn to be happy with her lot, much like she has the past six seasons.  She finds boyfriends, she tries to compromise, she realizes she is giving up too much, and goes back to being single.  

I don’t adore “30 Rock” because Liz Lemon provides me some sort of wish fulfillment. It is one of my favorite shows because I appreciate that it is one of the only portrayals of a nerdy girl on television that fully embraces what a nerd she is. We see the upside of Liz, which is that she is funny and self-deprecating and manages to oversee a TV show stocked full of crazy people, but we also see her readily admit she stayed home all weekend to watch Bravo reality shows and drinks white wine and Sprite with ice.  She isn’t glamourized, she isn’t idealized–she is about as realistic a portrayal of girls like myself I am going to find.

And realistically, Liz Lemon is not getting married to James Marsden.  While the wedding and Liz’s surprisingly poignant comments on marriage fit with her POV, I find both the spur of the moment nature of the wedding and the whole character of Criss to miss the mark.  In fact, Criss is basically a male version of the female archetype I have previously railed against, best embodied by Zooey Deschanel. An overly attractive nerd who seems to exist in some sort of fairy tale world in which things like finances, personal accountability, and the ability to accomplish basic tasks like crossing the street or buttering toast aren’t as important as they are here on Planet Earth.

There are instances in which I like an escapist fairy tale where the nerd girl wins over the dreamboat of a guy, don’t get me wrong. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have watched “Two Weeks Notice” 100 times.  But when I watch uptight Sandra Bullock win over playboy Hugh Grant, it is escapism. I know it is a fairy tale and I accept it for what it is.  Even “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” is a bit of a fairy tale, where we girls can pretend that we are pleased as punch to be alone in our sassy Minneapolis apartment and that our salary working in the local newsroom can somehow pay for an endless array of adorable and kitschy 1970s outfits.

I love Mary and I love Sandy, but I loved Liz most of all because she was the rare fictional heroine I could turn to without the pretense of fairy tales and wish fulfillment forms of entertainment.  Liz Lemon may be surrounded by absurd characters and storylines, but fundamentally, the character of Liz was so true to my life that I always viewed the show as a witty commentary…something to cheer me up about the fact that I may not get everything I want in life, but there is way to get through things with a smile on your face.  Now that my plucky, haplessly single Liz is married to a guy who once played a cartoon prince, I have to wonder if even that is just a fantasy.

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