Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Has a Race Problem

“I’m pretty and tough. Like a diamond, or beef jerky in a ball gown,”

That’s the quote that first pulled me into the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidtrabbit hole. I saw the line on a friend’s Facebook wall and soon followed the trail of Tina Fey’s reliably quotable lines to my Netflix account, where the first season of her new show was waiting, freshly released. Here I was, coming off an especially potent full moon feeling like a werewolf all dressed up with no bar mitzvah to attend and I’d found thirteen episodes of post 30 Rock goodness, complete with a whole new werewolf bit.

At first, I was delighted. It’s Fey’s signature approach to humor, creating a wall of jokes and references the way Phil Spector once created walls of sound. I laughed, I tweeted, and I was excited to see that Kimmy Schmidt has a refreshingly optimistic outlook compared to 30 Rock, tempered by a dark edge that provided depth. It blends New Girl’s post-Spice World girl power with a heavy dose of 90s nostalgia that references everything fromBabysitter’s Club to “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing” to the OJ Simpson trial.

Kimmy’s 13 Going on 30 approach to fashion, bedroom decor, and life doesn’t require any of Jessica Day/Zooey Deschanel’s brake-for-birds rants explaining why hair bows and feminism aren’t mutually exclusive. After all, Kimmy is still very much the eighth grader she was before she was kidnapped, a woman whose adolescence was put on pause by survival. This works effectively to propel the plot forward, but it also mirrors the way that many millennial viewers feel about their own rapid march toward thirty. Just as Liz Lemon embodied the experience of career-focused thirty something women exhausted from leaning in and never being taken seriously, Kimmy embodies women of a certain age who have yet to master the advice given in Buzzfeed articles on how to get your shit together by your early 30s.

However, my laughter soon gave way to compulsive cringing.

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