The imminent end of 30 Rock has made me very nervous about losing one of my television role models, the one and only Liz Lemon. No longer will I have Liz’s exploits and pearls of wisdom to look forward to every week. (Her advice about putting potato chips on a sandwich is no joke. I did that over Thanksgiving with my usual turkey/cranberry/stuffing leftover sandwich and OMG, it is so much better with the chips.) Useful food tidbits aside, there’s something comforting about having a character you identify with carry on with her life every week; when things work out for her, you feel like they might just work out for you, too.
Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve lost a TV role model. Many moons ago, I lost my ability to watch Carrie Bradshaw make questionable decisions, week after week. For better or for worse, Liz and Carrie have been some of the defining influences of my young adulthood, which got me to thinking…they might be the same person. You’ll scoff, I’m sure. One is a shoe obsessed, boy-crazy flake, and the other is a food obsessed nerd. One popularized (at least for me) the use of the word “lovah,” the other only likes the word “lovers” when it’s between “meat” and “pizza.” And yet, I present you with the evidence that these ladies are one and the same:
- They are both writers. Yes, one is for a newspaper and the other writes for a TV show, but nonetheless they share a profession.
- They both live in New York City. This one might be a bit of a cop-out, since approximately 50% of all television is set in NYC.
- Both are best friends with a self-absorbed blonde. (Samantha’s “I love you, but I love me more” line from the SATC movie seems like it could have been a direct quote from the one and only Jenna Maroney.)
- Both have dated Dean Winters.
- Both have dated guys from Mad Men.
- Both got married after 40, thereby deeply disappointing me.
This last one, of course, requires some explanation, as I am a self-professed lover of the traditional “happy ending.” Yet it really bothered me when Liz got married in last week’s episode. Both Liz and Carrie are initially feminist characters; single women making it on their own in the big city, with no need for a man. Yet as the seasons of their respective shows wear on, both characters eventually give in to the societal norm of settling down with one man, presumably forever. It was certainly disappointing that neither of these shows could offer an ending where a character carried on by herself, independent and happy.
It’s not just the “marriage as a happy ending” I have an issue with; it’s also who these characters end up married to. On one hand, we have Carrie, who marries an older man, the incredibly wealthy and successful Big, the kind of man who can say things like “It’s our house. I bought it for us.” On the other hand, we have Liz, who ends up with a younger guy, the earnest but barely employed Criss. I know these are just TV shows and I shouldn’t be reading so much into them, but it bothers me that neither of these strong female characters ends up with a man who seems to be her equal; they must take care of someone, or be taken care of. It just troubles me that these shows that were so feminist in so many ways, ultimately fall back on traditional stereotypes. If shows like these allowed women to find a happy ending without a husband, I feel like it might become a more viable-feeling option in real life. Then again, if my television role model is leaving me, at least it’s on a positive note. If Liz Lemon really can have the job, the home, the husband that looks like James Marsden, and a sandwich, then maybe there’s hope that the rest of us can have it all, too.