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Essay

My Girlfriend Left Me

By February 2, 2013 One Comment
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My TV girlfriend, as my wife refers to her, has left me. Elizabeth Lemon has moved on, leaving me with nothing but syndication. 30 Rock just wrapped up it’s seventh season, ending a run of critical success and low ratings. Interestingly, much of the discussion this past week focused upon how clever and groundbreaking the show has been, even though the show was not all that popular. Recently, Tina Fey gave an acceptance speech in which she pleaded with the audience to “tape Big Bang Theory for once” so they might watch the finale. I’ve written about the show in the past, briefly mentioning how, for some reason, the show makes me “happy.” At the end of a rough day or week, nothing lifts my spirits like the opening music followed by witty one liners and fast paced pop culture references. As a viewer one has to pay close attention; my wife didn’t like the show at first because it forces you to work so hard. Alec Baldwin as a conservative money focused TV executive, Tracy Morgan as an out of control TV version of himself, Kenneth the simpleton and moralistic page – the characters created the space in which everything was fair game.  Liberals, conservatives, religion, the media, even the personal lives of the actors, all became the basis for gags and zingers.

The show is the creative genius of Tina Fey, who broke TV ground by being the first woman to write, produce, direct, and star in a TV comedy. Fey’s version of feminism pokes fun at itself, raising important questions about gender stereotypes in the corporate world, while at the same time riffing off of themes like motherhood and companionship. Her alter ego fantasizes about astronauts and pilots… only to end up marrying a hot dog vendor at a civil ceremony in which she wore a Princess Lea outfit. The show was great at setting up stereotypes and then shattering them with the punch line. I wonder if anyone has written on Fey’s version of feminist critique? (Or should I just read Bossypants?)

So why write about 30 Rock on a theological, or at least Reformed, blog?  Because at this moment in my life I thank God for TV. As an academic my life consists of reading, lecturing, thinking big thoughts, and taking myself “seriously.” TV, and 30 Rock in particular, let’s me laugh at low brow pranks and bathroom humor. Without it I’d end up wearing tweed jackets with patches while talking in a fake British accent. I should have named this entry “How 30 Rock Saved My Life.” I love you Liz Lemon.  Godspeed, and “May the force be with you.” 

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

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