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On getting to there with ‘30 Rock’

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05

   When I first met Liz Lemon she was this feminist, food-loving nerd with a heart of gold. She’d reference “Star Wars,” idolize Oprah, have awkward social interactions and struggle with an infamous string of failed relationships. I immediately fell in love with her and with what she represented. Now, as “30 Rock” comes to a close after seven seasons of low ratings, I find it hard to say goodbye to Tina Fey’s character and to the show that guided me through my own awkward social interactions and nerd rage.

Since the pilot aired in 2006, “30 Rock” and its creator, Fey, have been talked about as trail blazers of sorts in bringing to television a depiction of modern feminism, but the NBC show isn’t precisely feminist. Instead “30 Rock” engages with feminism by placing importance on Liz’ flaws and struggles as a single, career-oriented woman and her attempts to prove herself equal, and often better, than her male counterparts.

She often fails at this miserably, but her fight rings true. Throughout the seasons, expectations of the ideal woman are often criticized, many times by Liz, who herself wants it all—the career, the man (Astronaut Mike Dexter), the friends and the family. The show recognizes that those expectations are there, and Liz is caught in the middle trying to come to terms with all of it. In season 4 she almost settles for a man she completely hates, simply because they keep bumping into each other, and in the last season her decision to get married comes in part from her desire to speed up the adoption process.

Yet the show isn’t a bleak portrayal of the downfalls of being a woman. The show satirizes such situations, among others, in absurd and comical ways, while remaining true to the characters’ fears and dreams, which is what makes “30 Rock” so special.

While the feminist undertones play a big part in “30 Rock,” it is also the combination of commentary on popular culture, politics and society at large that provides many of the zingers, and, although tongue-in-cheek, they hardly pull their punches. Celebrity culture, corporate mergers, politicians and ad placements are among some that have received the jabs, but, Fey assures, they come from a place of love.

Although centered on Liz, secondary characters also play an important role in the show’s dynamic. Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy has come to embody corporate America at its most ruthless and conservative, Tracy Morgan’s Tracy Jordan and Jane Krakowski’s Jenna Maroney are now synonymous with celebrities at their most outrageous, and Jack McBrayer’s Kenneth Parcel has come to represent the naive and blind love we have towards television.

Fey is often credited by changing the demographic of funny ladies in television, Lena Dunham just thanked her while accepting her Golden Globe for “Girls,” and it’s hard to tell whether a show so clever, self-deprecating and outrageous will come along soon.

“Parks and Recreation” along with “Girls” are among some of the women-driven comedy series that might fill that void, but there’s something unique about “30 Rock,” something crazy fun, but endearing that I haven’t seen anywhere else and that I’ll miss.

On the latest “Ask Tina” NBC web video, Fey read a question from a viewer named Kathy who asked, “Did you go to there?” (as Liz often says) to which she responds, “I think we did, Kathy. I think we did.” I concur, and thank them for the seven season ride to there.

The “30 Rock” series finale airs Jan. 31 on NBC.

Andrés Rodríguez may be reached at prospector@utep.edu.

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