by Tina Fey
I kind of wonder what Tina Fey would think of me if we ever meet.
Don’t judge me, it’s not narcissism. Well, maybe it is, but Bossypants seems to entirely consist of Fey’s evaluations of pretty much everybody. Regardless of who you are, Fey is ready to put you down. For the writer of Mean Girls, the message of which seemed to be “Don’t be a mean girl,” she really seems a little bit mean. And I think she might already hate me.
A couple examples struck, perhaps, a little too close to home. When speaking of her college years at UVA, Fey mentions all those ‘Virginia boys’ who were not interested in her because she wasn’t ‘white enough,’ or something like that. They would be interested in ‘whiter’ girls, but would rebel by dating other races, thereby skipping over Fey. Several things bother me about this. First of all, I am a Virginia boy, and not only do I reject the assumption that we’re parochial and bigoted, I resent being judged based on Fey’s opinion of a group of boys that had the misfortune to attend that particular institution. I also find it ridiculous that an attractive white woman from suburban Pennsylvania would be rejected for not being white enough. My guess is that, if she did have problems with boys, it had nothing to do with her looks. Thirdly, it doesn’t seem like she was all that unlucky with her love life. Being awkward and not immediately falling in love with someone who loves you back isn’t necessarily a sign that all the guys around you suck, which is the lesson she seems to have learned.
Second example: Ms. Fey also brings up a scar she got on her face as a child. Careful readers will recall that I’m a big fan of 30 Rock, in which Fey stars, and I’ve never noticed the scar. But apparently it’s noticeable, and Fey boasts that she can tell a lot about you by how you react to this scar. If you ask her about it when you don’t know her that well, you’re an ignorant douchebag. Either that or you’re trying to be ‘brave or sensitive or wonderfully direct.’ Basically, because you want to seem deep. In which case you’re still a douchebag.
Now, I have scars on my face too, as well as scars on my arm. They’re noticeable, if you’re observant, and sometimes people ask about them. If I feel like telling them the full stories, I will, and if I don’t, I won’t. I don’t judge people based on when they ask me about a scar. It seems that Fey’s reaction to these types of questions says more about her than about the questioners. On top of which, she rips people for trying to seem deep, yet brings up this incident and then refuses to talk about it. It kind of seems like she herself is trying to seem mysterious or, dare I say it, deep?
I know it’s a comedy book, and I shouldn’t be taking it seriously, or personally, but that’s kind of the point. This is a comedy book, and I feel like I’m being assaulted. What’s funny about being made to feel like a racist, sexist, ignorant douchebag? I feel like Fey is staring at me through the book and constantly making me feel like trash.
I also am aware that Fey is very self-deprecating. (Remember, she hates her ‘half-German, half-Greek’ looks.) The best comedians can put themselves down and still come out on top. For the record, I think Fey has this quality, and I also think she’s probably a very nice person. But this type of comedy might be too fine a line to walk in a book. She puts herself down, but next to put-downs of just about everyone else, it doesn’t feel genuine.
I’m not gonna lie, the book also feels a little bit like it was written in the 90’s. Fey gives herself a pat on the back for being friends with gays throughout her high school career. It’s a revelation when she realizes they’re not strictly here for her amusement. Really? Big Daddy came out in 1999, for crying out loud. (Or if you prefer the Vice President’s example, Will and Grace came out all the way back in 1998.) I get that she made these realizations in the ’80s, but it doesn’t exactly make her seem forward thinking in 2011. Especially when she continues to make snide comments stereotyping gays.
Again, I realize that she isn’t trying to be a jerk, that she’s just trying to make jokes at everyone’s expense. But it just comes out wrong. It gets tiresome. It really reminded me of that 30 Rock episode in which Jack (played by Alec Baldwin) exclaims, “We’ll trick those race card lovin’ wide-loads into watching your lefty homoerotic propaganda hour yet!”, to which Liz (played by Tina Fey) replies, “You just don’t like anybody, do you?” Yes, it is ironic. Yes, I really do love 30 Rock.
Towards the end, Fey shows some humility and acknowledges the help she’s received in her career. She seems less mean-spirited in the final chapters, in which she gives behind-the-scenes descriptions of SNL and 30 Rock. Unfortunately, this doesn’t nearly make up for the majority of the book. Sorry Tina. I’m still your fan.
Tina Fey is a great writer, but Bossypants is not great.