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Joan of Snark: 30 Rock’s Jezebel Satire – Misinterpreted

February 26, 2011

Last Thursday on 30 Rock, TGS was called out as anti-female by fictional website “Joan of Snark” – with a snapshot of the website shown on the episode, there was no question that this was a Jezebel reference.

Liz Lemon decides to hire feminist comedian Abby Flynn, featured on Joan of Snark, to combat the reputation her show was developing. Abby ends up being the antithesis of what Liz expected – she constantly needs male attention, talks in a baby voice, and seems to operate only to maximize (cliched) male pleasure.

Off the tv screen, Jezebel wrote about this (mostly flattered), but missed the point entirely when they denoted the ending as a “cop out” – it turns out that Abby was maintaining the ditz facade to hide her whereabouts from her ex-husband, and the episode ends abruptly with Liz apologizing, saying she assumed the act was because of “you know, pressure from society.”

To me, this is Tina Fey’s essential argument against Jezebel, and a problem I have often had with the website myself – not everything is about female oppression/empowerment. On a site that is meant to cater to all things media with a feminine twist, I imagine it would be difficult not to attempt to contextualize everything in the box of “but what does this mean for women?” Some have pointed to a more sinister intention – drumming up page views by calling foul where there is none.

It seems the writers at Jezebel believe the main criticism of their site is one of conflicting content — articles about Kim Kardashian followed by a piece about women’s rights in Afghanistan. Liz Lemon mentions this, too, in her description of Joan of Snark – “this really cool feminist website where women talk about how far we’ve come and which celebrities have the worst beach bodies (Ruth Bader Ginsberg).” What Jezebel didn’t notice, was how the episode itself rebuttles this apparent conflict: Liz confronts Abby about her baby act, and Abby challenges her: how is the way I dress any different that you wearing glasses to look smart? This is just the way I am, and you should accept that and stop being judgmental. Towards Abby, Liz is not acting like the woman she prides herself to be (someone who believes in female empowerment), simply because she cant fathom that a women like Abby actually exists.

Feminism can be summed up in one sentence: its about being yourself – from all angles, and living in a society that accepts you as your full, polygonous self. Not a walking reflection of what you believe a man would like, but equally not a reflection of what you believe a feminist would like, either. Unless of course – that’s just who you are: Abby’s argument.

For Jezebels flaws, not the least of which might be exploiting (i.e. profiting from) misguided female “empowerment,” Jezebel has started a more global, common conversation on female issues and they’ve done a pretty amazing job of it. I also don’t personally believe that the writers of the site have anything but the best of intentions at heart – they all seem genuinely passionate about what they do, and I don’t get the impression that their M.O is feminism-for-profit.

Fey however, does makes some valid points against (and for) the website, and in the end does what she, and 30 Rock, do best: not take anything too seriously.

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