Comedy as a Feminist Rhetoric, Liz Lemon Style

Risa Polansky Shiman

Abstract


Given the stereotypes that come along with traditional feminist activism – She’s a feminist. She looks angry, and I can see from here she’s not wearing a bra – and the frustration feminists often face as a result, comedy is an entertaining, and therefore presumably palatable, way to expose contemporary feminist issues to broad audiences. But is it effective? A fan of ironic, silly, and sometimes (shhh, don’t tell) lewd humor, I’m no stranger to The Looks, which range from “I don’t get it” to “You’re not as funny as you think you are” to “I am both disgusted and offended.” When it comes to comedy, we simply don’t all speak the same language. Consequently, comedy as feminist rhetoric can be a dangerous business: sardonic, self-deprecating jokes being interpreted literally can reinforce feminist stereotypes rather than trouble them. So, is poking fun at women's issues in order to examine women's issues worth it? Must all messages be direct and hardcore to classify as feminist rhetoric? Here, I examine these questions using NBC’s 30 Rock. Caution: menstruation jokes ahead.

Keywords


Feminism; Television; Comedy; Rhetorical method