Bossypants by Tina Fey
Confession: I don’t watch 30 Rock. Not because I don’t want to, but television as a medium hasn’t been motivating me at all lately. Plus, I’d need to start over from the beginning; I’m a completionist. But what I have seen—namely, the episode that ends with a threesome involving James Franco, a body pillow with an anime character on it, and Liz Lemon—I’ve really liked. And, naturally, as a woman of letters in current American culture, I just like Tina Fey. I have fond memories of her on Saturday Night Live, although her greatest moment on the show came after she left. No, not her Sarah Palin impression, but her fervent declaration that “bitches get stuff done”. Is it any wonder her book is in the library at my women’s college?
Bossypants, as Tina Fey’s memoir, tells the story of the comedian’s life so far—from her strict upbringing, her summers doing theater workshops, and her career in writing comedy for television, as well as addressing the life of a working mother and a woman in a male-dominated industry.
I didn’t expect much from Bossypants, to be totally honest; just a funny celebrity memoir, which essentially means as light and fluffy as a piece of angel food cake. I mentioned in my review of Johnny Weir’s Welcome To My World how I was taken aback by the fact that celebrity memoirs tend to have wider spacing than any other book. It wasn’t much different here. Fey is her usual witty, cutting self here, but there are jokes that may age poorly here. She talks about working at both Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock in a way that will satisfy casual interest. (If you’re seriously interested in Saturday Night Live, it looks like Live From New York would satisfy your curiosity—I can’t recommend it, as I haven’t read it, but it seems well-received.) I whipped through this in three or four hours on a Sunday morning, and, for the most part, it’s a pleasant treat. But we get glimpses into a more reflective, brutally honest Fey that I wish I could have read an entire book about.
“Cosmodemonic” is one of my favorite Michael Chabon essays. In it, he discusses the evolution of his views towards women—from a collegiate misogyny to understanding them as fellow human beings. (I am stopping myself from just quoting the thing; why haven’t you read Manhood for Amateurs yet?) Fey includes a similar story in Bossypants, about her views towards her gay friends. As a teenage theater geek in the eighties, Fey ends up being the only straight girl among her friends, as well as the youngest. She prides herself on her acceptance of them, but when two of her friends begin to flirt with each other, she does her best to stop them. Her friends assume it’s because she has a crush on one them, but Fey knows the real reason:
And here, after twenty years, is the truth. I really didn’t have a crush on Sean. I had reacted that way because I viscerally felt that what they were about to do was icky. The stomachache I felt had nothing to do with a crush. I had to face the fact that I had been using my gay friends as props. They were always supposed to be funny and entertain me and praise me and listen to my problems, and their life was supposed to be a secret that no one wanted to hear about. I wanted them to stay in the “half closet”. (42)
She also discusses feminism comfortably and without feeling she needs to qualify it, which I absolutely love—I hate it when women, from people I know to celebrities, feel the need to distance themselves from feminism. I mean, I understand if you’re not comfortable with politics of certain feminist-identified roots, but feminism got you the right to vote, so, you know, you best respect. And this naturally influences her experience in comedy, from the most disgusting thing I’ve ever head of (you’ll know it when you see it) to discussing being Photoshopped on magazine covers. (Incidentally, feminists do it best, as she proves in the Bust cover she did.) She knows Amy Poehler will be an awesome friend when Poehler, doing a disgusting bit Jimmy Fallon didn’t like, snarls at him that she doesn’t care that he doesn’t like it. (There were more expletives involved.) Fey is clearly a feminist and it, naturally, permeates Bossypants. I really wish she spent more time soul-searching and/or discussing her experience in working in comedy; I’d love to read a single-spaced book about that. (Seriously, this spacing thing in celebrity memoirs is ridiculous. There are even blank pages after chapters to pad it out. Short books are okay, too, publishing industry!)
Bottom line: Like most celebrity memoirs, Tina Fey’s Bossypants is a light, airy trifle, although there are some intriguing and fascinating darker notes throughout. For fans of the writer.
I rented this book from my school library.
- Fey, Tina. Bossypants. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011. Print.