Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review of Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants is Tina Fey’s recollections about her meteoric rise to fame as actor and writer at Saturday night Live, and as actor/writer/producer for 30 Rock.  Some things about her life that I found interesting were:
In kindergarten was slashed across the face while walking home through an alley. To date she hasn’t given any more details than that because she doesn’t want to use it for leverage (making people feel sorry for her).
Her father was a university grant writer, whom she has a lot of respect for.
She got started as an actor with the travelling theater company “Second City”.
She began writing for SNL first, and “After I lost weight, there was interest in putting me on camera." Most famous SNL sketches were Weekend Update and Sarah Palin impersonations.
She began 30 Rock in 2002, and has now finished its final season.
She appeared in films including: Mean Girls, Baby Mama, Invention Of Lying, Date Night, and Admission, the last of which sucked. Sorry Tina.
She is now married and has two children.
She starts off the book with a warning against those trying to moralize from her stories. “If you’re looking for a spiritual allegory in the style of C. S. Lewis, I guess you could piece something together with Lorne Michaels as a symbol for God, and my struggles with hair removal as a metaphor for virtue.” Yeah, she’s not giving anything up easily. Her stiff-arm against over-zealous critics is tantamount to Mark Twain’s famous rebuff for those seeking meaning where he intended no meaning beyond a simple tale to be found, “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. By Order of the Author.” But to the chagrin to all the Tinas and Twains of the world, there’s always a reason a writer writes, and Tina’s is to be found on page 5…sort of. “Why is this book called Bossypants? One, because the name Two And a Half Men was already taken. And two, because ever since I became an executive producer of 30 Rock, people have asked me, “Is it hard for you to be the boss of all these people?” and “Is it uncomfortable for you to be the person in charge?” So Tina spends the rest of the book hilariously describing her journey from being a nerdy, misfit, struggling, improv actress to her current position of a powerful feminist celebrity who is the writer/producer for her own show and a voice for funny, intelligent women all across the U.S….and maybe Bosnia.

Now, I’ll admit that she comes down hard on men who apparently are the cause of all of women’s problems. But, to be fair, our country is still combating sexism even in the workplace, and she has witnessed some pretty pathetic male a-holism in her time. Comedians are such a tremendous forces in any culture, and they have a way of making you laugh at things you wouldn’t normally find funny, and a way of making you see and admit to things you normally suppress. They can make it seem cool to admit that you’re evil, even when you’re not really sure that you’re evil. But kudos to her for being able to make everyone believe that men are pigs. Laughing at stupid people is funny.

Now, to pull a ‘Fox News’ and be ‘fair and balanced’, she also takes shots at superficial women who are photo-shopped into existence. She doesn’t rail against the use of photo shop in general, or being skinny, but she does make jokes at the expense of women who think that people are fooled by their spray-on beauty or who think that being skinny is all there is to happiness. She has been photo-shopped (hardly, she contends) and she has been skinny at times in her life, but she can see through it, and hopes her humanity hasn’t been erased in the cosmetic boost. “You looked forward to them taking out your chicken pix scars and broken blood vessels, but how do you feel when they erase part of you that is perfectly good?”

I will always remember the line I read somewhere, “Humor is just another defense against the universe” (Mel Brooks). True that. It’s worked for Tina somehow, and seems to have preserved a very sweet, intelligent, authentic, and courageous girl against the soul-effacement of success and popularity. Even Einstein said, “With fame I become more and more stupid.”I don’t think Tina is immune to the spirit-sags and wrinkles of celebrity, but she is on guard. Which helps.

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