Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey

BossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up because of the novelty of a feminist comic, and because I remember Tina Fey from SNL Weekend Update. I don't know a lot about her beyond that, though, so reading this sometimes felt like going to a birthday party for someone I didn't know. Overall, it was entertaining, but a lot of the in-jokes sailed over my head.

Tina Fey starts with her upbringing, and brings us through her improv comedy at The Second City, being hired as a writer for Saturday Night Live, getting married and going on a horrific cruise, having a daughter, and making her own show, 30 Rock, based loosely around her experiences working for SNL. The narrative seemed disjointed, and it's told out of order, with very little to tie it together. I suspect if I watched 30 Rock, this book would have a lot more context, but I don't. (According to the book, that puts me in the majority, which failed to talk me into watching the show. Mentioning it contains racism and blackface also didn't persuade me I was missing anything.)

Fey goes well out of her way to explain that she's not attractive, which I suppose is true if she were comparing herself to actresses and models. She also doesn't include pictures of the awkward phases she discusses, for which I can't say I blame her, but it makes it difficult to tell if her sense of self-worth is just that distorted, or if there was something wrong with all the mirrors she owned. Maybe that's the point, that even a woman who looks like her sees only flaws in herself, but she seemed to take it as a given that the reader would agree she wasn't conventionally attractive.

I mentioned above that Tina Fey is a feminist, and she is. She even identifies as such. That doesn't mean she's immune to the trap many public feminists fall into, that of apologizing for it, softening it, blaming women for sexism's continued existence. She does present many facets of her life in a feminist light, but she also suggests that women suck it up and deal with sexism in the workplace. It was disappointing, and I hope she's reconsidered.

The book contains a chapter devoted to her Sarah Palin impersonation during the 2008 election. That makes it a bit dated, and I hope, in a few years, people reading that section have to look it up on Wikipedia. She makes some of her best points in that section, though. She points out how it's still sexism if she's a Republican, and that accusations of bullying paint Sarah Palin as far more delicate than she is. She also reproduces the text of the sketch that debuted Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, and gloats about sneaking feminism into mainstream comedy.

This book is funny. I laughed out loud while I was reading at least once a chapter. Unfortunately, it also felt like I was missing something. It wasn't as pronounced as when I read Mindy Kaling's
  Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

But the book also wasn't as funny as Jenny Lawson's   Let's Pretend This Never Happened

. But then, that's a pretty high bar, to me.

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