Tina Fey, Stephanie March Get Lesbians Right on 30 Rock

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A network TV comedy

peppered with jokes about “bi-curious” shoes,

Margaret Cho, and Oprah and Gayle? Frequent and matter-of-fact use of

the word “lesbian”? A straight woman who gets set

up on a blind date with a smart, funny lesbian who happens to be Law and Order: SVU’s Stephanie March?

Sounds too good to be true. Definitely sounds too good to be written by a straight person. Unless it’s Tina Fey (Mean Girls, Saturday Night Live), who may not be a lesbian – despite her penchant for sensible shoes – but knows how to write one on TV.

The episode in question (“Blind Date”) aired last night on the fledgling NBC comedy 30 Rock,

a new half-hour comedy set behind the scenes of a Saturday Night

Live-type variety show in New York. In addition to being the

show’s creator, executive producer, and writer, Fey also

stars as Liz Lemon, the fictional show’s head writer, who

routinely and comically clashes with overbearing network exec Jack

Donaghy, played with deadpan brilliance by Alec Baldwin.

In “Blind Date”, Jack

offers to help Liz relax by setting her up on a blind date with his

friend Thomas. It isn’t until the two meet for dinner that

Liz discovers Thomas is her blind date’s last name—and her first name is Gretchen.

The jig is up immediately, as Liz tells Gretchen she’s not gay,

Gretchen tells Liz she is (“that’s awesome” Liz replies in an awkward attempt to save the

moment), and Gretchen assures Liz, “I’m certainly

not interested in chasing a straight girl”. They have dinner

anyway, and hit it off over a discussion of plastics.

The next day, Liz tells Jack she’s not offended, but

doesn’t understand why he thinks she’s gay. He

mentions her shoes (which are of the casual sneaker variety), saying,

“Those shoes are definitely bi-curious.” Despite

her insistence that she’s straight, Liz is flattered when

Jack tells her Gretchen had a great time at dinner.

Liz brings Gretchen to a company poker party a few days later, and when a

co-worker asks Liz if she’s sure she’s not gay,

because “that chick is hot!”, Liz responds,

“We’re just friends, like Oprah and Gayle. Why is

that so hard for everyone to believe?”

But

even as Liz is making plans for them to go shopping at IKEA and see a

Margaret Cho concert together, Gretchen breaks up with her, so to

speak. “I think we need to take a break”, she tells Liz,

“because I said I’m not into chasing straight girls, and I

kinda think that’s what’s starting to happen here.

So unless you’re ready to make a big life change, I need to

move on.” First Liz asks, “Is this because I wanted

to submit us for The Amazing Race?

Because I was 80% kidding”. But then she confirms to a

disappointed Gretchen that the person she wants to be with has to be a

guy.

As Gretchen is leaving, Liz does make one last attempt to save their

friendship. “What if we made a pact?” She asks.

“What if we say in 25 years, if neither of us has someone, we

move in together and be roommates. And even though I’m not

into the sex stuff, if it helps you, I would let you do stuff to

me.” Gretchen doesn’t take Liz up on the offer.

The mistaking-someone-for-gay

conceit is hardly new, and there’s no grand happy lesbian

ending in this episode. But for a moment there, while watching the

storyline unfold, I actually wondered if Liz might develop romantic

feelings for Gretchen – a moment that most sitcoms never let

the audience have. Sitcom writers are usually hell-bent on making it

clear to the audience that the sexual orientation mix-up is one big

joke – and usually at the expense of the lesbian (or gay man).

But in this episode, the jokes and the dialogue were clearly written by someone who not only seems to like lesbians, but actually knows a few.

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