Why does “30 Rock” get a pass on its lesbian jokes?


While the episode was funny and gave us a chance to see the lesbian stereotypes that Liz’s coworkers felt fit Liz so well, it didn’t end the lesbian jokes on the show. On almost every episode, there’s a reference to something lesbian about Liz. Examples:

Jack to Liz regarding her outfit: “Lesbian Mario Brothers! That is the most unflattering item of clothing I have ever seen you wear, and I’m including 2008’s turtle neck with smiley face vest.” And on another episode, “Lemon, lesbian Frankenstein wants her shoes back.”

Recently, a pilot announces over a plane intercom: “Everyone — including any lipless middle-aged women in lesbian clown shirts — should take their seats at this time.” He was, of course, referring to Liz.

But they aren’t only pointing to Fey’s character.

In an insult to a rude florist, Liz says into the phone, “They’re from your mom so tell your gay mom I said thanks.” When Jack asks Liz to help his pregnant wife, Avery, shop for maternity gear, he tells her Avery doesn’t have anyone else to go with her because, “Avery does have a sister but Eugenia is currently institutionalized for nerves,” he says, then whispers an aside, “lesbian.” And the character Bucky Bright once said, “I wandered the building all night. I didn’t run into another single living soul. Except one giant lesbian. Who is Conan O’Brien, and why is she so sad?”

On another recent episode, Jack tells Liz, “Female jealousy is an evolutionary fact, Lemon. If you try to breed it out of them, you end up with a lesbian with hip dysplasia.”

It’s probably fair to say that you could combine a lesbian reference drinking game with a 30 Rock marathon and get a little tipsy before you make it to season 3.

So how does 30 Rock get away with so many gay jokes?

First, 30 Rock is politically incorrect in almost every way possible. They make jokes about racism, class issues, women, politics and even about their network. The show doesn’t discriminate when it comes to storyline fodder. Last year, a rape joke had viewers upset, which signals that not every questionable joke will slide by so easily, even when it’s in a show written and performed by people that we’ve come to trust and love.

It doesn’t appear that lesbian fans of 30 Rock hope Liz Lemon is gay. Her lack of luck in love with anyone is part of her charm. And it’s a good thing, because it seems that Liz isn’t even bi-curious, even if Jack thinks her shoes indicate otherwise. Fey told Gay.com in 2009, “ …We definitely had a good time having (actress) Stephanie March on there, I wouldn’t write it off for the future. We don’t have any plans for Liz to change her mind or anything.”

In the same interview, Tina said she has lesbian friends “and the writer of the episode also has lesbian friends as well. So I do try to make sure that the details are approved by them. I mean, I didn’t actually go to them, but you know what I mean. I wanted to do it in a way that they knew it was responsible.”

Because the jokes are generally made about Liz Lemon, who is played by lesbian favorite Fey, the show gets a pass. They could do with fewer lesbian references to get the single spinster humor across, but the writers are unlikely to relent, and we’re unlikely to stop watching. But will there ever be a payoff, and will Liz Lemon ever really be a lesbian? Outlook: Not so good.

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