Almost every actor and actress has that defining role in their career with which they are forever associated. Elijah Wood as Frodo, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, and, of course, Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. For Tina Fey, it was her Sarah Palin impersonation on Saturday Night Live, where she nailed her folksy Minnesota accent and God-given talent to talk about everything but the topic.
To most viewers, that’s all the sketch was: a funny imitation of a politician, not unlike anything else out there on the Internet. But, according to Fey, the sketch was actually about Sarah Palin’s and Hillary Clinton’s joint efforts to speak out against sexism in politics. “You all watched a sketch about feminism and you didn’t even know it because of all the jokes,” Fey writes. “It’s like when Jessica Seinfeld puts spinach in kids’ brownies. Suckers!”
This can be said about the nature of her book, Bossypants, where Fey talks about an array of matters such as women’s body images, parenting and gender discrimination, all while keeping it light, conversational and sarcastic. And if the jokes aren’t enough to keep the reader interested in such heavy topics, the text is full of visual breaks like photographs from her past, hand-drawn charts, edited script from her hit television show, 30 Rock, and a mother’s prayer for her daughter written in the style of the Bible. “When she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends. For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.”
One of the book’s funniest chapters, “Dear Internet,” consists of five hateful comments written about the comedian on gossip blogs and discussion forums, which she takes the time to personally address. One comment, for example, accuses Tina Fey of being celebrated merely because she’s a female comedian, to which Fey sarcastically writes, “Women in this country have been over-celebrated for too long. Just last night there was a story on my local news about a ‘missing girl,’ and they must have dedicated seven or eight minutes to ‘where she was last seen’ and ‘how she might have been abducted by a family friend,’ and I thought, ‘What is this, the News for Chicks?’”
Female comedians tend to face a lot of criticism, as comedy is still a male-dominated field and women are often stereotyped to be less funny than men or not funny at all. Fey addresses this by giving an example of a past incident when Amy Poehler made vulgar jokes in the SNL writers’ room and Jimmy Fallon told her to stop because he did not like it. She went on to the topic of sexism in comedy and stated that women like her could not care less whether some people do not like their comedy. “It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good,” she writes. “I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.”
In this day and age, it is difficult to write books that keep people absorbed. Attention spans are getting shorter as people become accustomed to 140-character tweets and six-second Vines, and it seems like Fey knows this and does her best to cater to her modern audience. But the style becomes repetitive at some points in the book, where almost every other paragraph is an anecdote from her past that ends in a one-liner. While she succeeds in keeping the mood light, a variation in her style of comedy would have been better.
Overall, Fey succeeds in clearly communicating her main message: she is the “Bossypants” from the title. She is intelligent and funny, not afraid to acknowledge her flaws and make fun of herself for them, and most importantly, she worked hard to become the person she is today. From Sarah Palin and Liz Lemon to being a mother, she is the woman in charge.