Why Tina Fey Had to Get All Tarted Up

Like most of America, I’ve got a ginormous girl crush on Tina Fey. 30 Rock is among the best, smartest, bravest, and most honest shows on TV, not to mention snort-Coke-thru-your-schnoz funny. I really didn’t think Fey would pull it off, and was surprised by how much the show hooked me. It’s the only one I ever rewind to experience the whipsmart repartee twice. (The episode that changed me from time-killer to stalker-fan contained this piece from Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, Fey’s bizarre TV boss: “I don’t know what happened in your life that caused you to develop a sense of humor as a coping mechanism. Maybe it was some sort of brace or corrective boot you wore during childhood, but in any case I’m glad you’re on my team.” I was in love. The New Yorker isn’t though.)

And, of course, then came Fey’s Palin impression and now she’s a bona fide superstar, the proof of which is her Vanity Fair cover and her $5M book deal.

The chick-o-sphere is all over it. Check out Slate’s XX here and here for links to the piece and all the great commentary surrounding it.

The nub of the discussion is the profile’s near-relentless focus on Fey’s 30-pound weight loss and beauty makeover. Would she be a superstar now had she remained merely insanely talented and ruthlessly hardworking ? Apparently not, if the piece—and Fey’s pragmatic self—are to be believed.

I always found her low cut blouses and super tight cocktail dresses…distressing.

One, because they don’t go with the story line of 30 Rock in which she’s a bum-magnet nerd who likes to eat. She always looks uncomfortable with her boobs pushed up to her collarbones. And those Vanity Fair photos…oh my. Totally trivializing and cringe worthy to me, in particular this video-snippet of her dancing, Beyonce-style, for the photo shoot. Fey simply doesn’t want to do this, is my main problem with her determined babe-ification. I can’t watch Beyonce’s pornographic, pole dancing hip moves, but I also don’t get the feeling she’s forcing herself to do something she doesn’t want to (but who knows, since her parents had been pimping her this way since before puberty). With Fey, it’s pretty clear that the glamour girl stuff is something she’s making herself do.

Clearly, she’s thought it through and decided that if it takes being sexy to rise as high as her other talents will take her, then sexy she’ll be. I’m guessing she’s found a way to laugh at the rest of us for caring to see her cleavage, as long as she gets to do her job at the level on which she deserves to do it. No, Drew Carey didn’t have to lose weight to get a sitcom or a book deal, but that’s the world we live in. (See this 2003 New Yorker profile for a dose of the pre-sexy Fey: “Wearing a shabby green cardigan, Levi’s, and sneakers.”)

Final note, though: Maureen Dowd, who wrote the piece, takes Fey pretty minutely through the comic’s awkward personal dealings with Palin when the governor was on the show. Funny how there’s not a single mention of Fey’s scathing impersonation of Dowd herself on a Weekend Update segment a few years back. I can’t find it, but Fey was dead on sending up Dowd’s coquettish presentation with that breathy voice and her tousled red hair in her face. If you’ve ever seen her on TV, it looks like Dowd wants to boff the camera, and Fey nailed it.

Wonder why no mention of that?


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