[Ed. note: In celebration of the series finale of one of our all-time favorite TV comedies on Thursday night, we're going to be celebrating 30 Rock all week long on Flavorwire. Look for a new feature each day, and be sure to check out all of our previous coverage of the show here.] In the pilot of 30 Rock, Liz Lemon is sent by her new boss Jack Donaghy to find Tracy Jordan and convince him to join their NBC sketch comedy, The Girlie Show. While chasing the manic Tracy from diner to strip club, Liz learns that Jack has fired her primary writing partner – an alarming realization that sends her back to the office. “I want to tell Donaghy to his face that I quit,” she tells Tracy outside a strip joint, “and I want to do it in front of the whole crew so that they know he didn’t fired me.” Tracy Jordan’s response: “I wanna see that.” And so did I.
Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon has been with us for seven seasons of 30 Rock, which will air its finale tomorrow. This ending, and its timing, is neither premature nor belated, but that doesn’t mean we won’t still miss the show sorely. In 2006, when the pilot aired, there weren’t that many female characters on network television like Liz Lemon, though that has changed somewhat rapidly since, and certainly thanks to Fey’s creation (just this past week, Hannah Horvath made a comment about wanting to get married, which Lemon actually did this season). I remain grateful for this gift, and am even embarrassed by my sometimes over-identification with Lemon as a woman, a feminist, a worker and eater, and a speaker of German, with nerd rage to boot.
30 Rock is a comedy by way of being parodic of other media (mostly television) genres, so any single screen-cap from it isn’t going to make as much sense, or be so hilarious, out of context. Is Lemon shotgunning a pizza? What is she doing here in a Snuggie with a cheese plate? But, as Matt Zoller Seitz put it in his recent moving homage to 30 Rock, the show “is uniquely skilled at eating its cake and having it, too, while crowing ‘Isn’t cake ridiculous?’ and making you crave cake.” It can be maddening at times, but this also means that 30 Rock – and its heroine – is never one thing, moving instead in various and multiple zany directions. If one begins to critique the show for being unwittingly unfeminist, 30 Rock has already made a dozen clever (often meta-) critiques anticipating such an argument. What’s more, the show knows how to forgive its well-meaning characters for falling, again and again, into the plot holes of ideology. In watching the show, and Lemon especially, viewers have learned to be simultaneously more aware of how these plots work and more understanding toward the characters stuck inside them.
So, just to get us extra nostalgic before the finale (and, really, what has 30 Rock done better than play with the emotional trigger that is nostalgia?), I want to review some of Lemon’s most emblematic moments from the show, through the lens of what she’s meant for women and, in particular, feminists.