Thursday, December 3, 2009

Is 30 Rock Pronatalist too?

I received this e-mail from a reader who gave me permission to print it. If you're a fan of 30 Rock, please let us know what you think:

"I must say I love your blog and appreciate the time and effort you put into it. I enjoy reading it and it inspires me not to be afraid to think for myself. I recently started watching the NBC sitcom 30Rock (a quick trip to can explain this show better than I can...) but unfortunately this is in my honest opinion the worst episode that aired recently called "Sun Tea"...

It started out pretty good. The two characters, Jack Donaghy and Tracy Jordan, plan to get vasectomies together after exploring the disadvantages of having kids. In Jack's case, he seemed like the childfree type from the start. His hero is "publicly humiliated by his own family" and he's glad he doesn't have to experience this himself. Yeah, he's rich enough to afford multiple kids but he doesn't have them anyway. He seems to have a good head on his far.

In Tracy's case, even though he already had children (2 boys I think), his reasons were: " This Cosby Show lied to me!" (you know, the usual perfect or in some way appealing family that everyone would love to be a part of) and the inability to tell "the stripper story" in front of Tracy Jr.

Both men had no problems getting their surgeries approved but in the end, they both decided not to go through with the vasectomy because Tracy was stupid enough to listen to his Cosby Show hallucination during his vasectomy and Jack bonded with Tracy Jr. over homework in the waiting room. What's even stupider is they add some "green" propaganda. But there's obviously nothing "green" abotu having children...hypocricy much, Tina Fey? She's a mom of course as well as the creator of this show.

Please tell me this episode pokes fun at people who have stupid reasons for having children. I want to love this show, I really do. The past ones weren't painful to watch like this one was. It kind of makes me fear for the future just a little bit more...

Here's a link to the episode. I hope it's able to show up so you can judge for yourself.



Anonymous said...

I'm a die-hard fan of the show, and I remember cringing at the scene when Jack has his sudden change of heart. Definitely.

There's also the fact that Liz is constantly trying to adopt. I do cut her some slack for at least attempting to give a pre-manufactured child a home (although, she's trying to get a baby), but it still sends a pretty strange message, in my opinion. Liz Lemon is the head writer of a hit show on NBC, living in a nice New York apartment, well paid, and with plenty of activities at her disposal. Yet, at 40, she's still desperately clinging to the idea of motherhood, and won't be truly happy until it happens for her. To me, that doesn't exactly say that parenthood makes ones life complete. It says that she can't possibly appreciate what she has and that becoming a mother would make her feel like she fits in somehow. To what, I'm not sure.

Being a mother does complete me, because it's what I do. It's my life, as I completely abandoned my career to do it and aside from a financial crunch every once in awhile, I don't regret it at all. I don't think women who desire to be mothers are pathetic. However, I do give the side-eye to women who have the kinds of opportunities that LL has and feel their lives aren't complete unless there's a child in it. It amazes me that these are the main women riding the latest feminist wave - her character especially.

Atlantalee said...

I think KS might be taking 30 Rock a little too seriously. It's a farcical show, and the characters are meant to be ridiculous. Their reasons for doing just about anything are always absurd (especially when it comes to Jack and Tracy). That's the joke. I don't think the show is pronatalist. Having seen just about every episode, I wouldn't say that there is a recurring theme of child-worship or procreation.

firefly said...

We've been catching episodes of 30 Rock through Netflix/Roku, and I have to admit I was disappointed when they started in on the baby thing with Tina Fey's character. They've played it mostly for laughs, and it is mainstream TV, so I try not to take it too seriously.

One other series that we've been catching up with, "All in the Family," has a really interesting episode wherein Gloria and Mike have a huge fight because he's decided he doesn't want to bring a child into a crappy world and she thinks being a mother is something she needs to do.

In the end, she has a talk with Edith, who says things like, "women were meant to have babies" and "what else would we do if not for children," and thank god for the 70s feminist thread in this show, because Gloria changes her mind. She realizes she wants to be a person before she's a mom, and at the end of the show she decides to wait and think it over.

Really sad, to me, that you have to go back 30 years to find a TV show that dares to question the motherhood thing that way.

The Pint said...

I love 30 Rock, and I'll admit to being a bit perturbed by the episode since it did seem to be pretty pro-baby. However, after watching it again, I don't know if it really is all that pro-natalist. I may be cutting the writers some slack here, but it seems to me that they're trying to spoof it both ways since both Jack & Tracy's reasons for wanting the vasectomy & then changing their minds are rather goofy. Seriously, getting a vasectomy because "the Cosby Show lied to me!"? I found that line hilarious because I honestly think that there's a fairly sizable portion of the population out there that decided to have families based on similar reasoning: "Having a family looks like so much fun, I should go ahead and have one, too!" only to realize, yep, those happy family sitcoms LIED (ok, may not lied so much as omitted or downplayed all the hard day-to-day stuff that goes with the Kodak moments).

And as far as Jack changing his mind, well, I don't know if it was spoofing his status as staunchly childfree so much as it was spoofing Jack's general tendency to make decisions/pronouncements without actually considering if it's what he really wants or if he might actually be wrong about anything. The show has regularly had Jack change his mind about something he'd previously refused to consider (dating a liberal politician, for example), so it didn't seem out of character for him to do that about face. Frankly, I saw that plotline coming a mile away. Also, his reason for changing his mind - bonding with Tracy, Jr. - I'm not sure if it was because he suddenly realized he'd like to have the same experience with a child of his own or if he realized that he wanted to have a child to "carry on" the Jack Donaghy legacy (which as we all know, is another bad reason to have a kid - if the series went on long enough, I could see the writers making his kid a raging liberal).

Personally, I find Liz's baby-hunger hilarious. I don't think she's written that way as an example that all career-women secretly want babies, but the lengths that she's gone to because of the baby cravings (the episode where she "accidentally" took home a co-worker's kid was hysterical) definitely makes fun of the "but I wanna have a baby and I don't care what I have to do to get one!" drama that a lot of women seem to go through. Yes, women don't need to have children to feel fulfilled and yes, there are a lot of us out there honestly don't want or need children, but that doesn't mean that there aren't women out there who do feel that despite a successful career, they're not complete without a child. Acknowledging that there are women who feel that way doesn't invalidate our position, I think.

Liz is a great caricature of a career woman precisely because she thinks she can have it all - when the reality is she is going to have to compromise or give something up to get what she wants. Some of her best comedic moments are when that inevitable clash between what she wants and what she can actually get results in all sorts of screw-ups - dating the cute coffeeboy only to realize his mom is her doppleganger; falling into the lady of leisure lifestyle only to find that her new leisure friends have a Fight Club to give their lives meaning; etc.

So I'll reserve judgment until her character actually ends up with a baby/child. If the writers stay true to form, Liz is going to have to give up something (after the requisite screw ups) - but if they end up giving her the "happy mom can have it all!" ending, then I'll be less inclined to cut the show slack on this.

Anonymous said...

I love the show but I don't take that seriously. This happened in an episode of "how i met your mother" one of the female lead characters at first says she wants to travel, develop a career in broadcasting and not have kids, then the writers make her change her mind towards the end.

I dunno but you can't take that seriously. They're just shows. You just have to live your life and just realize that its done for entertainment. Plus Liz in 30 Rock is pretty stereotyped, she's like a caricature.

I guess if something is pro-kid I just tend to ignore it, its not something that I will take seriously. Especially in tv and movies because they're just entertainment. :)

Childfreeeee said...

I haven't yet seen the show, although it's in my NetFlix queque (because I've heard it's a great show).

Sure it's just a show, and just a comedy, but I think it is interesting to think about this: how many shows - dramas, comedies or otherwise, have a plot where a person is debating about having kids, weighs the options and ultimately decides they are happier without kids?

I can't think of any.

Whenever a childfree person is portrayed (which is rare to begin with), they are portrayed as misguided, self-centered, fumbling buffoons who don't have their priorities straight. In most cases, they come around to seeing the light and embrace parenthood. I am thinking of Hugh Grant in "Nine Months" where he plays a happy childfree guy whose girlfriend gets pregnant. He wants nothing to do with having kids and protests all through the movie until the very end when he comes to his senses and then once the baby is put into his arms, he is overcome with baby rabies and is completelty turned around. And of course, he's a much better person for it. Having the child is the happy ending.

Of course, the humor in the film comes from displaying what a self-centered jerk he is (before he comes around to accepting being a parent) - the typical stereotype of the childfree person.

Comedy, of course, has no limitations on who it pokes fun at, but wouldn't it be great to see more comedies that take the opposite view? And wouldn't it be more interesting?

Unknown said...

I'm glad I don't watch this dreck if this is what passes for "comedy" these days.

I don't understand how people think it's "Just a show" when it's really "propaganda" if it was just a show, it (and so very many shows like it) wouldn't *have* to end with a pro-breeding message.

goddiva-11 said...

I've never watched the show but to answer your question in is now "In" to be pronatalist on t.v. There are a number of shows that advocate breeding regardless of the situation and many producers feel the need to incorporate actual pregnancies in storylines even if it goes against character or send a message of irresponsibility. Examples:

*Without a Trace: FBI agent (Poppy Montgomery) has a one night stand with a bartender. When she confides in other agent she's undecided but of course she goes through the pregnancy and she and the bartender become best buds he so wants to be involved blah, blah, blah

*Private Practice 2 examples:

1). Staff psychiatrist (Amy Brennan who in real life is proudly child free) is sleeping with two other doctors on staff UNPROTECTED. She gets pregnant have no idea who the father is and though time and time again her character is projected as a person with a childfree mentality and admitted to having two abortions of course decides to have the child. Only to dump it on the fathers doorstep!

2) Storyline has a couple that was trying to conceive. The wife ends up being raped and impregnated by her rapist. The husband wants the pregnancy terminated, the wife isn't so sure. However the writers go the extra mile to try and convince viewers that the child being conceived by rape isn't as important as the fact that she is finally pregnant. The husband walks out when it looks as if she wants to go through with the pregnancy but later they show how the couple is 'weighing' their options. The show stopped just short of advocating that pregnancy by any means should be applauded.

Yep Hollywood is anti-contraceptive but pro-bastardization. The message now is pro-breeding. They can't help but make every character breeders or have thoughts of breeding. There is hardly ever any mention of birth control, abortion is an option never chosen and adoption is always decided against at the 12th hour and yet we're surprised at the sudden rise in teenage pregnancy?!

Its not just you I've been noticing this message is been sent for quite some time now.

goddiva-11 said...

@Firefly I share your sentiments EXACTLY. You would think that in modern times we would see more shows depiciting ALL of the options regarding children. Instead our society and especially those responsible for our entertainment on the the tube have become a bunch of punks hiding behind 'political' correctness. And currently wanting to breed is the IT trend, whether you're a drug addict (having a baby will cure you) an adulterer procreating with your mistress (baby will absolve you) A knocked up teenager (hey raising a kid isn't as hard as they say!) or a card holding member of AARP (As a woman it is your right to have a child at ANY point in your life they want you to believe) The bias message is that WE ALL really want to breed sooner or later. Everytime a storyline has the opportunity to be more realistic they punk out in the end. Women can't be happy and successful with a knawing need to procreate they tell you, heaven forbid no woman EVER regrets having kids, ALL men come around eventually even if they staunchly protested the idea of having a kid. No one ever terminates a pregnancy, ALL miscarriages are traumatizing.
Birth control is hardly ever mentioned. WOW!!!! this is not how I envisioned the 21st century would be regarding procreation. We've been set back they just learned how to do it in the guise of 'choice' yet the choice is always the same!

goddiva-11 said...

@Overopinionated: I'm glad I'm not the only one NOT buying into the "its just a show" Please, these are subliminal messages and as you put it propaganda. And again why is the message ALWAYS in favor of Pro-Breeding? People aren't critical thinkers anymore. Unless there is a banner spelling something out many in today's society just don't get it until of course its too late. Shaking my head with disgust and disbelief!