In case y’all Liz Lemon-lovers haven’t been keepin’ up with your Twitter feed, we should explain that 30 Rock has been receiving a helluva lot of flack this season. The critics say that Liz is more frazzled and mean; has become infantile and has an unhealthy father-daughter relationship with Jack; is turning into Homer Simpson; is too much of a bitch to her writers; is an idiot; is just not quirky enough.

Perhaps you agree with these gripes, but when I came across the vitriol, I was pretty surprised. Did they forget that the first episode revolved around Liz being happy? That she finally seems to be growing into herself (which nonetheless took until her early 40s)? That she finally found a boyfriend who is seemingly perfect for her? There is some Jack conflict, and yet the Liz-Jack-Criss clash triggered some remarkably harsh and (to me) hyperbolic criticism that made me wonder if the critics and I were watching the same show. Linda Holmes of NPR writes:

“A recent storyline featuring James Marsden as Criss, Liz’s boyfriend who drove a hot-dog truck, was very reminiscent of Dennis the pager salesman. But this time, she didn’t break up with him because Jack gave her the side-eye and forced her to come to terms with the fact that she didn’t want him. She broke up with him because Jack appeared to her as an apparition—her spirit guide, basically—and mocked Criss, mostly for not having any money...Over the course of six seasons, Jack has been fully transformed into a condescending, all-knowing daddy, and Liz has been fully transformed into a needy little girl who is eternally terrified of displeasing him.”

To me, this reads like someone distorting the actual events of the show to fit their own premature thesis. So when I came across yet another Liz Lemon-related article last week, I was happy to see that it was written by New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum. I follow her on Twitter and know from her live-tweets during 30 Rock that she’s still Lemon-partying it up. 

In her article, titled, “In Defense of Liz Lemon,”  Nussbaum asserts, “Someone needs to speak up for the Lemon, and for the Fey. Because from the beginning Liz Lemon was pathetic. That was what was enthralling, and even revolutionary, about the character.” She goes on to evaluate the same series of events as Holmes (i.e., how Liz’s relationship with Jack affects her relationship with Criss, and vice versa) in a way that I personally found to be much closer to the show’s actual intent:

“This season, Liz is happier than ever—and for once, she’s rejecting Jack’s influence, finding her own bliss, embracing her oddball nature, going on the Oprah-style vacations she feels like taking. Unbeknownst to Jack, she began dating a cute younger guy who made no money, had a stupid career path, but treated her well. Of course, when Jack found out, he judged her for this, got inside her head, and made fun of her boyfriend’s name (which is, to be fair, Criss Cross). But then Liz realized that she actually likes Criss and was an idiot to dump him for shallow reasons; i.e., Jack’s reasons. She goes back to him, against Jack’s advice.”

Liz and Criss are in the running against Leslie and Ben (of Parks and Rec) for that special spot in my heart reserved for the best NBC comedy couple (Jim and Pam of The Office crashed and burned long ago). Their rapport and their couple quirks are totally satisfying to watch, and making happy couple-characters engaging on TV is no easy feat. (See: Jim and Pam.)

The rest of Nussbaum’s article is a pretty rational dissection of each complaint slugged at the show’s current episodes. She finds that a lot of the negative things critics have said about the sixth season could have been said about any of the seasons. Liz was always sour and negative. And there isn’t much evidence in any of the anti-Lemon articles that she’s now dumb and unlikable, aside from the assertion that she’s now dumb and unlikable. So, just as Emily Nussbaum declared that she’s on Team Lemon, I’m on Team Nussbaum. Who’s with me?

 

Tagged in: npr, New Yorker, liz lemon, Linda Holmes, In Defense of Liz Lemon, Emily Nussbaum, 30 rock   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.




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