Why Is A Wedding The Only Happy Ending For Women?

liz lemon 30 rock princess

I know that in Shakespeare, the definition of a comedy as opposed to a tragedy, is something that ends with a wedding instead of a death. I know that weddings are traditionally seen as happy endings. I just thought that, by 2012, for feminist characters like Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) on 30 Rock, there might be a different option. Or, as Liz Lemon might say, “blerg.”

Like so:

I’ve always enjoyed 30 Rock, perhaps as much because Liz Lemon seemed to be the antithesis of characters from shows like Sex and the City as anything. In 2006, seeing a woman who lived mostly in cardigans and didn’t have a fabulous life was a really welcome change. And it was clearly established that Liz Lemon was not going to strap on Manolo Blahniks any time soon, and that was more interested in her job than she was in marrying Mr. Big. In the first episode, her new boss Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) sizes her up and declared:

“You’re a New York third-wave feminist, college-educated, single-and-pretending-to-be-happy-about-it, over-scheduled, undersexed, you buy any magazine that says ‘healthy body image’ on the cover and every two years you take up knitting for … a week.”

You know what? That sounded great. That was incredibly refreshing. It was great that she was able to make it through entire episodes without ever talking about her romantic life. She had other interests! And unlike the wildly narcissistic, well, girls, on Girls or the adorkable women-children on New Girl, Liz Lemon always seemed like someone you might able to be friends with, despite her neurosis. She seemed like a grown-up woman, albeit, one with problems.

All that changed dramatically in the last season, when she met and decided to marry an amiable food cart owner named Criss Chros (James Marsden). After first trying to keep the wedding low-key, complete with a series of trademark eyerolls, Liz then she decides there is a part of her that wants to be a Princess. Her future husband pats her arm and replies ” “Liz, it’s okay to be a human woman.”

Umm, well, yes, of course it is. But she already was. Liz Lemon had a lot of problems, but that wasn’t one of them.

Now. There are certainly women who want big pretty gowns if they get married (I know I do). But there are also plenty of women who do not, and saying that “wanting to be a pretty princess” is a basic “human woman” impulse the kind of thing that Season 1 Liz Lemon would have rolled her eyes at. Hard.

To be fair, she did get married in her Princess Leia outfit. I take a good deal of comfort in that.

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    • Kate

      Ok but honestly….getting married is part of life. For men AND women. To leave Liz unmarried and alone is dumb and is done with such overt purpose. To be Femist (capital F intended) or something. I hate when people try to act like marriage is the enemy. It isn’t. It’s one of the most important parts of life: marriage, career, family. Not necessarily in that order! Definitely not in that order for Liz (as shown throughout the show’s run). Jack got married at one point in the show. And nobody said a damn thing about it. It kind of disappoints me that this is even a thing. Feminists deserve life partners too!

      • Saru

        Except getting married is not ‘part of life’ There’s no Life Rulebook that says, “And then you have to get married, because you can’t die single, people will talk.”

        A great deal of people never get married. A great deal of FAMOUS people never got married, whether they were in a relationship with someone or not. Marriage and family is not everyone’s End Game and it shouldn’t have to be.

        Life is what you make of it. It’s not what everyone else tells you that you have to make of it.

      • Madfoot713

        If you want to be alone your entire life no one is stopping you.

      • Saru

        Not getting married =/= being alone. Some people don’t see the need to have a piece a paper to tell them that they’re happy with their significant other.

        And at the same time, being alone =/= being lonely. There’s no reason why you HAVE to be with someone either. Friends, family, these are enough for some people. That doesn’t make them alone just because they’re not shacked up with someone.

      • Madfoot713

        >Not getting married =/= being alone

        And it’s obvious no one’s talking about the government approval of marriage here. During Shakespeare’s time, there was no Internal Revenue Service.

      • Saru

        Then why leap to the conclusion when I said that marriage is not the ‘end game’ that I meant that people were alone or not with someone?

      • Madfoot713

        I think you leaped to that conclusion.

      • Saru

        Considering your first comment was ‘If you want to be alone your entire life no one is stopping you.’, I don’t see how I leapt to anything… especially when in MY first comment I specifically said that some people stay together without marriage as an end game, and that there’s nothing wrong with that?

      • Madfoot713

        I think people were only criticizing the author’s argument that “weddings as a happy ending” in media are somehow harmful to women. If you don’t want to get married, if you don’t need the whole “approval from government” aspect of a marriage license or you have an unconventional type of family, I don’t think anyone’s trying to force you to get married.

    • Benita

      This is why Samanth Jones remains one of my favorite characters of all time. Not only was she a woman who had unrepentant sex on her terms, she got to decide that she was happier single. She had a hot, younger man in love with her, who proposed to her and she turned him down. Not to mention that she was at an age where women are told that they should just pack it in and get 30 cats. Yup, Samantha Jones is my fictional hero.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.vanekelenburg Jonathan van Ekelenburg

      I think it’s too early to say that this is Liz’s happy ending. We’re not actually at the end of the series yet; we’re only half way through the season. I think it’s telling that what would normally be the content for a series finale, the wedding of the main character, is something that happened without much build-up and half-way through the season. Let’s see what else happens in her life before the end comes before you start saying that the show copped out on Liz Lemon.

      And I’m SO glad she didn’t end up with Jack. I’m thankful for 30 Rock having male-female relationships that aren’t about sex or romance, and the Liz-Jack friendship has been one of the greatest non-romantic male/female relationships on television.

      • Joy

        Agree. This article’s stance would only have made sense if it were the last episode of the season/series.

        Third-wave feminists can get married and be happy about it too, Jennifer. Feminism is about choices- Liz Lemon got exactly what she wanted in all of her wackadoo Princess Leia finery and I loved every second of it.

    • Emma

      I could not have put it better myself. When I saw the episode, I was severely disappointed. Why did such a creative show have to have a blatantly cliche ending for my favorite iconoclastic and quirky female character? On a completely different note, your use of the word ‘antithesis’ made my inner English nerd smile, so thank you.

    • Bosworth

      It wasn’t a happy ending. It was a happy moment. Marriage ceremonies should be joyful occasions, otherwise, the couple should go stand somewhere else that requires less accountability. Like the park.

    • kj

      I haven’t really watched the show, but I hate the stereotype that good career = “undersexed” and single. If her getting married means that they are showing someone with a career and a good family life on TV, more power to them, IMHO.

    • ChelsieSutherland

      This isn’t an ending for Liz, though. They tossed the marriage right into the middle of the season, with no buildup, and the characters’ initial motivation was brought on by how much easier it would be to adopt if they were married – not that they NEEDED a marriage in order to feel complete as a couple/person. The marriage was not written nor presented as this giant dream moment that the series was building up to, and the same was true when it came to the Liz’s feelings on it: she was fully prepared to to just drag witnesses off the street and get it over with.

      But the real issue of the episode, I think, was the idea that even if you are career-oriented, feminist, and were willing to take on the world as a single mom to an adopted child for both personal and idealogical reasons, that there is nothing wrong or anti-feminist about making your marriage a happy moment for yourself. Liz struggled with the issue and the implications of whether marriage (and being happy about her own upcoming wedding) means she’s failing feminism somehow. Why do you think the episode spent so much time panning over the other couples, all of them radically different – from the media-standard bride & groom to the Mets fan couple in fan regalia that were wildly in love to the gay couple sharing a tender moment – but all in the building for the same reason? They were declaring commitment in whatever way made them happiest.

      Liz got married, yes. But she did it on her own terms. She decided that the stereotypical idea of a wedding and what it means wasn’t what she wanted, but she also decided that treating it like going to the DMV to fill out paperwork wasn’t what she wanted either. How the relationship continues (if it does) will be on her terms, too.

      Have more faith in Tina Fey as a writer: she knows the trope of “A Good Ending has the female character getting married and living happily ever after”, and I trust her to show that there is life – and character development! – after marriage to the Love Interest.

    • MR

      You know me, I like watching films and don’t watch very much TV (and none of its shows). Clearly a career woman can find happiness without being married. But I do have these women friends who are career women and are married, have kids and really have their shit together. They’ve always been a force for positive change the last twenty years and continue to be today. So Lemon becoming less assertive since she has been married doesn’t add up to me.

    • Staceysaysrelax

      The whole point of Liz getting married wasn’t so that she’d have some grand happy ending. It was a means to an ends, i.e., conforming to society’s idea of a fit parent so she would be allowed to adopt. The episode was pointing out how ridiculous it was that Dennis, a completely irresponsible character, could adopt a child but Liz and Cris couldn’t simply because they weren’t married. Liz has wanted a child, I believe, since the first season. She’ll do what it takes to reach that goal even if it means conforming. I don’t think that the wedding represents her “happy ending” at all.

    • melissa green

      I think just because Liz is a feminist doesn’t mean that she
      can’t get married. It’s not like they trotted off into the sunset to live
      happily ever after. Instead, they made this ceremony part of a casual episode,
      smack-dab in the middle of the season. Heck, I didn’t even know about the
      wedding until I heard a few DISH coworkers talking about it; that’s how little
      the wedding weighed in on the season as a whole. I’m just glad I didn’t miss
      out on it, since it was that low profile, since my DISH Hopper DVR’s PrimeTime
      Anytime feature auto-recorded the episode along with everything else on the
      major networks during primetime hours. Lemon did her wedding her way, and you
      should be happy for her! : )