HAPPY WOMEN'S DAY SCHMIDT
“Thats what women do, we survive.”
On International Women’s Day I stayed in bed and watched the entire series of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Following a restless night purging the demons brought on by a bad oyster, I found myself bedridden on a Sunday with nothing but Netflix and a bottle of pepto-bismol to keep me company.
I was quite late to the 30 Rock party but when I got there I fell hard and binge watched the whole thing in a couple of weeks. What a great couple of weeks it was. Eager for my next fix, I was excited to hear Tina Fey was embarking on a new show. The news that it was going to be a Netflix Original made me slightly nervous as they can be a bit hit and miss and when the trailer was released a few months ago my faith was shaken even further.
For those of you who don’t know, Kimmy Schmidt focuses on a twenty-nine year old woman trying to make it in the big city after being rescued from an underground apocalypse cult. The trailer made it look overly twee, with the kind of inescapably high-concept premise that usually gives TV shows a very short shelf-life. I was also unsure of the casting especially after seeing that 30 Rock’s D’Fwan, probably one of my least favourite characters, would feature in a similar role but as a main character.
My concerns were immediately put to bed. Kimmy Schmidt is bright and fun with sharp bubbly wit, some great characters and the kind of irreverent cameos that 30 Rock did so well. Ellie Kemper fills out Fey’s shoes nicely, her performance is full of Lemonisms and as a very similar character to Liz, she continues to tell the story of an independent woman trying to make sense of life in the big city. In 30 Rock, we saw Liz Lemon battle her way through the male-driven world of television whilst trying to balance her career against the pressures of being a woman in modern day New York. Kimmy Schmidt treads similar ground but her childlike naivety means that rather than fighting against the expectations modern society puts on women, she is simply oblivious to them.
Though she is naive, Kimmy is no push over. As the title credits state, ‘Females are strong as hell’. We see Schmidt demystifying and dethroning male authority figures whether in the form of charismatic cult-leaders or Manhattan spin class gurus. She puts a fist through a plastic surgeon that offers cosmetic fixes to women’s emotional problems and helps her boss to find her own independence by encouraging her to divorce an unfaithful husband whose money she has come to rely on.
I was wrong about D’Fwan too, here he plays Kimmy’s flatmate ‘Titus Andromedon’ whose ineptitude and desperate pursuit of fame is really. The fact that he is gay also spares us from the tedious ‘will they wont they’ sub-plotting that similar shows seem to rely on in order to prop up flimsy female characters. Jane Krakowski, although playing much the same role as in 30 Rock, is also brilliant; especially after Kimmy’s own-brand feminism begins to rub off leading her to smash her SatNav with her high-heels, ’I am so sick of men like him bossing me around. I have my own opinions I can do stuff without him. We don't need him, we don't need anyone’.
Kimmy Schmidt is all about the unbreakable strength of women: Kimmy refuses to become a victim of her past, to become self-conscious about her appearance, to have her affections bought by a wealthy playboy or to be lead astray by male power figures and she manages to do so with an indomitable can-do attitude. Her ignorance gives her a blissful immunity to the big-city cynasism that seems to have corrupted so many of the characters around her, leaving her with a boyant hopfulness that begins to spread to whoever she interacts with. For Kimmy New York is a land of exciting possiblilities that are hers for the taking, or to put it in her own words: 'Women can be anything these days; even monkeys'.