Can She Really Have it All?
Though Berg and Moore come close, no comedienne could really have it all. While they are the voice of reason in some circles, they still submit to males and never “win” or prove themselves superior to other characters. Fey’s Liz Lemon manages to be the voice of reason always, but her reason is ignored and she still ends up being outsmarted by Jack or ignored by her employees in every episode. Like Fey, Ball always loses, but is also framed as illogical compared to her intellectually superior husband Ricky. Allen and Poehler upset expectations by triumphing over male characters, but their victories are laughable because they are contextualized in their foolish characters.
Male characters can have it all, though. In 30 Rock, Jack Donaghy is reasonable, still silly enough to be lovable, and always outsmarting Liz Lemon. Similarly, Ricky in I Love Lucy is Lucy’s voice of reason and dominates her both physically and intellectually in every episode, while also getting laughs from his thick accent and hot temper. In female-led and created shows decades apart, men can still embody comedy, reason, and personal triumph, while women have still not achieved such status. Indeed, the two winners, Gracie and Leslie, were created primarily by men, and still shrouded in foolishness.
Hegemonic gender roles are, again, maintained. This time, rebellion is limited to winning or reason; women have successfully portrayed illogical winners like Gracie and Leslie, logical losers like Liz, or sometimes-logical characters like Molly and Mary, who neither win nor lose. Lucy, on the other hand, both loses and is illogical. Comediennes maintain gender normativity by restraining their rebellion, but the complexity of these characters allows for subtle social commentary and, ultimately, outright political action.