Bossypants is a memoir about the growth and achievements of actress, comedian, and writer Tina Fey. In this quirky narrative, Fey recounts her path to stardom, including brief snippets from her childhood and defining moments in her career that contribute to who she is today. Highlighting her introduction to acting, interactions with fellow child actors, and experiences at her first job, Fey offers insight to her initial draw to the stage. Additionally, Fey touches on risky topics such as bullying, sexism, and negative body image that she experienced while working for Saturday Night Live and in the film industry overall. Her writing reveals an eagerness to address and change these themes, thus empowering her audience to do the same (McNamara 2011). By integrating her humor into her writing, Fey creates a masterpiece that sheds light on social issues through her raw experiences. Overall, the memoir allows the audience to look into the life of a star, and all of the realities that come with it.
Tina Fey was born in Pennsylvania on May 18th, 1970. At only 5 years of age, she was assaulted by a man in an alley, leaving a huge scar on her face that she still has today. Growing up, she was awkward and never really wanted to be like everyone else. In high school, she was a theatre kid that always hung out with older theatre people.
After graduating from college, she decided to move to Chicago in order to create more opportunities for her comedic career. Luckily, the producer of SNL was in town recruiting for his show. The SNL writers liked her ideas, and hired her to be part of their crew. Over many years, Fey works her way up to be the first lead female writer. The producers considered Fey to be in the skits, but only if she put on makeup, more feminine clothes, and changed her hairstyle since TV is all about appearance.
After changing her looks, she was able to land a role with Jimmy Fallon on the Weekend Update sketch. This was when she started to be known to the public. After gaining fame on the late night show, she began her first personal project with Mean Girls, mirroring her experiences from growing up. This movie is still a classic today, still being shown frequently on channels such as Freeform. Continuing her success, she created the show 30 Rock, which was nominated and won several Emmy Awards. At the peak of her career, she wrote and published her autobiography, Bossypants. She recently co-created the Netflix series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Tina Fey has gained so much recognition for being a female writer in television and feminist activist. She gives hope for women everywhere to overcome their own obstacles.
In Bossypants, Fey discusses her experiences as a working woman in a male dominated industry. Although women have participated in the film industry since the break of the 20th century, gender inequality continues to persist in Hollywood today.
An example of such inequality is the systematic underrepresentation of women in creative positions. As reflected in this year’s Oscar nominations, high power roles in film such as directors, writers, producers, and editors are overwhelming dominated by men. Women are outnumbered in these positions 1 to 4 (Lang 2015). Fey sheds light on this phenomenon by discussing her own difficulty in getting her comedy sketches produced in comparison to male coworkers on Saturday Night Live. She recalls sketch meetings in which her male coworkers would dominate the conversation, pitching their ideas more aggressively than female comedians (Fey 2011). This common occurrence of women being overshadowed in the workplace is especially detrimental in the film industry, as successful pitches translate directly to the screen.
Similarly, actresses in cinema experience different portrayal on screen. Women are more likely to be cast to represent traditionally female occupations, commonly portrayed as teachers and waitresses rather than doctors and engineers. They are more likely to be shown in sexually revealing clothing and reflect “weak” qualities such as vulnerability, thus shaping how women are treated in the industry overall (Roderick 2017). Fey works to combat this idea by creating female characters that contain depth and substance. She promotes ideas such as “mutual giving and approval”, rather than competition, among her characters (Robinson 2015).
While women have come a long way in their participation in the film industry, the numbers prove that they still do not have equal presence in comparison to male counterparts. Specifically, it is critical to note the sheer number of women who hold positions of authority today. Fey challenges these societal boundaries by writing and producing multiple projects throughout her career. Her inclusion of these accomplishments in Bossypants serve to inspire her audience to look to a future in which women are more equally represented in the film industry.
REVIEWS OF THE TEXT
Reviews of Tina Fey’s novel, Bossypants, are mixed overall. In an overwhelmingly positive article from Los Angeles Times, Mary McNamara praises Bossypants for its comedic qualities and brutal honesty of the life of a woman in the film industry. Other articles express just the opposite, bearing many contradictions that are worth noting. Nicole Arthur, of The Washington Post, regards Tina Fey’s novel as “insufficiently personal” and “absurd” (Arthur 2011). Similarly, The Guardian renowned book critic Carole Cadwalladr uses the large quantity of “disproportionate number of one-lines, not all of which work” to argue that the novel isn’t a memoir like it claims to be, just an entertaining string of comedy (Cadwalladr 2011). Because of the way Fey is both praised for her story and reprimanded for the way she has written it, these mixed articles show that the media ultimately views Fey as a role model for the movement of women in Hollywood no matter what outlet she uses to convey her message.
These articles were written around the time of the release of the book, if not soon after. Overall they express a general liking for the book, even though some of them choose to critique her here and there. Mary McNamara claims that Fey’s writing parallels the way a friend would tell a story over coffee. Her inclusion of “long, weightier chapters dealing with her profession and her career are balanced with short pieces on being fat and being thin and some responses to evil emails”, thus allowing the audience to look at these serious issues with a laugh or two along the way (McNamara 2011). Although critics have pointed out that the novel isn’t written in a way that a typical memoir is, they do seem to praise it for the enjoyment of the reader.
The reception of this book shows that society is open to recognizing influential figures of the Hollywood industry. Carole Cadwalladr points out that Fey’s “kick-ass, take-no-prisoners attitude” is why she is such an influential force on the way women are portrayed in comedy (Cadwalladr 2011). It is this perspective that women don’t have to conform to stereotypical gender norms in order to be successful in their career that gives hope that the film industry is changing for the better.
CONNECTIONS TO OTHER TEXTS
The author, Tina Fey, has been compared to her former colleague and current best friend, Amy Poehler. They met each other on the set of Saturday Night Live, and have been working together ever since. Their personalities are very similar and their beliefs in feminism are both high, which they express through their works such as their first film collaboration, Mean Girls, (Tina Fey Biography). They both love being blunt about growing up as woman in regards to puberty and especially how men treat women disrespectfully and how that applies to a woman’s career.
Bossypants, being a hilarious, feminist autobiography, has been compared and related to a few other texts by women from similar backgrounds. Of course, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please is very similar, since both Poehler and Fey share the same connection on gaining their fame through Saturday Night Live. Other texts that Bossypants is related to is Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me?. Mindy Kaling was also a writer for a TV show (The Office) before gaining her fame onscreen. Being a woman of color, she also raises questions on feminism and addresses how to accept your color and your weight. Bossypants also parallels A House of My Own by Sandra Cisneros. Both texts are in the same nonfiction style and discuss the struggles of building a career in a male dominated industry.
The main connections that Bossypants has with books similar to it is the how women are portrayed through media and social conformities, and how these women have found ways to be themselves through their careers in TV and film. They made their careers work with their dating or married lives. In addition, flaws in society today are mentioned bluntly and advice usually follows, based on the authors’ experience in that situation. Fey’s sense of humor, along with the other texts similar to hers, have helped bring out serious issues through autobiographies that have inspired many women throughout the nation and even the world how these women had to struggle to get to where they are today, and feel as if they have to educate younger generations about the obstacles they might have to face growing up.
- Women in the workplace
- Self confidence
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