Saturday, May 14, 2011

What is Bossypants? Memoir or comedy act


Dear Bookclub,

I would like to start our discussion with the question: What was Tina Fey trying to achieve by writing Bossypants? I hope to make this an ongoing discussion as we read the book. Unless you have finished the book already. You dirty overachievers!

I am asking this question, because a certain reviewer has elevated this book to the status of memoir just to tear it down. They say that a good memoir deals with tough issues that they claim Fey is too timid to deal with. The second criticism is that Fey hides behind the mask of Liz Lemon's voice the whole time afraid to make statements using her own voice. For those of you who are not fans, Liz Lemon is the character Tina Fey plays on 30 Rock. And yes, much of the voice is the same as Liz Lemon throughout the book, but isn't Tina Fey the one who created that character in the first place, and in doing so, injected her own voice?

And the deal about this book being a memoir? Did any of you think of this as a memoir before you started reading? Or did you just assume that it would be Tina Fey making jokes that somehow allude to her life for 275 pages? Because if I thought it would be the former, I probably would have passed on reading this.

In an effort not to ruin the book for anyone who hasn't read it, I am inserting a jump break to discuss the actual content of the book. We will be discussing the first 55 pages after the break.


Ok, so first, I would just like to bring up some ground rules. To have an effective and productive discussion, we need to establish an open and understanding environment. No offensive or rude comments. If I deem your comment rude or offensive in any way I will delete your comment. So, let's get to it!

My reaction to the first part of the book, in which she talks about that awkward stage of puberty when you get your period, brought back warm memories of Mean Girls. She dealt with the awkwardness of high school in a similar way in that movie. Although tales of books explaining periods and all of the horror stories that go along with it have been done many times, I liked Fey's fresh comedic take on it. Anyways, this is a nice segue into the section of the book on being a woman. I really liked the detail she shares with us about the self-esteem/bullying workshop she attended for the research she did while writing the screenplay for Mean Girls. This was a nice little snippet into her process. And this segues into another great part of book when she passes out at Planned Parenthood during the insertion of a speculum, and she is told she has a short vagina. Maybe I am vulgar, but I thought that part was really funny.

Moving onto my next favorite section of the book, I loved the way she handled the story of her first gay friends from drama camp. (How funny was Brendan's coming out party upstaged by two girls making out and Brendan's mom commencing the Irish Goodnight?) The point she establishes at the end of this series of stories is that gay people are not gay for your own personal amusement. And I think this is nicely said. It is part of a discussion about how gay people prefer to be treated that I have noticed is subtly cropping up more and more in pop culture. If any of  you watch Modern Family, the show recently dealt with the issue of gay men not wanting to be treated like women. Even though these issues are small in comparison to the real issues going on, this seems like progress on the front of these types of discussions.

And lastly, if I can just squeeze in this last part, I loved the section on her dad. I felt like she lifted the comedian veil a little in this chapter because you can just tell how much she loves and respects her father. That was refreshing to see. I love knowing that a man as funny and confident as Alec Baldwin "stands down to him" and Colin Quinn says "You would never come home with a shamrock tattoo in that house."

Which sections of the book have been your favorite so far? Any favorite moments? Lines? Did any of these sections speak to you too? Did I miss anything? And once again, What do you think Tina Fey was trying to accomplish by writing Bossypants?

Also, for the next 100 pages or so, I have will have another member of the book club leading the discussion. Please let me know if you would like to volunteer to lead the discussion at any point.

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