If Team Poehler and Team Fey were at all competitive — which they're obviously not, despite everything we supposedly know about supposedly toxic female friendships — I admit that in terms of hours of TV watched, I'd end up on Team Poehler. Both are amazingly feminist shows. And even though I love 30 Rock as much as I love Jenna Maroney's muffin top, after seven seasons, it may be time for the show to end on its own terms.
But concern has arisen recently regarding the fact that both 30 Rock and Parks and Rec may be ending with weddings. As PolicyMic's own Lilly O'Donnell writes, “It would be a damn shame to destroy all of the progressive, feminist clout these two great shows have built up by going with the easy wedding ending. It would be a betrayal of what makes these shows more than funny sitcoms, but important agents and records of changing social structures.”
I'll put my cards on the table, here: I'm a hardcore Ben-and-Leslie 'shipper. I don't have a Tumblr dedicated to it, but it's probably only a matter of time. I mean, just look at the adorableness.
And no, I won't reveal how many Parks and Rec GIFs I have in my GIF trove, because some things you just do for yourself, as a personal treat.
OK, so the number is above two. But that's all I'm saying.
Those who speculated that a Liz Lemon wedding was waiting to happen saw their dream/nightmare come true on Thursday night.
Of the Star Wars-inspired ceremony, Alyssa Rosenberg writes at Slate, "For all of Liz's posturing, both [Liz Lemon] and 30 Rock are ultimately most comfortable tweaking convention rather than blowing it up entirely. Jack may have told Liz that, 'I haven't seen anything in the news about attitudes about marriage changing forever because of one brave woman.' But the point of this episode was that we've already come a long way."
Is getting married in the same outfit that you used to get out jury duty enough to subvert convention? Further, how should tweaking be weighed against outright subversion? It's easy to roll your eyes at Liz Lemon feeling like a princess when she gets married, but how important is it that the princess in question is best known for leading intergalatic rebels?
It’s certainly true that ending with a wedding can emphasize the fairy tale tropes for women, de-emphasizing their own personal and professional development outside of their intimate sexual/romantic relationships. The real problem, though, may not be the wedding itself; it’s ending on the wedding. If Parks and Rec and 30 Rock were to continue, they might, in fact, offer a new subversion of happy-ever-after in seasons to come: the feminist marriage.
Obviously, this is not possible for 30 Rock, which will conclusively be ending after this season. But Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope could make it work. After all, only a few weeks ago, Leslie speculated that Ben could be the first First Husband in 2016.
Regardless, while the importance of pop culture in shifting sociocultural paradigms should not be understated, it should also not be overstated. What underlies our cultural understandings of what a wedding does and doesn't mean, and what a marriage is and isn't, are real legal and political structures which literally define the institution. It is for this reason that LGBTQ people advocate for marriage equality; married people enjoy financial and legal benefits which people who are in dedicated relationships outside of marriage do not.
Just as Liz Lemon was not the death of feminism, her wedding will not be the second death of feminism. And with any luck, Ben and Leslie's wedding on Parks and Rec fortells the birth of a feminist model of marriage on television.