Unbreakable Kimmy: “Females are strong as hell!”
March 6th will henceforth be known as “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Day”, so sayeth I! This brand spanking new, Tina Fey brain child premiered as a Netflix Original on Friday, and I have already binged on the first ten episodes. Kimmy Schmidt is a 29 year old woman who has spent the last fifteen years of her life living in a subterranean cult. She was abducted as a teenager and subsequently brainwashed by Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne into thinking the world was destroyed and that they were the sole survivors. Pretty crazy stuff.
Episode one opens with the women being rescued from their underground bunker. Now, after having lived underground with only three other women for over a decade, Kimmy must figure out what to do with her life. She has an 8th grade education, no job experience, pop culture knowledge that expired 15 years ago, and my love for her. I’m going to try to save watching the last three for when I need a dose of happiness. And trust me, this show is just the thing to cure a Parks and Rec season finale hangover.
So let me show you how great “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is using the Her Story Arc Scale of Inclusivity:
Not offensive to women = 1 pt*
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2 pts
It’s in the title of the show. Kimmy Schmidt is the main character, and we are introduced to a handful of other named women characters throughout the first episode. In the opening scene we meet Kimmy’s fellow bunker mates Gretchen Chalker, Cyndee Pokorny, and Donna Maria Nuñez.
By the end of the first episode we’ve also met Jacqueline Voorhees (same actress as Jenna Maroney in 30 Rock) and Lillian (same actress as Cobblepot’s mom in Gotham!) More women are introduced as the series continues.
Passes the Bechdel test = 3 pts
Yes, instantly. And then a few more times, and then lots more times throughout the season 🙂
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4 pts
Tina Fey is brilliant. Unbreakable Kimmy is, truly, unbreakable. The overarching theme of the show is the power of Kimmy’s unyielding spirit to overcome obstacles, both her own and of those she loves (or temporarily cares about). Her attitude infects all the people that surround her whether they want it to or not. She navigates New York City after living, literally, under a rock for the past fifteen years of her life. She frequently confuses everyone with her 90’s middle school slang. The show weaves Kimmy’s real world ignorance and cheerful determination into the story, and the punchlines, with a deft hand.
Some of my favorite funny moments in the show come from the exaggerated purchases and daily habits of the ridiculously wealthy Voorhees family, whom Kimmy ends up employed by. Even Eagleton wouldn’t be good enough for them (Parks & Rec joke for the win!) For instance, in the first episode Jaqueline Voorhees pulls a bottled water out of the fridge and offers it to Kimmy. Kimmy says no thank you, and instead of putting the unopened bottle back in the fridge, Ms. Voorhees throws it away. Rich people! Amiright?
Kimmy’s sweet, selfish, gay, wannabe actor friend Titus is another source of laughs. His disillusioned insights stand in stark contrast with his unceasing chase of an acting career. He mentors Kimmy in all things pop culture, instructing her to write down out-of-date phrases into a notebook so she’ll remember not to say them. While he may be selfish, he does not take advantage of the disadvantaged, and instantly accepts Kimmy when he learns she is one of the “Indiana Mole Women”. He also annoys Kimmy with his prying questions about what life was like underground (Kimmy ~”Yes, there was weird sex stuff in the bunker”). Titus is a great stand in for us as an audience, because we all want to know those crazy details about survival stories when they surface.
Above and Beyond General Media = 5 pts
I think what makes this show stand apart is the quality of the relationships. Much like Lesley Knope from Parks & Rec, the relationships Kimmy forges throughout the show are multi-faceted, warm, and loving. She is horrified by the trends of today’s youth, and manages to worm her way into even the coldest of teenage girl’s hearts. Most importantly, Kimmy’s friendship with Jaqueline is honest and never “catty”. She has a lot of reasons to dislike Jaqueline, but Kimmy sees through the rich snob facade, has pity for this woman, and genuinely cares about her.
Her character is also flawed and infinitely likeable. She makes mistakes and she atones for them. She is unabashed in her dating and flirting life. She draws strength from remembering the obstacles she overcame in her previous life, but they also haunt her. She falls prey to beauty stereotypes, and learns lessons from the experience. Beyond her personality, Kimmy also defies the stereotype of women being physically weak. Kimmy’s spirit is not the only thing that is unbreakable; so are her arms! The post-apocalyptic life required physical, underground labor, and Kimmy is strong. She doesn’t hesitate to throw a punch or knock someone over if it’s necessary.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt tackles many issues, from cat-calling to racism, in ways that are smart, funny, and, hopefully, also revelatory for some viewers. That’s why I’ve awarded the show the maximum 15/15 points. Oh, and she totally eats candy for dinner. Actually, you can forget all that other stuff I said, because I’m pretty sure this is the only important thing to know.
On a final note, check out the intro to the show. I dare you not to get this song stuck in your head. I dare you.
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*This is a category that could get very complicated, very quickly, if we tried to list everything that could be offensive to women. Instead, we use this category as a way of showing our own personal reaction to whatever we are reviewing. All contributors to this site are women and can speak from a woman’s perspective. However, no woman can speak for all women so we do our best to explain our choice one way or the other. We encourage all readers to share their opinions in the comments of every post if they want to express agreement or disagreement with our rankings.