There's a lot to love about Tina Fey's sexy-geek image. For instance, "Geeks can be sexy!" is an awesome message, as is "Sexy women can be geeks!" (Okay, maybe there are only two things to love.) I think it's safe to say we get it: She's hot. She's smart. She's hot, yet smart. And vice-versa.
But Fey's sex appeal is no accident — it's the price she paid for fame. In January's Vanity Fair feature, Maureen Dowd gushes about "how a tweezer, cream rinse, a diet, and a Teutonic will transformed a mousy brain into a brainy glamour-puss." Dowd thrills at the success of the makeover that made Fey fit for the camera, and her enthusiasm for weight loss and designer clothes is unsettling. No one wants to picture Liz Lemon doing Weight Watchers...
Fey's usually portrayed as an idiosyncratic sex symbol (retro poses and vintage leotards , oh my!), but her hotness is hardly happenstance. Our beloved Lemon simply wouldn't exist if Fey didn't work to maintain her girlish figure. As Fey put it, "I like to look goofy, but I also don't want to get cancelled because of my big old butt."
I had always puzzled when, on 30 Rock, Fey's Liz Lemon alter ego obsessed about junk food or just gleefully shoved it into her mouth. I told myself that Fey was probably just one of those people who ate and ate and never gained a pound, but it was wishful thinking. Fey's love of junk food is for real (as evidenced by her Twitter page) but she doesn't get to enjoy it like she used to. When she was writing for SNL she was 5'4" and weighed 150 pounds. She went to Weight Watchers and slimmed down significantly to be an anchor on "Weekend Update" (the second female anchor since Jane Curtin left the show in 1980). Now Fey stays thin in order to play a woman who eats and eats.
For the record, I admire Tina Fey, and her portrayal of Liz Lemon totally lights up my Thursday night. I wouldn't want Lemon to stop eating just so her lifestyle matched her figure, and I wouldn't want Fey to be less than sensationally successful. It's just sad that a woman with Fey's talent isn't allowed to be on TV unless she's conforming to a very specific standard of size. And it's sad that Liz Lemon can say she loves food but can't look like she loves food.
So yeah, geeks can be sexy. And if they're geeky women on TV, they have to be sexy. And no woman on TV can be sexy without being unrealistically thin. Sigh, I need a cookie.
[Now published at www.loveinthelivingroom.com]