Shakespeare, Romcoms, and the 30 Rock Wedding

Liz Lemon got married, and twisted some comedic conventions while she was at it.


Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, James Marsden as Criss.

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Collins, the Georgetown professor, notes modern romantic comedies often build up to climaxes where the two lovebirds almost miss each other, reuniting just in time for happily ever after. Tom Hanks almost doesn't meet Meg Ryan on the Empire State Building in Sleepless in Seattle. Richard Gere almost goes to the airport, leaving Julia Roberts behind in Pretty Women. Though Liz and Criss's wedding hinged not on whether they would marry, but whether Liz could reconcile a wedding with her feminist id, "Mazel Tov, Dude" winked at the convention: Tony Bennett sings "Just in Time" at the ceremony, a song not coincidentally popularized by another romantic comedy, 1960's The Bells Are Ringing.

Shakespeare included a fair amount of ambiguity in his comedic nuptials, never surrendering to a neatly wrapped ending. In As You Like It, Rosalind dominates the play in terms of number of lines. But once she tells her soon-to-be-husband Orlando, "To you I give myself, for I am yours," she utters not a single word for the rest of the play. Critics have debated the ending, and how the women who engendered the courtship by dressing up as man could be silenced by wifedom.

30 Rock's too posed a gender-driven paradox, though its doubtul Tina Fey will be without words for the rest of the season. Liz has surrendered to her desire for a fairy tale, but the princess she ultimately emulates, Princess Leia, celebrates the unabashed geekiness of Star Wars fandom, which is decidedly a masculine trait. Indeed, Liz and Criss's ad hoc wedding—complete with bling acquired at a police auction and flowers hauled out from a hospital—is a celebratory moment for 30 Rock's characters. But Criss and Liz's wedding did not transform society as promised by its classical forerunners and the path to which it points is not all sun and roses. If Liz does get the baby she so desperately wants—be it naturally, by adoption, or otherwise (this is 30 Rock after all)—how will she juggle motherhood with her career that has become the essence of her identity. The challenge Liz has had with femininity (and soon maternity) as she succeeds professionally has been the driving tension of the show, especially in episodes of late, and speaks to the larger "Can Women Have it All" debate society is having today. 30 Rock is unlikely to give a straight answer, but if the wedding is any judge, it will certainly twist it.

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  • Tierney Sneed is associate editor of U.S. News Opinion. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at