The article below contains spoilers for “Mazel Tov, Dummies!,” the Thursday, November 29 episode of “30 Rock.”
Last night on “30 Rock,” Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) finally got married, after some six and a half seasons of being unlucky in love and striving to have both a fulfilling relationship and a career even when sometimes neither side of that equation was working out. And like the character herself, whose fierce espousals of progressive, women’s lib ideals have tended to run up against a reality that’s not so clear cut, the wedding was a poignant, awkward and amusing affair that started with our heroine insisting that marriage was “no big whoop” and “just a piece of paper” and ended with her admitting that maybe she cared after all.
It was a nicely handled and sweetly funny way to usher one of TV’s most prominent singletons to the altar and allow it to be meaningful without having it seem like an event meant to complete her or to give her what’s meant to be the happy ending all women secretly long for. Prickly, exaggeratedly slovenly and devoted to “TGS With Tracy Jordan,” Liz has never been a woman to whom romance has come easily, even if the show is far harder on her than real life would be — when she retorted to Jack’s (Alec Baldwin) telling her that her nuptials mean “there’s hope for us all” by pointing out that she’s not actually so bad, it was a rare on-screen acknowledgment that Fey is not in reality hard on the eyes.
Marriage is a piece a paper, and one that can be obtained at the prosaic location of City Hall in your sweats if you so choose, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have significance. Everything about the way Liz approaches wedding Criss (James Marsden), from initiating it as a way to help with a possible future adoption to the silly voices proposal (“Let’s get married like every other idiot on earth!”), from the “Top Gun”-style engagement high five to trying to get strangers to serve as witnesses — it was all to downplay the fact that part of the reason Liz always believed that marriage wasn’t important is because she never thought it was something that would happen to her. And the show wrapped up this complicated sentiment in a monologue to Criss that was a genuinely great moment for Liz, in which she admitted to the conflicted mix of the personal and idealogical she was feeling, confessed that her rejection of “the wedding industry’s phallocentric fairy tale grotesquerie” was in part genuine and in part a defense mechanism, and accepted that she did want this to be her special day, even if it wasn’t the great moment of her life.
It’s not the most important day in my life because I’m Liz Lemon. My parents spent the money they saved up for my wedding on a PT Cruiser. I have been sure for a long time that this was never going to happen, and I was fine with it — ergo, it couldn’t matter. I’m still 90% right — it’s stupid, it doesn’t matter. And then you came along and now we’re doing this and a tiny little part of me that I hate wants to be a princess.
And in the ceremony that followed, “30 Rock” presented a nice callback to Liz’s long-established Leia prediliction by having her show up in the only white dress she owned and demonstrating that there are many ways to be a princess. Tony Bennett, Jack in a tuxedo reading Ayn Rand, Criss’ police auction-obtained wedding grill and the forever douchey Dennis Duffy (Dean Winters) — it wasn’t a traditional ceremony or one that belonged on Liz’s bridal reality show of choice “Wedding Bitches,” but it was true to the aspirational if work-in-progress feminism of the show’s protagonist, whose loving relationship may not be essential to her happily-ever-after but is a welcome addition to it.