‘Veep,’ ‘30 Rock’ and Awkward Lady Behavior

One of the reasons I’m excited for Veep, HBO’s upcoming show about a female vice president, is that I think it’ll be an interesting intervention in our ongoing debate about awkward ladies in comedy:

A lot of that conversation has centered around Liz Lemon, and the question of whether the embrace of her awkwardness is also an embrace of mediocrity. The addition to 30 Rock of a page who sees Liz as living a dream life after seasons of emphasizing that she’s given up on her professional dreams and dating beneath her has complicated this perspective. But I think Veep adds a new layer to what Sady Doyle has dubbed Lady Loser Comedy.

Selina, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character, is objectively successful: she is the Vice President of the United States. It’s hard to argue that is in any way, shape, or form a compromise or a failure except by the most utterly insane standards. But as y’all will see in the pilot, she keeps screwing up: uttering politically unfortunate malapropisms, making staff mistakes, being generally socially stiff. But Veep walks a very thin line between treating Selina as if she’s dumb and treating her job as if it’s impossible to do well. And therein, I think, lies the revolutionary potential of awkward female characters. It’s one thing to spend time reveling in just being a mess, which I think is the appeal of Liz Lemon for some people, and also why I’m over the character—I’m just not having fun down there any more. But explorations of female awkwardness that reveal how artificial and ridiculous the conventions that govern so-called dignified female behavior are? That I’m pretty excited for.