How Has “30 Rock” Influenced the Role Women Have in Television?


Though it is one of the most acclaimed sitcoms of its era, many writers have debated how successfully 30 Rock has handled feminist issues. In the end, though, it may not be the content of the show so much as the role Tina Fey had as its creator that will have the biggest and most lasting influence.

As Linda Holmes of NPR has written, women in television comedy have been primarily known as popular performers. The biggest names usually had their own production companies and creative control over their own shows (like Lucille Ball and Roseanne), but their shows are typically remembered as their own star vehicles. While Fey may have played the central character of 30 Rock, her talents are strongly tied to her role as the showrunner. (A position commonly credited as the executive producer, showrunners often function as a head writer and give a television show its tone and direction). Even before 30 Rock, Fey’s reputation was built mostly on her role as the head writer at Saturday Night Live.

In the wake of 30 Rock‘s success, there have been more high profile comedic shows from women such as Chelsea Handler, Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, and Holmes has argued that these women “are seen as not just comedians, but as writers, performers and most importantly creators with a distinctive voice. Until Tina Fey, it was very rare to see any woman, much less a substantial number of women, in this lofty position in the entertainment industry.”