We’ll put it out there right now: I worship Tina Fey. For all of the reasons that everyone else worships her. I think she’s a fantastic writer, she’s hilarious, and I aspire to be like her (although I’d already had the brunette/nerdy glasses/badger face look going my whole life). I watch 30 Rock on repeat religiously. I’ve made T-storm a convert. I can quote entire episodes.
And in the past two days, there has been a huge controversy over a line in Tracy Morgan’s stand-up routine that describes acts of homophobically-driven violence. It’s really disturbing. And it’s not funny.
The first thing this proves is that Morgan is an actor, not a writer. I think he’s hilarious on 30 Rock – when someone else is telling him what to say. T-storm and I quote his lines all the time. But the writers also make Sherri Shepherd, who oddly enough plays Tracy’s wife, funny and appealing, and when she’s left to her own devices she kind of sounds like an idiot. Just not a bigoted idiot.
It’s a kind of Singin’ in the Rain situation: someone famous and not terribly bright thinks they can still be famous and beloved without their handlers charting their every move. But here with much graver consequences.
The second thing that’s notable here is that Tina Fey is even more hilarious and intelligent than we think. She managed to crack me up even in her official statement on the ugly matter: when she said that what Morgan said “doesn’t line up with the Tracy Morgan I know, who is not a hateful man and is generally much too sleepy and self-centered to ever hurt another person.” (As noted here and a hundred other places. Weird: I consulted the twitter to re-find the article I first read this in, and the story had already popped up on Jezebel in the interim.)
(No semi-nude Hasselhoff after the cut this time.)
The whole thing just makes me upset. I would in no way say that Morgan is a hero of mine. He’s notably kind of an idiot who does destructive things to himself and to others. I just want people in general to not be assholes. I want people to be tolerant and I want people to not live in fear of being physically or emotionally abused, regardless of their race, gender, or sexuality. And I want to enjoy 30 Rock. Here’s hoping where these two things can peacefully co-exist. (I want to eat Chik-fil-A, too, because as an emerging former vegetarian their sandwiches are delicious, but I don’t because of all of the money they give to political organizations that actively work against gay rights.)
It’s a never-ending quandry (“You put me in a quandry Liz Lemon. A quandry.” See my problem!?) as to whether or not you can separate the artist’s personal beliefs and public espousals from the work they do. And it’s nothing new in celebrity culture. Classical music knows it all too well.
I don’t think that people should forgive him for what he’s done, but I think at least going the Kobe route (I didn’t mention it in my last entry about basketball, but I hate that guy, too) would be an appropriate course of action. Firing him from the show would make for good PR on the behalf of Tina Fey & NBC, but it won’t solve the problem. The firing of Charlie Sheen from Two and a Half Men hasn’t made him less of a jerk, or less of a misogynist (and that wasn’t even what he was fired for); it’s made him a pop culture celebrity icon.
And I guess memory serves me wrong – for some reason I thought that Glen Beck had been fired from CNN, but it appears that he left amicably to be on Fox. Nonetheless, moving from a middle-of-the-road network to crazypantsville Fox News has caused Beck a lot of tears, which have resulted from total insanity and garnered ratings. Not to mention he probably wipes his tears with $100 bills.
If NBC & Fey go the Kobe route, hopefully we can at least watch Morgan’s public schooling on the consequences of homophobia, and maybe some people can learn something in the process. If they fire him, it simply makes him a martyr. It galvanizes the cause for “free speech” and no one is better off, except for the snarky commies who love 30 Rock and read too much HuffPo. Which is to say me & my fiance.