The new NetFlix comedy, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, is somewhat divisive.
I really like it.
But nearly all the jokes about race, racism, and racial insensitivity fail horribly for me, making an otherwise very good and thoughtful show a failed parody. And, as we all know, the failure mode of “clever” is “asshole”.
If you are not up for ignoring the racist jokes, skip this show.
If you are willing to ignore them on the grounds that they are mostly intended to be making fun of racism and not perpetuating it, this is a fantastic comedy.
The fundamental message of the show is that sometimes horrible things happen to people and those people become stronger as a result. It’s an over-the-top comedy in much the same vein as 30 Rock, but with a twisting thread of real darkness. That darkness is played for laughs, but it grounds the titular character of Kimmy. Her insistence on optimism and seeing things through is entirely believable and touching because we know some of what she’s been through.
I also applaud the message — in every episode — that Kimmy insists on agency. She insists on naming herself, creating herself, making her own choices. She insists on trying and failing because she will never again let other people run her life.
I like this show, I really do. If you think you can wince your way through the racist jokes and you unironically love Disney Princesses because they remain strong through some terrible bullshit, this is the show for you.
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