I'm Not Hearing It, Liz.
On the 30 Rock line I've had stuck in my head for nine years and Virgo season.
Welcome to Hyperfixate! This is a weekly newsletter that publishes every Wednesday (and maybe Thursday, we’re still working that out) on the hyperfixations from when I was sixteen that Lorde said I would grow out of. Sign up here.
In an episode of Queen of Jordan, the Bravo reality show following Angie Jordan (Sherri Sheppard), Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski)—a co-star of Angie’s husband and star of Casey Affleck’s unsung directorial feat The Rural Juror, Tracy (Tracy Morgan)—attempts to start drama with her boss Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) by throwing a glass of wine in her face in grand Bravo tradition.
I’m getting ahead of myself here. Ahead of her new single “My Single Is Dropping” dropping, Angie pays a visit to her husband’s place of work, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, for a meeting with his boss, Jack Donaghy (husband of Hilaria, Alec Baldwin). Donaghy suggests Angie throw a single release party in Studio 6H where they shoot Tracy’s show, TGS with Tracy Jordan since Tracy is away in Africa for reasons beyond anyone’s understanding.
The drama tracks Queen of Jordan regulars Randi, D’fwan, Portia, and Michael in less than compelling storylines, but it’s Tracy’s circus of co-workers that bring the heat in this episode. Jack Donaghy tries to beat his clumsy and gay allegations despite damning video evidence, Liz Lemon desperately tries to get Angie to get Tracy to come back to Africa, and Jenna Maroney vies for more and more attention that no one will give her.
Jenna spends most of the episode promoting her lifestyle website: jennas-side.com. Everyone else in the room can see it, everyone else in the room can hear it—everyone else but Jenna.
“Jenna, I told you not to buy that domain name,” Liz says, “say it out loud.”
“Jenna’s side, jennas-side,” Jenna replies, “I’m not hearing it, Liz.”
She isn’t hearing it. She isn’t hearing that Jenna’s Side sounds exactly like the word ‘genocide’. And I’ve been thinking about out every day since it first aired nine years ago.
Of course, I know Queen of Jordan isn’t real. It’s one of the many nested shows on 30Rock I wish was real. I would love to watch an episode of MILF Island, or cast my vote for the finale of America’s Kidz Got Singing.
Jenna Maroney is a fascinating string of neuroses, narcissism, and a reflection of the state of the Hollywood starlet archetype. One of my favourite Jenna moments is when she insists she’s still a teenage starlet; like going into a Gossip Girl audition reading for the role of the high school freshman or reading a blind item in the press about a “teen A-lister” partying too hard. Jenna’s artifice, at least to me, is what makes her so genuine. She’s vulnerable and by doing everything she can to protect and bolster herself, she exposes her vulnerability even more. Jenna is self-centered but also somehow self-hating. This contradiction embedded within a diva archetype is what makes her so tangible, and embarrassingly relatable, and real. It’s more likely that I’ll meet someone as bewildering as Jenna Maroney in real life than the elusive Fight Club red flag filmbro1.
To me, jennas-side.com perfectly encapsulates Maroney’s humanity. In wanting people to pay attention to her, longing for the love of others she constantly misplaces in herself, Jenna doesn’t realise the almost perfect (ridiculous? nonsense? something else) in her inadvertent homonym URL. Jenna’s side to a hypothetical “genocide” isn’t a big jump at all—by marking a hard line across where Jenna’s Side ends and the Other Side begins, she kills any real chance she has of true acceptance both externally and internally. She commits the extinction of any real human connection and any genuine compassion she can offer herself.
Genocide is nothing to joke about, obviously, I can feel my own skin crawl just typing this sentence out. But there’s something effortless, and genuinely infectious in the way 30 Rock is written—from flaws and poorly aged jokes to the clever, timeless punchlines—that lets a joke like this stick the landing and do a little victory lap once it sunk in. Jenna’s overall disregard for Liz’s concern is the crux of her entire deal—that’s Jenna Maroney for you! So blinded by her own heartbreaking self-interest that she doesn’t even notice that anything else is wrong.
Love her or hate her, Jenna is a joy to watch. I miss seeing Jane Krakowski on TV and cannot bring myself to start Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because I have no idea what the hell that shit is about, and the only Schmidt I ever really cared for lives in a fantastically large loft in Los Angeles with four other weirdos.
Her misguided attempts to try and capture the Queen of Jordan audiences further continue to backfire. It’s another reason why Jenna is so hilarious to watch. It’s not schadenfreude, it’s just Jenna Maroney, thee graduate of the Royal Tampa Academy of Dramatic Tricks. Jenna fakes a drunken tirade to get Pete Hornberger (Scott Adsit) to stage an intervention for her so she gets more screen time. Her plan backfires with Pete actually sending her to rehab. Jenna gets out of it anyway, as she always does, and sneaks into Angie’s party. Through hell or high water, Jenna Maroney gets her way. At least in her own mind.
I’ve had “jennas-side, jennas-side, I’m not hearing it, Liz” in a flittering loop in my head for going on nine years now. It’s the 30 Rock joke I always quote to people whenever 30 Rock gets brought up in conversation. I could probably rock a jennas-side.com cap. I want to write a bit that’ll stick in someone’s else’s head for going on nine years. That’s what I’m aspiring to: something so funny that you can’t forget it, whether you want to or not.
‘Tis The Damn Virgo Season
How are we all doing, everyone? It’s only two days or so into Virgo Season and I feel untethered. Which is weird for me, as someone who is famously a Virgo Sun, Mercury, and Venus. I’ve talked about my complicated relationship with astrology before, but whenever I’m reminded that a) I know other Virgos who share similar plights as I or differ to me in ways I could have never imagined or b) some of my favourite celebrities are Virgos, I’m tempted to give it another try.
I’m spiritual in the sense that I’m kinda quiet about it. I’m a practicing Muslim that loves to guess entire natal charts of fictional characters. I’m also half-Javanese; which means I’m superstitious, and half-Sundanese; which means I’m just as superstitious but in denial about it. Spirituality, religion, and faith are all caves I am still actively trying to excavate. I’m eight weeks into Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and it’s been a real big help, I’ve started to look forward to Ramadhan over the last couple of years, and I’ve stopped letting YouTube tarot readers scare me into obssesively second-guessing every move I make. I think at the end of the day (or cave, if we’re still sticking to that analogy), I think I was just looking for a little guidance any where I could get it.
Virgo Season has started out rough for me. There’s part of me that doesn’t want me to feel this way, which now that I’ve written it out sounds really fucking stupid. I was talking to a friend about this; the way we grew up or the way our schools wired us to be, we’re told to internalise our losses and our wins in some useless act of self-preservation and false humility. The questions that I’ve been asking myself are: “What do you have to prove? And are you proving it to?” And for what? All this, and for what?
The harshness of my own habits and thoughts won’t build me into a version of myself that I like better, I don’t know why I thought it would for so long. Brains are funny. They’re ridiculous. They’re complicated. And they can be mean. They’re great, but they can be mean, just like people because people (for the most part) have brains.
In grand Virgo tradition, my brain is telling me that I don’t work hard enough to either want the rest that I want or to want the goals and ambitions that I want. It’s very bizarre. I’ve set this bar for myself that I can’t even see, I don’t know where the bar is, I just know it’s up there somewhere. It’s not helpful in the slightest. That’s what Virgos do, right? We’re helpful, and we’re here to serve in some way.
One of the things that’s been helping me combat this “I don’t work hard enough” narrative is to remind myself what it is I’m actually working for or towards. I just want to do good work and be good. Not in the sense that I have to be good at everything I do (which I am and am not at the same time—we exist), but I just want to leave the world a little better than when I left it. Or at the very least, not be a dick. I’m not perfect nor virtuous but I am, allegedly, a human being. And isn’t that it? We’re just people. There isn’t a single answer, not right nor wrong, that could get is the “correct” or “desired” life. It’s what you make of it, at least it is for me.
It’s all easier said than done but no harm no foul if you try, right?
Another Virgo plight I’ve been grappling with is perfectionism. It used to be a point of pride for me to have everything exactly the way I want it and how I expected it to be (or at least if I could pass it off that way). It never ends. It has hurt and continues to hurt me in ways I could have never expected. But these Julia Cameron quotes, of course, have been rattling around in my brain ever since I read them:
To the perfectionist, there is always room for improvement. The perfectionist calls this humility. In reality, it is egotism.
Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough—that we should try again.
Have I just always been this self-righteous bastard in pursuit of the impossible? Haven’t we all been in some form or other?
I’m going to try this radical new thing of not beating myself up for how I thought about myself in the past, as well as forgiving myself for thinking this way. I’m going to try my best to not berate myself if I spot a typo once I send this email out. Will it work? We’ll see. I’ll just have to keep doing it until it does.
In the meantime, I do find an odd sense of synchronicity whenever I find out someone famous I happen to be interested in is coincidentally a Virgo too. For example, Fiona Apple and I were born on the same date 21 years apart. Lili Reinhart, of Hustlers fame and nothing else, also shares this birth date. Jon Bernthal is a Virgo! You all know how much I love him! What comfort. What joy.
Happy Virgo season, to all celebrating. Hope you’re nice to yourselves this season and every season.
The Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer genuinely has me excited to watch a Marvel movie again. This film stars Zendaya, a prominent member of the Virgo community, and Tom Holland as canceled Stark Industries intern Peter Parker.
Alfred Molina makes an appearance as Doc Ock, reprising his role from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. I would like to know where the costume department acquired his sunglasses from.
I can’t believe this is all because Jake Gyllenhaal doxxed a teenager over a pair of sunglasses2 that belonged to a dead billionaire. Men will do anything but shower, won’t they?
M(en in STEM) Cinematic Universe
A Drip Town Lemory is back this month, and this time with a mini-series! I’ll be covering each phase of the MCU with Naoshad and we’re kicking off the series with Phase One! Isn’t that wild? That shit was over a decade ago! Time!
Some Personal News!
I’m doing stand-up this Sunday at 7.30pm GMT (UK Time) / Monday at 01.30am WIB over on Twitch in a Semi-Final Heat for the Funny Women Stage Awards 2021! What a sentence! I’m super excited and I hope to see you there, besties :)
I have dated many guys with Fight Club posters in their bedrooms, I myself have a Fight Club poster in my bedroom, and our red flags extend beyond and do not include great taste in David Fincher’s filmography. Please do not dismiss Fight Club. Dismiss Todd Phillip’s Joker instead.
Wow, sunglasses are a big deal in these movies, huh?