Tina Fey and the 'Burbs

After being the head writer for the City-centric Saturday Night Live and creative force behind the equally Manhattan-focused 30 Rock, Tina Fey is an unlikely mascot for the ‘burbs. But, after this weekend, she just might be.

For starters, her movie Date Night, which came out this weekend, saw her as one half of a typical suburban couple. Sure, they were from New Jersey and not our area—but they were your standard suburban husband and wife nonetheless.

Here are some other movies, apart from Date Night, that take place out in the ‘burbs (here or otherwise): Unfaithful. Fatal Attraction. Revolutionary Road. The Ice Storm. Little Children. What do they all have in common? Unhappy marriages and adultery.

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To me, living out in the suburbs is not entirely about unhappy marriages and adultery. Sure, it happens, but it’s not the sum total of our experiences. It’s always been a pet peeve of mine that Hollywood thinks the only suburban story to tell is the one about the privileged couple with the crumbling family. That’s not the only thing that’s going on out here, so I’m always on the lookout for something that gives a fairer picture of what it is to live outside of the City.

Believe it or not—even though the plot spirals into some sort of After Hours-style action-comedy—Date Night comes close to getting it right. The central couple, played by Tina Fey and Steve Carell, is not on the precipice of a bitter divorce, although their marriage needs work. Neither of the two is having an affair. (Shocking!) They obviously still feel very affectionate about each other. But they’re busy and they’re tired, and that can sometimes get in the way. To me, that part of the movie seems very real (even if the rest of it is only so-so). Also, for a telltale sign that the script was written by a suburban insider, here’s an exchange between tax-accountant Steve Carell and real estate agent Tina Fey about leaving late to grab dinner in the city:

Carell: “It won’t take long to get there. You tell all your clients it’s just twenty minutes to the City.”
Fey: “Yeah, I’m lying to them. It takes an hour.”

Who among us hasn’t claimed to be able to get to the City in 20 minutes?

Later, to promote Date Night, Tina Fey hosted Saturday Night Live. Again, I know she’s not a real suburbanite, but her monologue is probably relatable to some of the working moms out here. I was going to embed it here for you, but Hulu saw fit to cut it out of its Internet rebroadcast, so here’s a link to the clip elsewhere. In it, Fey recognizes the “village” that helps her juggle all aspects of her busy life, beginning by saying, “Here’s my nanny, Denise, in charge of all snacks, baths, and butt-wiping while I’m at work,” then moving on to another woman before saying “and this is my child’s nanny.” (And, for you ladies out there who are not yet of mothering age, Justin Bieber makes an appearance.)

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Does using a “village” to help you juggle your busy life have the ring of truth to it for you? Any movies or TV shows out there really get to the heart of the suburban experience for you? Let me know in the comments.

Photo © NBC Universal, Inc.


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