“I thought you made love like an ugly girl! So present; so grateful!”
– Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock
Oh, sure, we can say that Liz is written as a caricature of female insecurities, and of an insecure female. That would be completely true! That is why I like her! But we also need to address that the fact of her imaginary ugliness, the fact that we are constantly told she is all brain and no body, fits into some very specific male fantasies, the sort of fantasies that are summed up in the commonly-used phrase “Thinking Man’s Sex Symbol.”
You can often tell by a man’s record collection or bookshelf which female celebrities he is going to call “hot” — whether he’s a Megan Fox man, or a Maggie Gyllenhaal sort of fellow. The issue is that the Maggie Gyllenhaal crush is often thought to be more sophisticated and evolved, by the man who has it, when the fact is that they are both extremely lovely girls. There’s nothing wrong with liking extremely lovely girls. But the thought that Megan Fox is somehow too obviously hot, too mainstream, the Coldplay of masturbation, is just plain silly. There’s something going on there, and it’s worth looking at, and it has a lot to do with the fact that Tina Fey, Thinking Man’s Sex Symbol, attained her TMSS status by playing a character that we are constantly asked to find awkward, over-brainy, and unattractive.
There is — Julie Klausner addressed this recently, in her book — a persistent fantasy, among a certain variety of dude, that someday they will meet the most beautiful woman in the entire world and no-one else will realize how beautiful she is. Liz Lemon is that, but she’s also something more: the pretty girl who doesn’t think she’s pretty. There’s none of the sexual power or confidence that comes from realizing how pretty you are, in Liz Lemon. She’ll never think that, although she might be lucky to be with you, you might be pretty lucky too. She’ll never realize that, if you don’t treat her right, plenty of other men will be willing to treat her better, because she is a catch and a half. She won’t have that sort of autonomy, that sort of confidence — or so the line of thought would seem to go. When the clothes come off, she’ll make love like an ugly girl. So grateful.