What Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's Millennial Parody Gets Right (& Wrong)

Photo: Eric Liebowitz/Netflix.
Spoiler alert: The following content reveals major plot points for the third season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
"So, this is feminism," the ever-effervescent Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) says in the third season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. "Oof, I didn't know it'd make my feet hurt so much."
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She's toddling around a college dorm in a pair of high-heeled boots — the boots are part of an ensemble Kimmy's new college friends put together for an "anti-Valentine's Day" party. The joke is that their feminist logic doesn't add up. If they don't wear the sexy, uncomfortable shoes, the patriarchy wins.
When Kimmy dons a slinky dress for the party, her friend Xanthippe notes, "Seventh-wave feminism is all about owning our sexuality. If we don't dress like this, what are we saying? That we can't?"
At least, that's how the played-for-laughs feminist rhetoric goes in the episode "Kimmy Is A Feminist!" The episode sees Kimmy at Columbia University, where the show portrays radical political correctness as running rampant. Kimmy's new to feminism and consent and all that jazz, so her friends get her up to speed. They chastise her for using the word "hooker" and insist she refer to them as "heroes." They find Valentine's Day regressive, they don't like the term "you guys," and when it comes to sexual consent, there's a physical, paper contract involved. All the while, Kimmy is confused and bewildered by all the cultural changes she has to observe.
This is all part of the show's parody of Gen Z millennials — except it doesn't always feel like a parody. Satire exaggerates reality to an absurd degree. Alas, the stuff here isn't that absurd. Because yes, the term "you guys" reinforces the gender binary. The word "hooker" has a lot of negative baggage associated with sex workers, and sexual consent, ICYMI, is kind of a Big Deal. (Although, a paper contract probably isn't necessary. But you do you!)
But the show actually gains major ground when it comes to mocking millennial men. When Kimmy rejects the "sexual consent contract," her suitor breaks down in tears and calls his mother.
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"Mommy, a girl thinks I'm not special," he whines. "I need to take a semester off, maybe in Greece, or an internship at Late Night." The same guy who seemed so intent on valuing consent is, like most men, not so good at handling rejection.
So, it's not that Fey's parody of millennials isn't without merit. Kids are stupid, and everyone can be hypocritical. It's just a slippery slope, you know? We can't shame everyone for being "too sensitive" — that's an all-too-convenient way to delegitimize someone else's feelings. But we can definitely laugh at ourselves. As we should.
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