If you haven’t watched “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, stop everything and go watch it right now. It’s so wonderful, I must channel Leslie Knope to describe it. It’s a glamorous, spectacular cloud of inspired brilliance, and it has done more to raise me into a strong, independent woman than all four of my parents. (No offense to my parents, it’s just that fucking good.)
The theme song feels like it was written for my life. Not many people know this, but I was sexually and physically abused as a kid. Like, a lot. And when I heard the intro for that show, I felt like standing up and fist-pumping, because HOLY FUCK! I should be dead! I should be a heroin addict or in jail or even worse, I could have continued the cycle of abuse with my own kids. But I didn’t. I broke the cycle, and I survived. Not just survived. I thrived. I am unbreakable. Through terrible things most people can’t even imagine, I kept a tiny, glowing sliver of myself tucked away, hidden until it was safe to bring it out and let it shine. And when I hear that song, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with pride and joy.
I’m alive, dammit!
It’s a miracle.
But females are strong as hell.
When I was in New York City last year--my first time anywhere, really, since I spent most of my twenties barefoot and pregnant--a friend commented that I didn’t seem to be afraid of anything. That I wasn’t intimidated by the subway, or by the more experienced comedians, or of doing the Moth Story Slam on a whim. I wasn't even a little worried when we couldn’t get a taxi at 3am in a bad part of Queens and had to walk home. In the show, when Titus tells Kimmy she can’t handle New York, she responds, “The worst thing that ever happened to me happened in my own front yard.” The same goes for me. Whatever life throws me, I KNOW it can’t be worse than the things I’ve already endured. I'm not afraid of the world because there's something comforting about knowing and acknowledging how bad it can be that makes the whole damn place seem a lots less scary.
I love that the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” doesn’t do the usual pendulum swing between maudlin and squeamish that most shows go through when addressing a woman’s experience with sexual assault. The show doesn’t over-indulge our desire for morbid details (“Yes! There was weird sex stuff in the bunker” is the most we get), but it also doesn’t shy away from the traumatic effect the abuse has had on Kimmy (she has nightmares and occasionally calls herself “garbage” in a deep, manly voice, you know, like you do). And it lets the subject be openly discussed, and even more importantly, funny, which is one of the most maddening things about being a survivor, that people are often more uncomfortable with your assault than you are. That nobody wants to hear your truth because it’s too goddamn squicky.
Thank you, Tina Fey, for this perfect vehicle of female empowerment and girlish toughness. For showing that strength can sometimes be just surviving ten seconds at a time. That survivors don't have to be ashamed of their past or take any ownership for what their abusers did to them. Thank you for showing that even charming, handsome Jon Hamm types can be monsters. Thank you for not shying away from the realities of what it means to be a woman while still laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. And above all, thank you for reminding me that I am unbreakable. Hashbrown, no filter. I love you.