“You shut up, we’re going our own way!” – A Review of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Jetlag had me up all night binging on Netflix’ new series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and I have to say I loved it from the first minute! The show was originally produced for NBC, but later sold to Netflix and launched on March 6, 2015. Created by the incredible Tina Fey and fellow SNL writer Robert Carlock, who by the way also wrote for Friends, the series tells the story of a woman starting a new life in New York City after being rescued from a doomsday cult. The character of Kimmy Schmidt was written specifically for actress Ellie Kemper, known for her roles in The Office, Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street.

The pilot begins with Kimmy Schmidt and three other women, Cyndee Pokorny, Gretchen Chalker and Donna Maria Nuñez, being rescued from a bunker in which they were imprisoned by the doomsday cult Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne for 15 years. After the media buzz surrounding their rescue, Kimmy decides not to return to their hometown in Indiana, but to stay in New York and start a new life. She finds an apartment, land-ladied by Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane), and becomes friends with her new black, gay and broke roommate Titus Andromedon (Titus Burgess), who himself is trying to make it as a Broadway singer. Kimmy is hired as a nanny by the rich, but unhappy Jaqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski), who is struggling with her son Buckley, her teenage stepdaughter Xanthippe, and her cheating husband. As the story unfolds, we see Kimmy dealing with everyday situations, such as love triangles, her boss and the kidnapper/reverend’s trial – but always looking on the bright side in her quirky and spunky sort of way.

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The creators did a great job at wrapping different social issues, such as race, into comedy. Not only are the characters very diverse – besides all the white women and men, Titus is black and gay, Donna Maria is Hispanic, Kimmy’s GED study buddy and potential boyfriend Dong is Asian and Jaqueline’s roots are actually Native American – racism is also criticized and made fun of in a comic, but at the same time thought-provoking way. When Kimmy and her fellow inmates are rescued from the bunker, the news headline reads “Breaking News: White women found”, with a subtitle of “Hispanic woman also found”, referring to Donna Maria. When Donna is confronted by Matt Lauer during a talk show after the rescue as to why after 15 years she still hasn’t learned to speak any English, her counter is perfect: “These bitches didn’t learn any Spanish, so…” Further, Titus discovers something about society while wearing a werewolf costume in public: “I got treated better as a werewolf than I ever did as a black man. That’s messed up!”. Some  people have commented that the portrayal of Jaqueline’s parents as very stereotypical Native Americans and Dong as a stereotypical Asian was racist, but one could also see these character depictions as criticism of the common stereotypes itself.

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Besides race, women are a big topic, and the most refreshing thing about the whole show is actually Kimmy Schmidt herself. Finally we see a strong and independent female lead character, that tells people what she actually thinks (“I’m gonna make waffles out of him!”) and is neither defined by her love life, nor on the constant lookout for husband material. THANK YOU, TINA FEY! In contrast to Kimmy, Jaqueline has always seen her own value in her husband and her money. But throughout the season, she realizes that “we’re replacing one stupid male authority figure with another!” and that she needs to find out who she really is and “not just wait for some guy to come and tell [her]”. Down the line, this understanding hilariously leads to utter destruction of the male-voiced navigational system in her car: “YOU SHUT UP, WE’RE GOING OUR OWN WAY!”. And lastly there’s Lillian, the coolest character of the whole show. She’s a real New Yorker, totally chilled about life and spends her time sitting on the front steps of her house, drinking coffee and selling drugs. “Can I borrow a cup of flour? Some white kids outside want cocaine!” Lillian provides a balance to all the other characters that are trying so hard to make it in life by simply being content with where she is, enjoying herself and not worrying much about anything. She’s the good-hearted, unconventional, down-to-earth, somewhat crazy lady that I’d love to turn into when I get old.

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Overall rating: Original and absolutely hilarious, five stars hands down! Unbreakable, they alive, dammit! It’s a miracle! Unbreakable, they alive, dammit, but FEMALES are STRONG AS HELL!

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