ByElise Jost, writer at
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Elise Jost

Considering it centers around a woman who's escaped a bunker in which a man kept her captive for 15 years, it's obvious that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a feminist show. Just take the ear worm of a theme song, which reminds us every episode that "females are strong as hell." The story isn't always about feminism, per se, but as we watch Kimmy grow and push past the obstacles life has put in her way, we're all embarked on the sometimes gleeful, sometimes grim ride of a woman trying to find her place in society.

With the release of Season 3, the show seems to revel in even more borderline ridiculous situations that serve to highlight the absurdities that women have to face every day. The unapologetic humor is simply part of the show's DNA, but it doesn't take away from the relevance of the topics at hand. Take Episode 5, in which Gretchen decides to start her own cult; she decides to reverse the balance of her bunker experience with the Reverend by only enlisting young boys. But instead of the life of a ruthless leader that she was expecting, she becomes more of a nanny to a group of teenagers who can't even seem to feed themselves. It's a total disaster.

So A Woman Can't Start A Cult?

When the FBI surrounds the house in which she's started her pubertal empire, the episode doubles down on the messaging as the FBI agents simply don't take her cult aspirations seriously. Kimmy finds it hard to believe at first, but the fact that Gretchen is a woman is indeed the reason why she's barely treated like a threat (even though she's got the resources to build a homemade bomb and nerves ready to explode). The cherry on top is the "gay best friend" employed by the FBI who runs in with a bottle of white wine to try and appease her. It's over the top, but the scene's implications also ring uncomfortably true when you think of how absurd a woman trying to rule over a group of male teenagers seems compared to the opposite scenario.

While Gretchen's plight is one of the more explicit commentaries on the whole men versus women topic, the rest of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, thanks to Kimmy's fearless character, does an excellent job of commenting (more or less quietly) on women's struggles. It doesn't just rely on the heavy jokes about women to deliver its message; instead, the various storylines include plenty of infuriating, but common situations for the female characters to overcome.

In Season 3, Laura Dern's excellent portrayal of the Reverend's latest victim, a prison worker who has completely fallen for him and is convinced she needs to "lock him down" before his other romantic pen pals do, is another, more subtle parallel to Gretchen's adventure. Can you imagine several men writing and sending money to a woman in prison in hopes that she'll pick one of them? It's not impossible, but it feels nowhere near as common as the Reverend's situation, which we wouldn't be that shocked to hear about in real life.

Being More Than Wives And Mothers

There's also Jacqueline battling to erase her trophy wife reputation. When she starts caring about biodiversity and charities, she realizes just how much she's expected to just smile and wave, bake corn-based specialties and engage in cat fights with her lifetime rival, Deirdre. Worse, Russ's brother Duke's unwanted flirting seems only to confirm that her in-laws will only ever see her as a wife or mistress, simply disregarding the fact that she might have plans and convictions.

Kimmy herself puts it best when she's late to pick up Titus from the Big Naturals store, where he's been trying to grasp the concept of vitamins that don't come from fruit-flavored lube. She's late because she's spent most of the day helping the FBI with the tricky Gretchen case, and Artie can't help but imply she should feel guilty for leaving Titus alone for so long (though he's certainly just messing with her). That's a little too much for Kimmy, whose day has made her realize women might indeed be treated differently:

"You know what? A male Kimmy wouldn't be treated this way. You'd be all like, 'Oooh, look at what a great male Kimmy that is, picking up his Titus.'"

She rarely ever makes this kind of comparison, but that one time is already enough to make you stop and think. The rest of the time, her personality combined to her status as main hero of the show is enough to make us crave more characters like her, pointing out the preposterous imbalance that can still exist between men and women and being simply awesome the rest of the time.

What's your favorite episode of this new season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt?


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