Netflix’s latest addition to its comedy programming, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, is about the smiliest woman-child who was abducted and subsequently set free in arguably the saddest city in America. It is also everyone’s favorite show at the moment. It’s quotable, witty, and the perfect antidote for those of us who are going through Parks and Rec withdrawals. Kimmy is likable because her positivity is refreshing amidst characters who are normally quite pessimistic.
But I hate Kimmy.
Kimmy is the kind of person who finds the silver lining in everything and I’m the kind of person whose personality has been described as “bad,” “negative,” and “draining.” Kimmy and I weren’t meant to be friends because our personalities don’t complement each other. Watching Kimmy made me feel like I couldn’t complain about how my life is going because, like, at least I wasn’t kidnapped and forced to live underground for more than a decade. But I reserve the right to grumble about my life endlessly, thanks.
Kimmy is ecstatic to be living in a closet (“My own window!!!”) whereas I’m over here crying about living at home rent-free. She works as a 29-year-old nanny and I’m sad about a job that allows me to talk to my friends on Gchat all day. She was robbed of $13,000 and she didn’t even mope about it for longer than a 20 minute episode. 40 bucks fell out of my back pocket once in high school and I’m still bringing it up seven years later. See? It was never going to work between us.
Kimmy made me look at my unfortunate situation with fresh, optimistic, just-got-out-of-a-bunker-after-15-years eyes. And I’m not ready for that kind of perspective/growth/maturity.
It’s admirable of Kimmy to react to her circumstances this way, but for those of us who are much more jaded, frankly it’s kind of annoying. Sometimes I want to shake Kimmy by the shoulders and yell, “BE A REAL HUMAN!” because it’s unrealistic and exhausting to pretend like everything’s good when it so clearly is not. I want to scream, “Have you ever heard of muted colors??? Your cardigan is too bright!!! Everyone looks better in black!!!”
It’s not that Kimmy’s cheery disposition is forced; she truly is that happy. Though she experienced a horrifying event, Kimmy is the manic pixie dream girl who comes into an embittered Titus’s life and inspires him to pursue his dreams again. She encourages Mrs. Voorhees to divorce her absent husband. She believes wholeheartedly that Dong is capable of learning how to speak English properly. These are great stories, but they aren’t stories that I particularly want to incorporate into my own life right now. I don’t want to look at my problems and count my blessings on blessings.
Like Titus, Mrs. Voorhees, and you, probably, I stopped having grandiose dreams about who I was going to be a long time ago. When I look at my life and my job and my dating prospects, it’s easy to be dissatisfied with their trajectory. But Kimmy looks at the world as if there’s an unlimited amount of time and energy to change whatever it is we’re unhappy about.
Kimmy is charmingly oblivious but that can’t last. Her blind positivity is fine for a few episodes, but the reason Parks and Rec was successful is because of its accurate portrayal of people who faced real problems and yet remained hopeful despite it all. Leslie’s frustrations with the people of Pawnee and the way she reacted to them was a much more realistic characterization of a positive person. By comparison, Kimmy doesn’t seem to be as cognizant of the world as Leslie was. Kimmy’s optimism is based on her naïveté, which doesn’t make her relatable; it only means her enthusiasm for life is fleeting. Kimmy’s world is a heightened fantasy version of what she thinks it could be, and it’s tough to watch without thinking that this girl needs to be more grounded in reality.
Kimmy’s way of dealing with her problems is to avoid and misremember them. She chants, “I’m not really here!” when she doesn’t want to face the reality of being held captive by a strangely religious (but kind of hot) man. She counts to 10 over and over as a coping mechanism because “a person can stand just about anything for 10 seconds.” That’s really sad and I hope one day Tina Fey writes an episode where Kimmy goes to therapy.
“Escaping is not the same as making it, Kimmy,” a disillusioned Titus tells her. Kimmy is extremely idealistic, but I can’t completely blame her for the way she’s responding to trauma. Maybe it’s just not for me. She’s the Leslie Knope I deserve in a post-Parks and Rec world, but she’s just not the one I need right now.
Meanwhile I’m going to be writing my own show, coming this fall to AMC. It’s called Kim Schmidt: Broken But Kind of Whatever About It. It’s partly autobiographical. It should do really well considering the success of TV shows about white men and their problems.