On the surface, Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt looks like a comedy about a 30-year-old woman who is stuck at age 13, wearing bright colors and talking about The Baby Sitters Club. But really, the hit comedy series is much deeper than that, focusing on one woman's struggle to overcome trauma with all the odds against her (and, yes, wear lots of bright colors). It's a show about strength and resilience, and at The New Yorker Festival this past weekend, Kimmy Schmidt star Ellie Kemper talked about the series' message of empowerment and how the title character she plays has inspired her.
"It's a very girlish version of empowerment. It's very girly but ... also at the same time it's a show about a woman who faced something insurmountable," Kemper told New Yorker staff writer Lauren Collins.
In the Tina Fey and Robert Carlock-created comedy, the 29-year-old Kimmy starts the show a free woman, after escaping the Indiana bunker she was held in by a cult leader since she was a pre-teen. She decides she wants start a new life in New York City and leave the past behind, but finds it's more difficult than she expected. Kimmy often makes references to the horrors and weirdness she experienced in the bunker, and her decisions come from a delicate balance of acknowledging what happened to her, but not dwelling on the past and attempting to move on with her life.
"She's taking whatever life throws and she's not blaming life, but still trying to act of her own free will," Kemper said at the festival. "I think she's an aspirational character. I derive strength from this character, because she works hard at not letting this trauma dictate [her life]."
I agree — Kimmy is truly an admirable character. Here are some of the most empowering moments from Kimmy Schmidt that prove Kemper's point.
1. When She Decides To Finish Her Education
When Kimmy was kidnapped as a teenager, she was only in eighth grade. Yet once free, she decides to return to school and get her GED, showing that she cares about her education and, despite all the hardships she has faced, still wants more in life.
2. When She Encourages Jacqueline To Leave Her Cheating Husband
Throughout the series, Kimmy often encourages boss Jacqueline to take charge of her own life — especially when it comes to her cheating husband. For Jacqueline, it's harder to declare independence, since she's used to a certain life of wealthy and luxury, which was provided by her hubby. But eventually, Jacqueline gives it a go.
3. When She Shares Her Feelings With A Guy She Likes
Kimmy's flirtation with Charles is filled with a lot of awkwardness and weird texts (ducks?), but when it does get weird and too fast for them, Kimmy isn't scared to be honest.
4. When She Turns An Insult Into A Compliment
Because hey, an insult is actually a reflection of the other person and not you. So there.
5. When She Holds Onto Hope, No Matter What
The series often shows us flashbacks of Kimmy's time in the bunker with the other "Indiana mole women" and viewers get to see that Kimmy kept hope alive. When they were told that the outside world no longer existed, Kimmy was able to see through the Reverend's lies and keep hoping, showing even in dire circumstances, she can see the silver lining.
6. When She Faces Her Past
It isn't easy, but eventually Kimmy decides to face her trauma and travel back to Indiana to testify and confront the man who had held her captive. Sometimes she tries to bury those memories — by joining a cycling class, among other things — but by the end of Season 1, Kimmy knows that she needs to keep standing up for herself to make sure the Reverend goes away for good. She has to keep fighting.
7. When She Decides To Stay In NYC Despite All Her Obstacles
Kimmy gets thrust into the real world and, well, it sucks, but she's not going to let a little thing like reality get in the way of her dreams and freedom. She's already been through the worst, so now she can strive to be the best — and somehow afford rent in New York City. That may be one of the biggest obstacles of all.
But hey, she can do it. She's Kimmy Schmidt, after all.
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