Netflix original series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt reminds us just how long ago, in culture and time, the year 2000 really was. The eponymous main character, played by Ellie Kemper, is rescued from a doomsday cult where she spent the last fifteen years; and then the opening credits start…
In 15 years time, let’s hope they have flying cars by then, this will look as dated as the Tamagotchi. But that’s the point: by making the intro theme scream of ‘now’ and the meme culture of today, it parodies the early 2000’s and how weird it looks to us now. It uses ‘then’ as a tool to show us how different and strange ‘now’ really is.
A brainwashed zealot, a maid who refused to learn English, and a woman who still has her braces from when she was kidnapped – they are who Kimmy spends the past fifteen years with, and they are the first ones she gets away from. She doesn’t want to be known as a mole-woman, and New York isn’t small-town Indiana. This is where we meet Titus Andromedon, played by Tituss Burgess.
Flamboyant and camp to the point of parody, he is also someone running away from their past life. He wants to be on Broadway and he is, as an Ironman rip-off. As is common throughout narratives, the main characters start off in a bad way, stuck in a rut, and it is the freeing of Kimmy Schmidt from the bunker that in a way frees Titus as well. Her unbreakable optimism is contagious.
Looking for a job, Kimmy meets obscenely rich socialite Jacqueline Voorhees, played by Jane Krakowski, a woman who embodies every negative aspect of the women from The Real Housewives, and yet she too is somehow likeable. She is as naïve as the newly emerged Kimmy is; ignorant of the outside world and trapped in a golden bunker of her own.
If there is anything to take away from this, it’s that, while on the outside, it may appear to be grounded in reality, it is actually absurdist in nature. For example (spoilers), there is a scene where Titus and Jacqueline murder and bury a robot in the backyard, and it wakes up and begs for mercy. Technology such as robot maids does not as yet exist in 2015, but it may, in Kimmy’s vision of 2015 from the year 2000. It paints an optimistic future, as she is too.
Another example is when Titus Andromedon wants to withdraw $2 from an ATM, but it will charge $3 for the transaction. He reaches out and takes his money. “Negative one dollars!” he yells, but in anger and not so much surprise. What is interesting is who the president is on this -$1 bill: Warren G. Harding. Voted on or near the bottom of presidential rankings and only serving two years in office before dying, his stern face and prominent brow, fit what the opposite of worth would appear as, in Titus’ eyes.
I fell in love with the series from the first episode, and it took me a great deal of discipline to not binge watch it all at once. It is by no means perfect; it peaked and trailed off ever so slightly at episode 7 of 13, and some of the characters, especially the rich love interest for Kimmy, seemed a tad stereotypical and one-dimensional. But it overflows with optimism; it can’t fail to bring a smile to my face. I look forward, wholeheartedly, to the next season. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is available for streaming on Netflix.