Kimmy Schmidt: A Woman or a Girl?

unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-first-season.35001For those who are unfamiliar with the sensational Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the show is about a 29-year-old Indianan woman Kimmy Schmidt’s soul-searching adventure in New York City following her rescue from a doomsday cult bunker she was kept captive for 15 years. As we follow Schmidt’s story,we learn that she lacks knowledge of basic, fundamental life skills normally associated with womanhood. While we have spent the majority of the semester examining the idea of childhood, we have only mostly challenged the notion by discussing the ways in which preciousness among young children enables manifestations of traits normally associated with womanhood. Rarely do we ever discuss the ways in which innocence and ignorance could reverse the situation. This begs the question: Does Kimmy Schmidt’s ignorance of the outside world make her a girl? Or, does her independence and the hardship she endures in the bunker validate her identity as a woman?

According to the essay “Childhood” by Karen Sánchez-Eppler in Keywords for Children’s Literature, the meaning of childhood is “widely recognized as a life stage that stretches from birth until the taking on of adult competence and responsibility”, and for that reason, it is often “deeply circumstantial” (36). From the show, we see that Schmidt often behaves in ways that are “child-like”— her6359395153966273301003801194_IMG_5415 inability to tie her shoelaces, her obsession with silly-bands, her inexperience in romantic relationships, her resistance against the use of foul language, her naïve optimism, her oblivion towards the norms and culture surrounding, etc. Yet, despite her occasional childish behavior, she also proves herself to be a complex, paradoxical character by showcasing her mental toughness, resilience and independence. Among the women (girls?) who were kidnapped, she has always played the role of a “mother”. She has always been the trustworthy go-to for problem-solving and advice, both during her days in the bunker and following her giphysurvival. One may even argue that the hardship she endured in the bunker and her ability to sympathize and to relate to struggles of others make her insightful and wise beyond her years; it makes her a woman. So, in some ways, Schmidt is able to live up to the “adult competence and responsibility” that is normality expected of women, but other times she isn’t able to. This paradoxical notion of girlhood can also be observed in Annie (1982), where the orphan Annie is portrayed as a quasi-motherly character who is more mature than her peers. Nonetheless, an angelic image that is normally associated with young girls becomes readily evident during her time with Mr. Warbuck.

Kimmy Schmidt is a proof that the idea of “girlhood” and “womanhood” are not only often ambiguous and in flux, but that traits from both ideas can be embodied within the same person. In other words, the two notions can be interchangeable and can coexist even within the same person. Is Kimmy Schmidt a girl? Or is she a woman? Who knows? Perhaps she is simply both.

9 thoughts on “Kimmy Schmidt: A Woman or a Girl?”

  1. I love this series and somehow never made the connection between this and our topics we are covering in class. I feel that Kimmy is navigating the world as a sort of child in a woman’s body. I personally feel that the line between a girl and a woman are the experiences that one has. Since Kimmy was locked away fro so many years and at such a formative time in her life she has yet to have these experiences. However, Kimmys physical appearance means that people expect her to be a woman like other people her age and she unfortunately is left with a mess on her hands trying to figure out these two identities that she has.

    1. It is so interesting to see this connection between Annie and Kimmy Schmidt; I had never thought about that before. While Annie is forced to mature quickly and fend for herself, Kimmy is forced (due to her shelter from the changing world) to retain a girl-like view of the world. I think it is also very interesting to see a mature Annie and naive Kimmy set in such an intimidating place as New York City and to see how they navigates it.

  2. I have never seen the show, but I think I might start it after reading your blog. This topic is very interesting because it does seem as if she does display both characteristics of womanhood and girlhood. This makes me reflect on our discussion of girlhood at the very beginning of the year and whether or not you could put an age on when a girl transitions from girlhood to womanhood. I agree though, for all we know she could simply be both a woman and a girl since she captures characteristics from both.

  3. I agree with Kelsey’s above comment; I never thought of this connection, and it should be so obvious. I think another connection we can make with this is that of superiority aging an individual. In “Kimmy Schmidt,” Kimmy works as a nanny for the Voorhees, a wealthy family, and the teenage daughter, Xan, controls and manipulates Kimmy with her power as her authority figure. In “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” Linda is belittled by Mrs. Flint, which seems to make her appear younger than she is. Both females are shrunk by their superiors, so does being inferior to someone younger, or close to one’s age, make them more like a girl? Interesting to think about.
    Additionally, the titles of each episode are all elementary phrases, such as “Kimmy Drives a Car!,” each ending with an enthusiastic punctuation. This further emphasizes the idea that Kimmy is supposed to be a child in a woman’s body. Perhaps, then, she really is a girl?

  4. I have not ever watched this, so bare with me if I mess up any portion of the plot. Anyway, in response to your question Is Kimmy Schmidt a girl? Or is she a woman? I want to argue that she is a women. A girl, as we have discovered through the author of “virgins” says that you change once you go through periods that are not reversible. For example, saying things you don’t mean, going through puberty etc. This relates because she can’t go back on being held captive for 15 years. She has passed girlhood in the time (or before then) and doesn’t have the option to be a girl. On the other hand, I agree that she has girlhood qualities that differentiate her from a typical 29-year-old Indianan woman.

  5. I think it’s really interesting that you connected The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to our class- I can’t believe I never saw the connection before! While I haven’t watched the second season yet, I definitely think there’s value in looking at the series as a story about girlhood. We can also link it to the Gubar reading, “The Teflon Kid,” in which Gubar says that Annie (in all her incarnations) makes “innocence seem invulnerable.” The title of Kimmy Schmidt’s show literally labels her as “unbreakable.” While the first season occasionally hinted at some PTSD symptoms from the ordeal in the bunker, it essentially presented Schmidt as another Teflon Kid, innocent and resilient. It’s fascinating to me that this show, the premise of which could also have been an episode of Law and Order: SVU, is instead a hit comedy.

  6. While I’ve only seen a few episodes, it is apparent that Kimmy acts more like a child than an adult woman. She is an excellent example of a person whose body has developed into a woman, but free of societal pressures and experiences has remained a child. I wonder if she will be able to overcome her division between child and adult, and how that will develop her identity as she grows older.

  7. I’m personally unfamiliar with this show, but I hear about it so much that I might just get Netflix, or find out what my sister’s password is, just so I can watch it. From what it sounds like and how you described how Kimmy acts, it sounds like the creator of the series is trying to portray what characteristics that Kimmy has as innate. Such that the characteristic of a women to be mother-like is one that is not learned, but that all women will have regardless of their upbringing, and that is very interesting. Great post! I’m gonna have to check out the show! 🙂

  8. This is one of my favorite shows and definitely a interesting question to consider. I believe that Kimmy is a woman. I’m not sure that the things she is not able to do place her in the category of girl. Although she lacks some skills, I still believe due to her age and experiences that she is both physically and mentally considered t be a woman (if that is how she chooses to identify).

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