I get compared to Ellie Kemper often. Nay, not just Ellie Kemper. Very specifically Kimmy Schmidt. I hear it a lot. I have heard it from the closest of friends, from family members, from colleagues, even from strangers.
One time, my principal at the school where I work called me over to speak with me. I nervously approached, not sure what error I had made and nervous of the impending lecture.
“Ms. Gordon,” she began, “My husband and I started watching Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix this weekend, and THAT. IS. JUST. YOU!!!”
Once I had breathed a sigh of relief, I internally rolled my eyes. Only because I have heard the comparison for years now. On my third date with my now boyfriend, he even brought it up. Let me state, though, that it is not offensive. In fact, I find it far more flattering than I deserve. Physically? I can sort of see it, sure:
And Ellie Kemper is amazing! Stunningly beautiful, hilarious, and so intelligent. Have you watched her Ted Talk? I highly recommend!
I do feel, though, that people are more often comparing my personality and demeanor to that of the character of Kimmy Schmidt. The reason I roll my eyes is because I do not, and perhaps never will, see myself as a ‘Kimmy.’ For, at her root, Kimmy is the survivor. The person who faced insurmountable odds and overcame them with unwavering positivity and grace.
Faced insurmountable odds? A little. Okay, a lot. I have had some shitty stuff happen. The sheer amount of traumatic bullshit that occurred over a 3-4 year period of my life honestly sounds fake, so I rarely write it down in detail. But I lived it, and it all happened, and it all changed and effected me. So, my hang-up is on the unwavering positivity and grace.
One of the greatest parts of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the way the show openly discusses trauma and pain. Veiled by satire and some good old-fashioned hi-jinks, in its core, the show is about overcoming hardship and moving through pain to find out who you really are, and what it is you need and want in life to feel complete. Kimmy was kidnapped and stored in a bunker for 15 years. It is implied that within that time, she and the other Mole Women were enslaved and forced into non-consensual sex and marriage. Kimmy was stripped of her rights, her voice, her talent, her freedom, and her safety. She had no control over her circumstance, and no position to fight. Until, you know, one day the women were discovered by some Indiana cops, she moves to NYC, buys a Lisa Frank-inspired wardrobe, and begins discovering how to live as an adult in the modern world.
The show has never been a vapid comedy that just picks up there and is all about how Kimmy still wears scrunchies (GASP!) or how ridiculously flamboyant Titus is. In fact, it’s truly clever how seamlessly Kimmy’s recovery is woven into the plot lines. Throughout the show’s run, we have witnessed her night terrors, her revulsion and trauma response to physical contact, her embracing the idea of therapy, her working to find her passion and career – all the while holding fast to her core values that we, the audience, have seen she carried with her even during her time in the bunker:
Stay positive, stay kind, and stand by what you believe.
Kimmy is a character learning to heal gracefully, and with eternal optimism.
Julia is a woman who is learning to heal, and sometimes has angry outbursts and feels lost or hopeless.
But the show inspires me to note not what I am not, but what I would like to be. I am a primarily optimistic person, but hear me now: depression, anxiety, and trauma are a bear. It is extremely difficult to go through the day-to-day perfectly and with a smile on my face, but I’d like to try. I’d like to be like Kimmy. I’d like to meet difficult situations or triggering experiences with maintained, consistent optimism instead of crumbling into a worry pile. And, so, I will continue trying. I will breathe, get the smile on my face, and raise the roof like the dork I am.
I like who I am, and if I remind people of a heroine like Kimmy Schmidt, than I am truly flattered. I am trying, day in and day out, to be as strong and steadily positive. I would like to earn the compliments.