In April, Netflix released season two of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Kimmy Schmidt is Tina Fey’s follow-up series to the highly successful, critically acclaimed 30 Rock, of which I am a huge fan (By the way, would you believe me if I told you Tina Fey is Orthodox? She at least had an Orthodox wedding!).
The show follows Kimmy, an upbeat if out-of-touch kidnapee played by Ellie Kemper as she attempts to re-enter normal life after 15 years of being involuntarily held in a bunker by cult leader, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (played flawlessly by Jon Hamm). Even after 15 years, Kimmy’s spirit is indelible. She remains “unbroken” through the bunker and even as she moves to NYC and deals with the ups-and-downs of adult life.
At first, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt seems to be about the triumph of the human spirit, but as the show progresses, we see that underneath Kimmy’s bubble gum exterior is actually a little girl who is hurt, afraid, and dealing with the trauma of being forcibly removed from her family.
In the first season, the otherwise optimistic and people-pleasing Kimmy occasionally experiences flashbacks to the bunker and lashes out in rage, while in the second season, this anger manifests itself in “emotion burps.” Ultimately, the message is clear: Kimmy has managed to appear “unbreakable” because she has learned to swallow her emotions (apparently causing some indigestion). She has tuned out her own needs by attending to the needs of others.
Coming from a background in clinical psychology, I appreciate the show’s nuance of human emotion. Emotion can be big and scary, and often, numbing out, simply not feeling bad feelings is a great temptation for a lot of us. People-pleasing can also be an ineffective-yet-powerful way to escape one’s own pain as well.
When we experience loss or disappointment, it’s really tempting to pretend that we “don’t care” or that we’re “over it.” We want to be able to “leave the bunker behind us,” so to speak, but as it turns out, you can take the girl out of the bunker, but you can’t take the bunker out of the girl.
As if the bunker weren’t a big enough problem, as Kimmy progresses through therapy in season two, Andrea, her therapist (Fey) leads Kimmy to see that the root of her rage, the real cause of her people-pleasing is her mother, and her “oh, brother...world-famous abandonment issues.” These issues, Andrea tells her, will only keep causing relational problems for Kimmy until she finds her mom and “deals with her for reals.”
Again, the therapist in me loves this. It has “attachment theory” written all over it. It is true that we carry relational models (such as Kimmy’s abandonment issues with her mom) all throughout life, and we often need to have those models reworked and healed. While these are things that can often be reworked in non-parental, emotionally corrective relationships, Andrea is right: they have to be faced.
Heeding the advice of Andrea, Kimmy sets out to find her mom in the season two finale. When she finally finds Lori-Ann Schmidt (Lisa Kudrow), she intends to confront her mother, but by the end of the episode realizes, “There’s nothing I can say that will un-kidnap me or fix my childhood...I have to accept that.” And herein lies the triumph of the human spirit: acceptance.
Frequently we live in fantasies of our own devising, imagining a better life - “If only I made another $10,000 annually! If only he’d call me back! If only Arrested Development hadn’t been canceled!” All of these thoughts move us out of the present and fragment our hearts - indeed, in our desire to have an unbroken life, we tear ourselves apart, looking into the past with regret, imagining a different future with longing. It is all quite violent to the human soul.
In Christ, we see this reality made poignantly manifest in the Cross. He accepts suffering for our sake. And he does it because we suffer. He takes on our suffering to show us that the path to new life, the path to redemption is in the voluntary acceptance of our own brokenness. It is by entering the brokenness of death that Christ obliterated its power.
He broke brokenness by Himself being broken, and He emerged truly unbreakable. And He, along with Kimmy Schmidt shows us that we need not fear brokenness, we need not hide it. But rather we need to accept it as the condition upon which our salvation rests.
We must turn to Christ in and through our brokenness if we are to have any hope of emerging from the tomb and sharing in unbreakable eternal life.
Kimmy Main Title: Paste Magazine
Scared Little Girl: Depositphotos
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.