When I was in first grade, my family joined Bill Gothard’s homeschool cult. So when Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt showed up on Netflix this month, it sometimes felt like rewatching parts of our life. In today’s guest post, my older sister Kirstin Murray Kyner put that feeling into words:
The new Netflix show “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has a great opening song. I think everyone loves the moment when Kimmy and the other “mole women” are rescued from their underground bunker. But there were times as I binge-watched the show that moment moved me to tears.
I had been anticipating the show, as I’m a big fan of Tina Fey’s comedy. I wasn’t disappointed — the show is funny, the writing is sharp, and Ellie Kemper does a great job in the role of Kimmy.
But the resason this comedy hit me in the gut is because I also identify with Kimmy as a “mole woman.” I don’t think I’m the only one.
Maybe we weren’t actually kept in an underground bunker by an apocalypse-crazy “reverend”, but we were isolated and abused in cults and cult-like corners of Christianity. Like Kimmy, we find ourselves strangely unprepared for adulthood in the real world.
There were two things about the character of Kimmy that I think represent us best.
The first is her lack of pop culture knowledge. Growing up without TV or radio, not allowed to go to movies or listen to rock music, we missed out. Those things form the basis of a lot of cultural conversations, and we are left awkwardly on the sidelines.
But, like Kimmy, we often try to fake our way through.
We don’t share our pasts quickly either. Of course we are proud to be survivors, to have gotten out of the cults. But its hard to explain, and we don’t always have the time or the emotional energy.
Talking about it for us, like for Kimmy, is a significant step in a friendship or any relationship. Even with the people closest to us — like Kimmy with Titus — we don’t like to be reminded of it.
We don’t like the pity. Or the questions. Or the memories.
Of course Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a cute comedy show and it made me laugh. I get that Kimmy’s upbeat resilient nature is the point of the show. But for most of us who are survivors of one thing or another, it hasn’t been that funny.
When Kimmy has no ID to buy alcohol on her 30th birthday, that’s funny. When some of us lack basic identification (or its taken from us by abusive spouses or parents) its not as funny.
When Kimmy’s GED class is sabotaged by a burned out teacher, that’s funny. But when some of us lack basic education needed to get entry level jobs, that’s not funny.
That’s why the moment when Kimmy steps out of the bunker in the opening sequence floods our hearts with hope and recognition — not just because of the hideous cotton dresses which look all too familiar.
The truth is, we didn’t literally live in a hole. But sometimes it feels like it.
Unlike Kimmy, no one came to rescue us. We crawled our way out of those holes, those cults, that abuse. We had only the tiniest glimpse that there might be light and freedom ahead. There was no welcoming party waiting for most of us — we did it on our own.
And we brought our own baggage out of those holes. Many of us struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental illness. To cope, some have turned to drugs and alcohol. Many of us have self-harmed. Some of us have ended up in other abusive relationships.
But it has also made us strong. At one point, Kimmy’s boss Jacqueline wails that what’s happening to her is “the worst thing that’s ever happened to any woman ever.”
Kimmy just gives her a great “are you kidding me?!” look.
I feel like (on our good days) we who are survivors have that kind of attitude.
You think this is bad? I’ve lived through worse.
The hole, the cult, the abuse didn’t break me — this won’t either.
The theme song for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” says, “they’re alive, damnit…Females are strong as hell.”
And so are we. We’re alive, damnit. We’ve crawled up out of that hole, and however hard its been, whatever baggage we carry, we’re alive.
We’re strong as hell. Maybe we’ve been broken. But like Kimmy, we can also be unbreakable.
published March 16, 2015
subscribe to updates:
(it's pretty much the only way to stay in touch with me these days)