Tina Fey Reflects on How 'We All Cosigned' Past Problematic Trends in Pop Culture: 'Terrible'

"We're all looking back at those things now and being like, 'Oh, we all cosigned that? Oh, that's terrible,' " Tina Fey said Friday during the 2021 Tribeca Festival

Tina Fey
Tina Fey. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty

Tina Fey is looking back at big moments in pop culture that she can't quite wrap her head around today.

Speaking Friday about her new series Girls5eva at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, the actress and comedian reflected on how "we're culturally looking back at stuff that we all took as totally normal, fun and just cool" from years ago now, according to Variety.

"Whether it's the way David Letterman dismantled Lindsay Lohan or an underage Britney Spears singing '[I'm a] Slave 4 U,' " Fey said. "We're all looking back at those things now and being like, 'Oh, we all cosigned that? Oh, that's terrible.' "

Spears, 39, recorded "I'm a Slave 4 U" at age 19, while Fey's Mean Girls costar Lohan, 34, famously bristled at Letterman's repeated questions and jokes about going to rehab during a 2013 interview on his late-night show.

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Notably, Fey publicly denounced some creative decisions on her own series 30 Rock last year, penning a letter to streaming platforms that carry the comedy show, which she starred in and created. Along with asking that they remove four episodes that feature characters in blackface, the former Saturday Night Live star apologized "for the pain" the episodes "have caused."

Tina Fey
Tina Fey. Courtesy of Tribeca Festival

It marked a change of heart for Fey, who said in 2015 that she didn't want to apologize for jokes deemed controversial. At the time, she was responding to criticism of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt character Jacqueline (played by Jane Krakowski), who was revealed on the show to be hiding her Native American heritage.

"Steer clear of the internet and you'll live forever," Fey told Net-a-Porter at the time, according to Entertainment Weekly. "We did an Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode and the internet was in a whirlwind, calling it 'racist,' but my new goal is not to explain jokes. I feel like we put so much effort into writing and crafting everything, they need to speak for themselves."

She added at the time, "There's a real culture of demanding apologies, and I'm opting out of that."

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On Friday, Fey also touched specifically on Girls5eva, which is about a '90s girl group that reunites decades after superstardom. The series, which is streaming on Peacock, was recently renewed for a second season.

"I definitely think that streaming has turned out to be better for comedy," she said at the film festival. "Not that we go that hard, but because people are choosing to come to you, you don't have to make plain rice. You can make something that isn't maybe for everybody, but it's delicious."

The actress and writer also joked about playing Dolly Parton on the show, comparing it to a "deeply embarrassing moment" she had on SNL.

"We had to wear short trench coats and heels and dance behind Bernie Mac in the monologue. It didn't make air," Fey recalled. "This felt like a Bernie Mac trench coat moment."

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