A few weeks back, I got looped into an Instagram chat with some coworkers from one of my gigs, who were snarking about the fact that the company we used to share office space with had posted a photo of them using our old chairs — chairs they made us buy after they got all possessive of the chairs in the office and barred us from using "theirs" anymore.
I sent back a short video of me rolling my eyes, to which one replied, "THE JODY EYE-ROLL."
And I went...Uh-oh. It has a name?
It's no secret I am a sarcastic person, but I never realized how much my reputation as an eye-roller precedes me. I don't really know where I get it from, but I have a feeling it has to do with all the smartass, take-no-shit women that exist in the pop culture I have consumed over the course of my life.
I’d like to take you on a tour, in no particular order, of the top 10 eye-rollers (coincidentally, all from TV) that have inspired me.
Elaine Benes, Seinfeld
"Yeah duh,” is what I said to myself when I googled “pop culture eye rollers” and she came up. Elaine’s face was beyond expressive, but it was built on a foundation of eye-rolling. And tongue-sticking-outing.
And, in what is one of my favorite moments of sitcom television, grabbing someone’s hairpiece off their head and throwing it out the window.
Aunt Linda, SNL
Aunt Linda was a regular on Weekend Update in the late ’00s, known for giving emphatic but completely-missing-the-point movie reviews that included a lot of old-timey expressions like “Criminy!” and “Oh, brother,” much like the kind of talk you might hear from an actual clueless elder at Thanksgiving. Most of her opinions were communicated through elastic facial expressions, which have certainly informed mine in the last few years.
Jill Taylor, Home Improvement
In retrospect, I can admit that Home Improvement was really, really stupid, but I spent what was likely hundreds of my late afternoons watching it as a kid. It was your average cutesy family sitcom, with the exception of JILL FREAKIN’ TAYLOR. Possessor of the most ‘90s mom haircut (my mom had it and I know yours did, too), for some reason married to the dumbest dummy ever to dumb, QUEEN of the withering, skeptical glance.
(I had a gif of her eye roll but I lost it so these screen grabs of them in action will have to do).
There was even a whole episode about “the look” that wives give their husbands, which I grew up thinking was a genetic trait women had, and not the stereotypical garbage it actually is.
Taystee, Orange Is The New Black
From the modern era, we have Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, one of the most quotable characters to come out of the century thus far. There’s a lot of attitude going around Litchfield, but none express it quite so clearly as Taystee.
I could go on and on about how perfect Taystee is as a character, but that’s a post in and of itself. Her greatness begins in her fabulous eye-rolling skills.
Joan Holloway/Harris, Mad Men
I still miss Mad Men. Like, a lot. Like, sometimes I’ll be in traffic and be all “I wonder how Sally is doing. It must be so hard for a girl to go through what she went through, in the way she went through it. Is Henry still in the picture? Is Don? I hope she’s OK.”
I know it’s always been trendy to like Joan... but I like Joan. For more than just her sense of style. She’s one of the most complex, and consequently real, characters written for television in my lifetime. She lost her cool pretty easily, and often without reason, which a lot of people saw as “bitchy,” but I read as “completely human.” This resulted in a lot of exquisite examples of eye rolls and death glares.
Kim Kelly, Freaks and Geeks
I’m always proud to flaunt that I was watching Freaks and Geeks while it was on the air. My mom was the first one in the house to watch it, and, without anything better to do on Friday nights (I wasn’t cool, OK?), I started watching it with her. I liked it before it was a cult classic.
Kim was the girl I wanted to be, drama and all. She had her demons, but damn, she was fun. And she, very unlike me, did not take shit from anyone. If she was unhappy, you saw it on her face. Not only that, she was one of the first characters in my lifetime that advocated bitchiness as a means to your own happiness. Sometimes you just gotta shut people down and cut people off so you can live in peace. Or try to run them over. Whatever.
Alllll the guests on afternoon talk shows in the mid to late ‘90s
My house didn’t have cable until I was 12. I know. It was a really hard childhood. When I was young, I assumed it was because my parents didn’t want to expose me to the evils present on cable television, but as an adult, I realize it was probably a budgetary issue. Still, for a long time, I thought it was funny that, without cable, I ended up watching a lot of complete and total garbage after school. Garbage like Maury and Montell Williams and The Ricki Lake Show.
It’s embarrassing that I spent so many hours watching people play up real, actual problems for a camera, and worse, that I believed it all (and can we talk about the, like, barely-veiled racism of the casting choices? Jesus H). But it did give me some good pointers on how to verbally defend myself when a surprise guest who was waiting backstage in a sound-proof booth wants to come at me, even if those pointers consist mainly of “just shout a lot.”
Stephanie Tanner, Full House
OK. Look. What I’m about to say is not going to make me a lot of friends. But Full House was not a good show. The jokes were hacky and the kids cloyingly cute, but I was like 5 or 6 when it was on the air, so I didn’t care. As a kid, I’d watch whatever was on. And I watched so much Full House. My parents tell me I cried the night of the final episode. I’ll have to take their word for it.
Stephanie’s easy-to-exasperate persona definitely imprinted itself on me. Yeah, it’s hammy and forced and probably the result of a stage mom standing just off to the side telling her to “make it BIGGER!” But damn, girl knew how to eye roll.
Clair Huxtable, The Cosby Show
Also married to a dummy (slightly less of a dummy than Tim Taylor, to be fair). An accomplished woman who never fully got her due on the show. Obviously where Jill Taylor copped all her skills from. Clair wasn’t so much about the eye-roll as she was the side-eye, but she goddamn invented it. Credit where credit is due.
Liz Lemon, 30 Rock
You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Never was there a more iconic TV eye roll than Liz Lemon’s — so iconic, in fact, that it was sometimes referenced in-show.
Liz Lemon has become inextricably linked with the simple act of eye rolling. Google ‘eye roll gif’ when you need to express disgust or disbelief, and you’ll notice that the ratio of pop culture characters is weighted heavily toward her. Hail, hail Liz Lemon, Queen of the Eye Roll. Suck it, nerds.