LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 14: Kristen Johnston attends Vulture Festival 2021 at The Hollywood Roosevelt on November 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
How Kristen Johnston Used 3rd Rock From The Sun To Break The Rules Of Sitcom Women
When "3rd Rock from the Sun" came along in 1996, it was an opportunity to examine humanity from a cosmic, existential viewpoint. For actor Kristen Johnston, it was a chance to use television against itself, challenging the stereotypes of the female sitcom characters that came before her.
One of the observational comedy bits for the show was placing the alien's masculine head of security and second-in-command in the body of a woman, Sally Solomon. She was gorgeous yet gangly, towering over her male counterparts, and had plenty of awkward moments that some might consider "unladylike," at least by television standards.
As audiences watched Sally struggle to learn society's strange feminine expectations, Johnston and the writers were taking advantage of a built-in mechanism in the sitcom format. Comedy becomes social discourse, allowing audiences to comfortably digest controversial topics. The show used the alien nature of its characters to challenge social stereotypes, oftentimes through Sally.
Johnston won two Emmys for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series during the show's six-year run. But perhaps even more impressive, she challenged archaic stereotypes and helped redefine what it meant to be a woman in the late 1990s, with all the grace and eloquence of, well, an alien.