Wednesday, January 25, 2017

RIP Mary Tyler Moore. I'll Fling My Hat In The Air In Your Honor

Opening credit of the Mary Tyler Moore show where
she gleefully throws her hat into the Minneapolis air.
Word arrived today that Mary Tyler Moore has died at the age of 80.

The accomplished actor and comedian was known for many roles in her decades in the business, but everybody most relates to her lead role in that 1970s show "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

I think Moore, and her role on that show, helped smooth the way for what could have been an even rougher ride for women in the 1970s than they otherwise could have had.

The 1970s was a time when women were asserting their demands for equal rights, equal pay, equal everything that they deserved.

Women are still (!!!)  fighting that battle (See: Womens March last weekend) but I think Moore and her show helped show that efforts toward equality weren't such a bad thing. She normalized the idea of a single, independent, intelligent woman who, as the show's song went, could make it on her own.

For an amazing number of people in the 1970s, that was too much of a concept to bear. Women were supposed to be the supportive little wifey, at least to some minds.  She was sort of a transitional figure: Still sometimes deferential to men, other times asserting herself.

In the Mary Tyler Moore show, her character, Mary Richards, was a television producer and journalist, good at her job if, like everybody else, imperfect.

The very first episode of the show set a very good tone. Mary Richards was applying for a position at the newsroom of fictional television station WJM. Her would-be boss, Lou Grant, asked her a lot of unwelcomed questions about her age and relationship status.

Mary responded: "You've been asking a lot of very personal questions that don't have a thing to do with my qualifications for this job."

Lots of people cheered at that moment.

In a very nice appreciation in today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune (the Mary Tyler Moore show was set in Minneapolis) the newpaper had this truism to say.

"Some early viewers balked at Richards' eagerness to please the men in her life and the fact that she almost always referred to her gruff boss as Mr. Grant. But even leading feminists recognized Richards as a breakthrough figure. 

'The was a happy human image of a woman as an independent person that several generations of young (and not so young so young) women alone stopped suffering if they didn't have a date on a Saturday night,' Betty Friedan wrote in a 1978 article in the Washington Post. 

Richards wasn't exactly a goody two shoes. As the series progressed, we watched her demand a raise, get suspended, go to jail to protect a source and come down with a case of the giggles at a funeral.

On occasion she stayed out all night. She was on the pill."

I also like to think Mary Tyler Moore, through her character Mary Richards, helped a lot of men warm to the idea of dating an interesting women who had her own thoughts and ambitions.

That seems quaint now, but it wasn't then.

Maybe we should all get online and binge watch all kinds of Mary Tyler Moore episodes tonight. Can't hurt. Can only help.

There's a statue of Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis. It depicts that famous moment in the opening credits of the show where she gleefully throws her hat up in the air on a busy Minneapolis street corner.

Moore once said:

"I hope when a little girl walks by the statue, she'll ask her mother who that was, and it'll be explained to her that she was a young women who had a dream and followed it through."

That's still a message most young women, and men for that matter, need to hear. Over and over.

Thanks, Mary. Because of your help, I think we'll make it after all.

Here's two clips in remembrance of the great MTM, first, the famous opening credits to the Mary Tyler Moore show, then the famous Chuckles the Clown funeral scene:

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