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The Emergence of a New Woman

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 6 months ago

The Emergence of a New Woman



The idea that all women were meant to get married and be submissive to their husbands was given a second look when two very noticeable women debuted on the small screen and made independence look achievable for the female gender.


Ann Marie




Before there was The Mary Tyler Moore Show there was That Girl, the story of actress and model Ann Marie, who moved from her parents house in Brewster, NY to New York City to try and make it in the entertainment world. She was the first of her kind, the single woman trying to make it on her own, but she was not as evolved as Mary Richards would later be. Ann Marie, unlike those who came after her, although living on her own, was still dependent upon the men in her life, her boyfriend, Donald, and her father, Lou. Regardless of whether she is as fully independent as today's feminist woman, Ann Marie was certainly something unseen before on television when the show premiered in 1966. She balanced the new independent woman with the delicate and polite lady that preceeded her. "Considering herself a feminist, Ann stands up for women's rights but still expects men to behave like gentlemen in her presence"(That Girl on the web).


Mary Richards




"But perhaps no other image better personifies the spirit, humor, and pure joy of the sitcom form than a young woman spinning around a frigid Minneappolis street, flying her cap into the air... The one thing that never changed during the show's historic, legendary run of seven years was the image of everyone's ideal, single, working woman, staking her claim of independence and conquering the concrete jungle of Minneappolis-St. Paul"(Bloom and Vlasktnik, 210). This quote is talking about The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the story of a single woman in her thirties, Mary Richards. She is different than any other women portrayed on television at this time, not because she was sinlge, but because she was the first to not be widowed, divorced, or looking for a man to help support her. In the show's beginning Mary had just been left by her live-in boyfriend whom she had put through medical school. After her break-up, she relocated to Minneappolis and took a job at the fictional television station, WJM.


 "The show conveyed a hopeful message to the many female baby boomers who were setting out on their own in the early seventies and, in the cautious manner of television, played to their nascent feminist leanings"(Berkowitz, 208). Unlike any other woman portrayed on television before that time, Mary Richards, and all of the characters on the show, were allowed to change during the show's run from 1970 to 1977. She played an important role in the feminist movement without the show's producers really even meaning for her too, saying that the show was meant to be character-driven and not based around politics. "Mary Tyler Moore was not the first working woman sitcom. Yet, it is generally acknowledged as the first to assert that work was not just a prelude to marriage, or a substitute for it, but could form the center of a satisfying life for a woman in the way that it presumably did for men"(Dow, 24). Mary Richards was a character built upon previous characters like Ann Marie, but unlike her she was not made to look as if something was missing in her lack of a relationship. Mary dated various men during the show's time and even spent the night with a few, something that was unfamiliar to television as well at the time, but if one thing remained during the show's ever-changing storyline, it was that Mary would never let go of herself and in that she would never need a man to take care of her. The show did well at emphasizing the power of a female without emmasculating the male gender. It was never it's object of reason to put down men or to devalue to sanctity of marriage but to enforce the idea that women could be happy and successful whether or not they found love. The lesson was that settling was not something any woman should be okay with, and it "emphasized the joys of friendship, rather than marriage"(Berkowitz, 209).

The impact that The Mary Tyler Moore Show had on the feminist movement is unexplainable, and paved the way for many other single-woman based shows like Murphy Brown.


 This video shows the opening sequence to The Mary Tyler Moore Show when it first aired. In just a song and some video clips, this mantage relays the message of the show, which stated that a single woman could "make it" on her own. Specifically, it shows the moment that Bloom and Vlastnik mentioned, in which Mary throws her cap into the air. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-zpGtVtqQk



On to Facing the Issues


Back to The Female Gender in Television



Works Cited


Berkowitz, Edward D. Something Happened: A Political and Cultural Overview of the 70's. New York: Columbia University Press. 2006.


Bloom, Ken and Frank Vlastnik. Sitcoms: The 101 Greatest TV Comedies of All Time. New York. Black Dog and Levenihal Publishers. 2007


Dow, Bonnie J. Prime Time Feminism: Television, Media Culture, and the Women's Movement Since 1970 (Feminist Culture Studies, the Media, and Political Culture). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1996.


That Girl on the Web. 1996-2006. http://www.thatgirltv.com/show.html


Further Reading


Desjardin, Mary. "Gender and Television". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/G/htmlG/genderandte/genderandte.html


Hammill, Geoff. "The Mary Tyler Moore Show: U.S. Situation Comedy". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. 2005. http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/M/htmlM/marytylermo/marytylermo.htm

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