I was too young to watch the original airing of The Mary Tyler Moore Show but I certainly enjoyed watching it in syndication during the 80s. It was one of my favorite shows and I wanted to have the same exact life that Mary Tyler Moore did. She was independent, stylish and smart with the perfect job. I actually based my early career goals on journalism and chose it as my major during my round of college. It is one of those shows that had an impact on me personally and it is a great representation of the second wave of feminism and a new era for women during that time.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show aired from September 19, 1970 to March 19, 1977 on CBS and was the first television series that portrayed an independent career woman as the lead character. Her character’s name was Mary Richards and she was a young woman in her thirties who was starting over after a break-up. She lived with her boyfriend previously whom she helped through medical school until he received his degree and then left her. She moved to Minneapolis where she wanted to start a new life and make it on her own which is where the show successfully portrays a strong person determined to succeed.
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Mary “finds a job as Associate Producer of the evening news and, as a result, finds herself in a position of some power. The following seven years followed Mary Richards through various aspects of being a woman at work at a time America was experiencing significant social change regarding women’s roles (Jule, 2010). Previously, shows did not portray successful woman like Mary Richards even though it aired during the second wave of feminism. (Museum TV, n. d.)
This show created a “symbol of an emerging feminist consciousness, one who maintains a connection in traditional femininity as well as searches for new, more self-reliant ways to be in the business world” (Jule, 2010). Mary Richards created a new awareness of the possibilities and potential women could have in their own lives. Even though feminism was in its second wave and was a powerful movement, not all of America was ready for a complete change to equality.
The show depicted some of the older, traditional type behaviors such as Mary referring to her boss as Mr. Grant, getting him coffee, his paper, etc. It signifies that the show was about liberation but not complete equality which still holds true today in many cases; however, not in my case. I would feel completely awkward if I referred to my boss as “Mr. Bridges” and he would probably laugh back. But during the time of this show, it was still a common practice and courtesy and as mentioned previously, a solid indicator that equality was not completely on the table.
But Mary was an independent, liberated woman of her times and “though Mary Richards was not a paragon of feminism, the show is an important artifact of the time period in which some of the ideas of feminism were becoming truly mainstream. Its mere presence on air signaled an important shift in acceptable roles for women” (Horowitz, n. d. ). It now serves as a peek back in time when woman’s roles in both family and the workplace really started to change. Woman could live independent lives and be on equal playing grounds with men and attain similar if not the same level of success.
Maybe because this show was viewed by so many people, both men and women, it created a new understanding of the movement and actually moved it forward.
References Jule, A. (2010). Using The Mary Tyler Moore Show as a feminist teaching tool. Gender & Education, 22(1), 123-130. doi:10. 1080/09540250902769446 Museum TV. (n. d. ). The mary tyler moore show. Retrieved from http://www. museum. tv/eotvsection. php? entrycode=marytylermo Horowitz, R. (n. d. ). Mary, roseanne, and carrie: Television and fictional feminism. Retrieved from http://www. umich. edu/~historyj/pages_folder/articles/Mary_Roseanne_and_Carrie. pdf.