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Mary Tyler Moore Show & Feminism

Autor:   •  March 12, 2018  •  1,982 Words (8 Pages)  •  34 Views

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In The Good-Time News, for example, Ted Baxter earnestly hypothesizes on whether or not the Pope is, in fact Catholic and obsesses over his outfit for a major meeting (Mary, on the contrary, cares little if her clothing choices are anything extraordinary for this meeting.) Between the men and women of the show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show had more character-driven humor than the average situational comedy of the time. Women were not flat, one-dimensional figures objectified as the only source of humor. Their lack of freedom and dignity was not something to be laughed at. Even more so, all of the characters truly relied on Mary for more than her ability to cook or clean, a concept entirely unrecognized by other television program at the time. The plot revolved around her, as did the dynamics of the office. Mary’s “enthusiasm supplied a generous assist for the others’ eccentricities” (Heffernan).

The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s writing crew was also uniquely revolutionary. In 1973, 25 out of 75 writers were female, which was entirely unprecedented (Reese). Treva Silverman was the paradigm of this. She navigated up the ranks of the show from freelance writer to the first female with an executive title on a network sitcom. As the only female writer for the show without a male partner, her real life experience molded the characters on the show with relatable accuracy. Through piercingly accurate irony, Mary highlights this in The Good-Time News when she points out that the station manager forces her to “represent women everywhere… trotting in groups of people saying ‘This is our woman executive!’” Hollywood and America at large existed the oppressive stereotype that women were not funny, and Silverman fully proved them wrong. Silverman eventually won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and Writer of the Year in 1974.

Moore and Tinker made the executive decision to end their show in 1977 while it was still performing well instead of risking a drop in ratings (and, ultimately, cancellation.) As a result, the finale revolutionarily (and atypically) featured Moore introducing each of her cast mates to the audience for the final curtain call. She was permanently etched in history as the first female central figure of a popular television show.

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Mary Tyler Moore was born in the last days of 1936 to Margery Hackett and George Tyler Moore in Brooklyn Heights, New York. At eight years old, a young Moore, her parents and her two younger siblings moved out west to California. Her parents were both alcoholics, and soon after their move, Moore moved out of her family’s home and into her aunt’s, only seeing her parents on special occasions (Heffernan). She married her first husband Richard Meeker and married him in 1955; she had his child the same year. They were divorced by 1961.

It was not just the young Moore who was famously acquainted with suffering. Her son died in a freak accident with a gun. Mary struggled herself with alcoholism and also with Type I Diabetes. She outlived both of her siblings, tragically, as the oldest child in her family. In 1997, Moore’s sister Elizabeth died of drug and alcohol overdose and in 1992 her brother died of cancer, after Moore had assisted him in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. In 2011, she underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor from her brain. (Heffernan) Her less-than-perfect life was a testament to the complexity, the resolve, the strength and the resilience that characterized both Mary Richards and Moore so iconically to American women.

In 2012, Moore received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild. Moore died January 25th, 2017 at Greenwich Hospital of cardiopulmonary arrest after she contracted pneumonia. Her death instigated mass acknowledgments of her eternal significance to women in television and in America. Mary Tyler Moore won four of her seven Emmy Awards as Mary Richards. It is clear that The Mary Tyler Moore Show rests fairly and firmly at the beginning of the canon of modern American womanhood. And though extremely early in the creation of the road to female empowerment, it was The Mary Tyler Moore Show that broke the ground and forged the path.

“It is true that the female characters on The Mary Tyler Moore Show were not represented as equals to men. They were in lesser positions than men at work, some held onto the traditional homemaker role, and they fretted over their weight and appearance. But for the first time ever, these women were real. They had hopes, dreams, and ambitions—just like the women who created them” (Reese).


Works Cited

Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin. Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted and all the brilliant minds who made the Mary Tyler Moore show a classic. New York, Simon & Schuster, 2013.

Brooks, James L., and Allan Burns. "The Good-Time News." The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Dir. Hal Cooper. CBS. 16 Sept. 1972. Television.

Dow, Bonnie. Primetime Television, Media Culture and the Women's Movement Since 1970. N.p.: n.p., 1996. Print.

Heffernan, Virginia. "Mary Tyler Moore, Who Incarnated the Modern Woman on TV, Dies at 80." The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Jan. 2017. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.

Kovalchik, Kara. "15 Awfully Big Facts About 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'" Mental Floss. Mental Floss, Inc., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.

Lindsay, Robin, and Virginia Heffernan. “How Mary Tyler Moore Changed Television.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Jan. 2017,®ion=caption&pgtype=article.

Reese, Hope. "The Real Feminist Impact of The Mary Tyler Moore Show Was Behind the Scenes." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 16 May 2013. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.


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