Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Lasting Influence of Rhoda Morgenstern

I just saw that the house featured in the Mary Tyler Moore show is up for sale.  And I've been thinking about how much I was influenced by the character of Rhoda.  I used to wait for the few minutes she'd be on screen each episode.  I'm sure I'm not alone.

I'm often accused of being a hippie for my long skirts as much as my left-wing comments.  But really Rhoda is the only person (real or made-up) that I've ever really been aware of that might have use that label - and not on Hallowe'en.

It's not just the cool clothes and funky apartment (with beads in the doorways!) that did it; it was her ability to so easily refuse to get with the status quo.  Mary and Phyllis were stressed out all the time about doing things right and not being embarrassed.  Rhoda was beyond humiliation.  She tolerated direct insults with eye rolls or sometimes a caustic aside.

She was funny and kind and kind of a spaz.  She made mistakes but just laughed about them.  She was creative and ran her own window dressing business.  Then later she married a divorced guy.  Shocking!  She didn't care what people said about that either.  And then even later, she got to play mom to Justin Bateman!

I'd argue that she, more than Mary, was a pinnacle feature on the road to feminism for many women my age.  Mary got a good job in a male field, but she never seemed particularly comfortable in her own skin.  Rhoda seemed more authentic and far less frazzled.  That seems the better path.   

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