There is something unaccountably sad about the death today of Mary Tyler Moore.
For anyone old enough to remember the role of the “modern woman” in 1970, Ms. Moore’s portrayal of Mary Richards on the Mary Tyler Moore Show was a watershed moment. Neither militant nor strident, she was determined to make something of herself in a man’s world and to do so on her own terms. Such ambition and determination don’t surprise us in 2017—our mothers, wives, and daughters have accomplished that and more. But 47 years ago—following a decade of political assassinations, blazing draft cards, and radical movements on many fronts, Mary Richards gave us a glimpse of a future free of the male chauvinism that had sullied men and suppressed women for generations. There was an egalitarian spirit in the TV production office where she worked. Yes, she had to earn the respect of some men who were not even her equal, but they had to earn her respect too…and she did not bestow it on fools.
There is something unaccountably sad—even symbolic—about the death today of Mary Tyler Moore, for as Americans we seem to have reverted these past few months, drifted back blithely to a time when women were objectified, marginalized, and tolerated. We need Mary Tyler Moore and the characters she created to help us remember what a struggle women’s lib really was. I don’t mean to overplay this: the Mary Tyler Moore Show was not Birmingham or the University of Mississippi; it was not Dallas or My Lai or Tranquility Base. But it was a moment in our culture worthy of note—one which it behooves us to remember.
Sometimes the laughter itself was enough
Mary Tyler Moore was an activist who will be remembered for the causes she struggled for and the demons she struggled against.
But Mary Richards would have been carrying signs in Minneapolis last Saturday. And if at the end of the march she were to toss her new pink hat into the air, we’d have all run to catch it.