Saturday, April 25, 2009

RIP: Bea Arthur

A legend has died -- Bea Arthur. Watching television sit-coms was one of the best things about growing up in the 70s. Bea entertained us with Maude and again with Dorothy on the Golden Girls. She was 86. The New York Times has an amazing obit.


Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

I had no idea she'd volunteered for the Marines.

Not surprised, but wow.

She will be missed.

Nell said...

The character of Maude was the quintessential feminist role model of the 70's. Talk about your consciousness raising!

What passes for feminism today (third wavers flaunting their bodies in the name of sexual freedom) would have both Maude and Bea Arthur spinning in their graves.

I wonder if Miss California (of the Miss USA pageant) considers herself a feminist.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Foxfier - I don't know why I remembered that trivia about her.

Nell - she definitely went many places as Maude and Dorothy. They don't make sitcoms like those anymore.

VerbalKint said...

A sad day indeed. I actually had no idea that she passed. I'm a bit younger so I only remember her as "Dorothy." I could not imagine any other actress playing that role. She was a talented woman. I'll refer to the obituary.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

VerbalKint -- Hello. Yes, she really owned the character. Think of "Maude" as a younger, even feistier version of Dorothy. Honestly, I was too young to understand a lot of the things that happened on Maude, but I do remember the "abortion" episode. I was one of those "mom, what's an abortion" moments.

Nell said...

I was never much of a "Golden Girls" fan. While Dorothy's character was strong, I was often offended by the stereotypical dumb blond played by Betty White and the oversexed man-chasing older woman played by Rue McClanahan. Estelle Getty as Dorothy's mother was a hoot, though.

"Maude" was a far better show, IMHO. It was ground-breaking for its time. The 70's produced some great sitcoms. Was anyone else as influenced as I was by Mary Richards, the single career woman of the Mary Tyler Moore show? As a young lawyer just starting out, I even had a mentor not unlike Mr. Grant. In retrospect, he was a tad patronizing, but, boy, he taught me things I never learned in law school.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Darren. Everybody sing now, "Lady Godiva was a freedom rider..." :)

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Nell - I always viewed Blanche as an empowered character. Was she oversexed? Doesn't that depend on the meaning of a "normal" sex drive an "older" "woman." I would argue that viewing a seductive older woman as oversexed probably buys into more stereotypes too. Having said that, I understand your point, I just never thought of her as a stereotype.

Betty White was definitely a caricature of the dumb blonde. But everyone loved Rose! She added a warmth that some of the others were to afraid to exhibit, except in rare moments.

I cannot say that 70s characters were role models for my adult life, because I was really young. But I loved The Jeffersons, Alice, Good Times, and the Carol Burnett Show.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Of course the characters were stereotypes.

But they took those archetypes and made them into believable, layered characters.

The more folks I meet, the more I realize that stereotypes exist because they're an outstanding shorthand.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Foxfier - they were definitely layered. I could recount so many ways in which Blanche defied the stereotype, by showing emotion or when Rose the "silly" one made the most sense. Someone had to make Dorothy the stoic one attend her daughter's wedding - despite the presence of Stan. I believe it was Blanche who toughened up and told her how important and necessary it was. All around, just one of the best comedies EVER.

Nell said...

Darren--Blanche empowered?? At the risk of branding myself as a prude, I have never found promiscuity (in men or women, young or old) empowering.

Perhaps I did not watch the show often enough to see the nuanced layering of the characters (although I do remember ditzy Rose was sometimes endearing, even wise). Blanche was simply never likable to me. In every episode I ever saw, she was emerging from her bedroom with some new man and obsessing about her fading beauty (how is that empowering?), her dialog laced with crass sexual innuendo, while her own roommates often "slut-shamed" her - not exactly a strong role model for women or girls of any age.

Given the era in which the show was popular, did they ever convey a message of safe sex practices? It was never Blanche's morality that I cared about; it was her irresponsible behavior. As I always taught my daughter, indiscriminately sleeping with multiple partners is like drinking from the toilet bowl. Unhealthy and stupid!

As I read this over, I wouldn't blame you for thinking I'm an up-tight old biddy. Having come of age at the height of the sexual revolution, I can assure you nothing could be further from the truth, but I guess you'll just have to take my word for that. :)

I still say "Maude" was the far better show and it had a WAAAAY better theme song, all IMHO, of course.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

It made her miserable, and she kept chasing anyways. (Hm, some morality there?)
That's what I got from Blanche.

Rose was a ditz, but she was usually happy, and she cared a lot.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Nell - I was feeling a little anti-sex undertone to your analysis. Blanche was a single older woman sleeping with older men. They never really got too heavy into the details, although I think I remember some type of HIV/AIDS awareness episode. The AIDS scare, though, was primarily thought by all to be a "gay" disease here in the states in the mid-80s.

Anyway, here's a stereotype: a old lady playing bridge and living with several cats, not having had sex for a decade since the one man she slept with her entire life died....and all she wants to do is knit and take care of everyone's kids in the neighborhood.

Here's empowerment: A single, widowed woman living with her "catty" best friends, rather than a slew of cats, not trying to remember the last time she had sex a decade ago, but still enjoying her body....being sassy enough to have fun, and expressing vulnerability too. . ..

We are all complex. The "saintly" older woman seems a bit off; maybe she misses the "physical" side of life. One-track sex is also off, but I agree: YOU DIDN'T WATCH THE SHOW ENOUGH. It is clear that you were turned off quite early and never gave it a chance. I am not criticizing this. I have done this with shows myself. I absolutely hated Will and Grace; I gave it a chance years later and just slightly hated it. I absolutely hated the Nanny the first time around, but I loved it years later in syndication.

Nell said...

Point taken, Darren. I didn't watch the show enough. Perhaps I can be forgiven as, at the time, I was too busy establishing myself as a rainmaker and racking up billable hours trying to become the first woman partner in my white-shoe law firm--a goal I eventually achieved although I subsequently wondered why the heck I ever wanted it in the first place.

But I digress... My assessment of Blanche is that of a woman whose sole raison d'etre was to be attractive to men. Without her beauty and her perceived sexual power over men, she was worthless. The very antithesis of empowerment. Foxfier has it exactly right--Blanche was a very unhappy character (although I doubt the show's creators ever intended to convey that nuanced message).

And Darren, if you think my analysis is anti-sex, then I've done a very poor job of expressing my point of view. What I am arguing against is the idea that female empowerment derives from the exploitation of one's sexuality. Such is the message one gets from faux-feminists like Camille Paglia. The physical enjoyment of sex is a wondrous gift, but given the complexity of human behavior of which you speak, I also believe there is no such thing as casual sex.

Noemí said...

I want to cry but yet LOL every time I watch GG now. :) :(

brad canelo said...

I LOOKED at these women as motherly figures ALL the time.....thank U ALL for a wonderful performance...U guys were gifted like the angels of GOD and sent to us by him to keep us entertained so that we NOT perish but, have a certain HOPE towards life & assured future....once again, thank U ladies.....From: Brad Sanibel Canelo.......

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