In the 1960s, we had “That Girl’s” Marlo Thomas playing Ann Marie, a struggling, single actress in New York City. She was light, airy, optimistic and not exactly grounded. She didn’t fight with others and definitely lived up to the name “girl.” She was the ‘60s good girl – not protesting against the war, not burning her bra, but skirting around some of the issues anyway and asserting some independent identity nonetheless. She always had a boyfriend (Donald Hollinger), though, so in the ‘60s the single woman was still validated by the presence of a man.
The ‘70s gave us Mary Richards from “ The Mary Tyler Moore Show” finding herself as a single associate producer at a small tv station in Minneapolis. She was grounded, sweet, pleasant, accommodating but with spine when necessary. Everyone liked Mary, which was a good definition for a female at that time. She occasionally had suitors, she was independent financially and emotionally, and she seemed to have more friends than lovers.
The 1980s-90s produced cantankerous, single reporter Murphy Brown. Arguably, she was a more powerful career woman than her predecessors, but with more demons, including recovery from alcoholism. Would we have heard of Ann Marie or Mary Richards concluding a stint at a recovery center like the Betty Ford Clinic? Would they have been allowed to become a single mother as Brown was to the chagrin of “family advocates” like Dan Quayle?
Brown was inherently a more flawed woman in character, not just by virtue of substance abuse, but because of her very bold personality – the longest running joke on the show was that she was so difficult to work for that she could not keep an assistant. We were allowed to see that the dark side of the female does not take away from the feminine. Brown did not have to be “liked” to be successful. Her flaws did not detract from her career success, and that was a positive step toward equality of the sexes.
And now, we have “30 Rock’s” Liz Lemon.
Liz Lemon is the head writer for her fictional show set in the historic 30 Rockefeller Center. She’s not totally respected by her staff, and yet she maintains her authority. She caters to the stars of her fictional show when necessary, but withholds when deemed appropriate. She’s an emotional mess both at work and in her very sporadic personal life, although she still remains successful in her own right.
She makes friends with her boss and placates him when compelled to do so – he’s still her boss – yet their relationship often seems more as equals where they share personal information and go to odd spots together off work. She even calls her boss by his first name, Jack. Remember the tough time Mary Richards had calling Mr. Grant by his first name, Lou?
Lemon has occasional lovers/boyfriends that weave in and out of her life and the story line, but there is always something a little off or strange about the relationships. She is definitely single.
And she is the anti-thesis of normal. Lemon is pleasant enough and at the same time grating. She stress eats. She loves Star Wars. She’s a total geek and a social misfit, and is not afraid to say it. Her flaws are more bizarre, freakish and idiosyncratic than were Brown’s defects.
Spunky. Tenacious. Quirky. Anti-hero. Progress.
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