Yesterday, I mentioned, at length, that I grew up on TV. Not that I didn’t have input from other sources, but the boob tube sure had a strong influence on my life.
These days, there sure is a lot of talk about strong female leads in movies and television. Not only that, but they are clamoring for them in comics and their movies also. Much like the issue of race and old school comics, this issue gets my attention and has me puzzled. If you listen the this generation, you would think that they came up with the ideas! But, if we’re honest with ourselves, the strong female role models have always been with us in some capacity.
During my childhood, I ended up, for good or ill, watching the same shows that my parents watched. If there was a conflict, Mom and Dad won the debate. Sometimes, that meant sitting through a boring show that you had no interest in or stomping off (quietly) to your room to find something to play with. There was hardly an occasion for the kids tv and the parents tv. Not like today where everyone had their own entertainment device!
BUT, at times, the favorites of your parents became your favorite.
Now, what does this have to do with strong female leads? Well, many times I watched the shows my mother watched religiously. And, usually, within those shows were strong women who showed a rebellous spunk that my Mom admired. These women where usually the iconoclastic type IE. they didn’t fit the mold. They defied the thought of the time and usually stepped outside of the parameters they had been given by society. They mocked the status quo and talked back to the men in their lives. Going back to Alice Kramden, women had already begun to stand up for themselves giving the ladies of the time role models to look up to.
For my mother, there was Lucille Ball, Ms. Kitty on Gunsmoke and myriad of other ‘strong female leads’ that stole scenes and demanded to be heard wherever they went and whatever scene they appeared in.
Lucille Ball was one of the early favorites I remember my mother talking about. I think it had less to do with her character on screen as the haphazard Lucy Ricardo or as the divorced independent mother of two on her later shows and had much more to do with what she was in that emerging era. You see, she wasn’t only an actress. She was a comedian, model, film studio executive and producer. Desilu productions held strong clout back in the day and she was no silent partner. Yes, my mother admired her for not only her ability to make us laugh, but her place as a strong female lead in life.
Watching gunsmoke religiously week after week as we did, there was no way possible to miss the staunchly individual power that the salon owner (yes, I said OWNER), Miss Kitty brought to every episode. She always had an ironicly sarcastic thing to say and yet she did it was an elegant charm and a lady-like demeanor. You never thought ill of her even though she challenged the man dominated old west every chance she got. She stood up for herself. Kitty was no weak, doormat of a character. NO, she was the epitome of the strong female lead and today’s writers and actress’ could learn a thing or two from her character.
(Pictured above is the ad for the Police Woman action figure)
Oh, it didn’t end there. Although my mother gravitated to sassy, independent redheads (much like herself), I grew up on a virtual textbook of characters feeling their way through the dark ages of sexual equality. And characters like Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Samantha Stevens and on up to the seventies and emerging dramatic leads like Angie Dickenson aka Police Woman all had their part to play in my education and upbringing.
But all of that means nothing compared to monumental influence my mother had on my life. She taught me how to treat everyone equal while race riots were raging on tv. She trained me to keep house and cook when men scoffed at such as ‘women’s work’. She greatly influenced my upbringing in such a way that without her, I would not be the man I am today.
No. While I listen to young minds banter about strong female leads in their favorite comics or in the movies they watch, I know the truth. That, as a child, I witnessed the STRONG FEMALE LEAD first hand. And I thank God everyday for her part in making me the MAN I am today and will continue to be apart of molding me to the finished product. Happy Mothers day to all the strong female leads in your life. Don’t forget to thank them and show them you love them.
and… Happy Mother’s Day, Mom…I do love you.