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Mary Tyler Moore Changed Female Stereotypes

By Zack Jellison
On May 10, 2017

Most college students today might have never heard of the actress Mary Tyler Moore. Moore died at the age of 80 from pneumonia and her death was announced on Jan. 25.

Moore was in the entertainment business for decades as a television and film star. However, most people know Moore from the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” in which she played the protagonist, Mary Richards, a young single woman who worked at a TV station in Minneapolis.

Most, if not all women, played the roles of housewives. It was Richards who made it OK for women to have a career, not be married, and be funny in their own right. It was the shows premise that made Moore an American icon and helped bring second-wave feminism to millions of women across America in the 1970s.

Women on television had a narrow role in the early years of television. Most, if not all women, played the roles of housewives. If they were not housewives, a woman would play a minor and stock role in the background. That all changed with the premiere of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in 1970. With Moore’s recent death, her show was discussed by critics and fans of the show. All of them can agree that “Mary Tyler Moore” changed how women were depicted on television. Mary Richards was a woman who worked in the news industry, an industry that was at the time predominantly male. Richards broke the role for women on television; the traditional role of housewife became of a bygone era. It was Richards who made it OK for women to have a career, not be married, and be funny in their own right. This was best displayed in the episode “Chuckles Bites The Dust,” which TV Guide declared as one of the best episodes of all time. The episode dealt with the death of Chuckles, a beloved clown who was admired by children in the city. It was Moore’s character who in this episode fought to control her laughter at Chuckles’ funeral. It is best to watch it because writing about it does not show the full comedic talent that Moore displayed during the shows 7 year run. After the shows cancellation in 1977, Moore spent her life promoting diabetic awareness, as she faced diabetes since she was 33 years old, according to Closer Magazine.

The impact that Moore’s show has had on women cannot be calculated precisely. Many women do credit the show for making an impact in their lives. In the decades since “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” more women have had careers in fields that were and still are predominately male. Singlehood has also become more commonplace today than it was decades ago. Mary Tyler Moore became a feminist icon, despite interviews stating that she rejected feminism that is associated with Gloria Steinem. Moore did not march to promote feminism, but she had the medium of television to be seen by millions each week to promote her quiet, compact feminism. With this, I can take away from Moore’s legacy that it is the quiet ones you have to look out for.

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