I adore old television.
Circumstantial humor. Fabulous retro fashion. Wholesome jokes. Reminiscent of a simpler time.
What’s not to love?
Hulu recently added to their library a variety of such shows: The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and a personal favorite of mine, I Love Lucy.
I can spend hours going back in time, zoned out on nostalgia from the comfort of my own couch.
Which got me thinking...why do we cling to nostalgia?
Is it an escape from the tumultuous political and economic environment? Is it a subconscious dissatisfaction with the fast paced, more is better, world we live in? Or are we simply fed up with reality television and the glorification of the rich and famous, who lack any talent or skill other than being rich and famous (sorry Kylie Jenner)?
Is this why we find enjoyment in television of the past?
On a recent rainy day, I stumbled upon an episode of “I Love Lucy." And I was instantly inspired.
“The Quiz Show” (Season 1 Episode 5) is one I highly recommend you watch after reading.
Let me set the stage for you:
Today is the day Ricky goes over the household accounts and in typical Lucy fashion, she is stressed and frazzled in anticipation of what he might think or do. Lucy makes us laugh with her unconventional method of prioritizing bills, throwing them up into the air and paying the ones that land face up.
Ricky has graciously given her the responsibility of paying the household bills, a common responsibility for many women of the time. But alas, Lucy has failed. This “silly” woman can’t handle the most simple of financial responsibilities and he has to cut her off in order to teach her a lesson. This leaves her with no money and in search for a solution to pay off six months of bills. Poor Lucy. Many tears are shed.
Sweet, neighborly Ethel comes in afterwards with tickets to this game show called “Females Are Fabulous” in hopes of cheering Lucy up. Thanks to her comical desperation, Lucy becomes a contestant on the show, and the prize is $1,000. The game show host points out that their program is “based on the theory that any woman is willing to make an idiot out of herself in order to win a prize.” Women humiliating themselves in order to make a buck. Hilarious. Not.
The episode continues with Lucy allowing them to degrade her on stage and then participating in some entertaining antics at home, all to win that $1,000. As with all “I Love Lucy” episodes, the ending is happy with Lucy winning the prize but much to her dismay, Ricky takes that money from her to handle the bills. Oh, Ricky.
As much as I really do love Lucy, this twenty-minute episode left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Lucy is portrayed as just a "silly woman" who can’t handle the simplest of tasks, i.e. paying the electric bill. Let’s laugh at women and their small brains. HAHAHA. But, like, are you for real?!
Ricky 100% has the upper hand in their relationship. He makes the money. He makes the decisions. He holds money over her head. She is 100% at his mercy. Incredibly sad and unfortunately, still true for many women today.
Lucy seems most upset about her charge accounts being cut off. This feeds directly into a stereotype that still exists today: women are vain, materialistic and frivolous beings that spend all of "his" money on clothes and shoes. ABSOLUTE GARBAGE.
That game show. It’s called “Females Are Fabulous” and it is based solely on women doing idiotic things for money. Demeaning AND misogynistic.
Yes, it was the 1950s.
Yes, it was a different time.
Yes, it’s just a television show.
But it still makes me angry. It makes me sad + and it makes me think.
It makes me think of my mother, her mother, and all the women before them. The women who walked the path before us to give us the world we have today.
A world that is not perfect but has improved for women since Lucy’s era.
Classic television may paint a picture of a simpler, happier time but the truth is that for anyone other than “Ricky”, it really wasn’t.
But, look how far we’ve come.
Today you have the choice. You can choose to get an education.
You can choose to pursue an incredible fulfilling career.
You can choose to be a wife. Or not. A mother. Or not. An independent wanderlust. You and your partner can choose to be a team. Not a monarchy. You can have it all.
Is it hard? Yes.
Is it impossible? No.
So, say, not today Ricky.
I am woman.
I am powerful.
I contribute to my household.
I make smart financial decisions.
I am in control of my own destiny.
And don’t forget it’s okay to ask for help. That’s what we’re here for!