Mary Flowers Boyce on Role Models on the Small Screen

When I heard that Mary Tyler Moore died it hit me hard. Like so many women who grew up watching her, including Sybil Wilkes, journalist Andrea Mitchell and Robin Roberts, she opened up our minds to the possibility of becoming journalists. But more than that, her ground-breaking show made little girls of all races look at single, career women a different way.

Whether you watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show during its first run in the 70s or in reruns that still come on today, it doesn’t really matter. Many of the workplace issues are still relevant. Women are still trying to get equal pay for equal work, still trying to find their voices in male-dominated careers, and seeking the balance between assertiveness and bitchiness when they’re in authoritative positions.

Women who have grown up to be bosses themselves credit Moore, the co-founder of MTM Studios, and Mary Richards, the character she played as their inspiration. Oprah Winfrey says Mary Richards was her mentor even though she was on TV and lived a life that couldn’t have been more different from hers. Later Moore the mogul taught Oprah that she could own her own TV studios and network and produce multiple hit shows.

I blogged a couple of years ago about how TV’s female role models/mentors from back in the day compare with today’s shows like Being Mary Jane and New Girl. Of course, it had a lot to do with the times and what was and was not acceptable to show on television back then, but Mary Richards’ high moral standards influenced girls of that era’s ideas on dating and sex.

So what about now? Being Mary Jane features a single woman (Gabrielle Union) who juggles career issues and sex partners weekly. My only hope regarding my then 17-year-old daughter watching Being Mary Jane was that she did recognize that Mary Jane was doing too much. In her words, “How can Mary Jane be so smart and make so many mistakes?” The real answer is to that is “Keep living.”

As I was putting down my thoughts about Moore’s death, I got the news that the star of the detective series Mannix, Mike Connors, died the same week.

As important as Mary Richards was to shaping my future career ideas about women on the job, Gail Fisher, who played Mannix’s African- American secretary, Peggy Fair, was right up there too.

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Source: Black America Web | Mary Flowers Boyce