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Jewish World Review Feb. 29, 2000/ 23 Adar I, 5760

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports



Ditzes in TV Land -- WATCHING A WOMAN marry for money, as the very blond Darva Conger did, on the prestigious Fox Network was a bit of a twist. For us sinners/believers, judgment day will be bad enough without instant replay. Gold diggers have always been with us, but have shown great restraint in taking their shallow motivations to their graves, divorce court, or death row (whichever came first). Fox Network's Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? damned that pretense.

Marriage without love for money was the latest installment from Fox, that hot bed, as it were, of strategic management by Ferris Bueller dudes who brought Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction? to American living rooms. It drew a 14% share.

Still the Nasdaq crowd running that store is not to blame. Fault rests with the air heads who agreed to parade around in swimsuits for a guy who turned out to have a tract home, a record and a mother who bad-mouthed her own son to the national press even as he tried his luck on the honeymoon. There's a ditz born every minute. Next time one of those phony studies alleging female salary disparity is trotted about, I shall hoist a picture of Darva, wife of Fox's pseudo millionaire, with this caption, "That would be largely because women are idiots."

It has not been a good fortnight for women and their men. Tom Arnold is looking for a wife who is "comfortable wearing a swim suit in public" and his Web site with wifely specs had 500,000 hits. Jennifer Lopez was caught gun-running with Puff Daddy and then showed up at the Grammy awards in a scarf dress lacking middle, back and sides. The so-called black widow was executed in Texas, protesting to the last as only a ditz could, "Look, just because you found two former husbands' bodies in my backyard does not make me a killer." Funeral homes?

Where's some good feminist rhetoric when you need it? Are these stories of women and their desperation about men not indicative of movement in the wrong direction? Al Capone's women were at least fully clothed. Mail-order brides didn't strut the Long Branch saloon in a two-piece to nab husbands. A couple of letters, a stage coach trip and the little log cabin and its 40-acre squatter were yours. Today, Ms. Conger, self-confessed career gal, says, in hindsight, she had a "lapse in judgment." Succumbing to cheesecake for dessert is a lapse in judgment. Selling matrimony on prime time is ditzy.

Women are victims innocent huddled masses yearning to be free of male troglodyte tycoons. Truth be told, women have turned into ditzes willing to do anything for a man because sexual freedom, they have discovered to their chagrin, gave men what they always wanted -- all the pleasure, all the time and no commitment. Men run wild, free and happy as women claw about looking for love in all the wrong men and places. Who Wants to Marry was not a wake-up call for Fox's reality programming, it was a wake-up call for women.

Complain like a victim, behave like a victim and you are a victim. Can't get a man? Marry a guy who looks like Hair Club for Men/Corvette material on TV. You'll be the victim of poor network background work.

Women are victims of their own weakness that has evolved. Television was once a veritable repository of strong women. Fictional characters reflect the era through the prism of writers' and creators' experiences.

Comedian Mike Myers, when asked if one of his characters was similar to his mother-in-law, responded that the character "pretty much is my mother-in-law."

The female characters of 1950's and 1960's TV reflect a culture beholden to women, respectful, and not unusually, afraid of them. Marshal Dillon and Doc both consulted Miss Kitty on perplexing matters of town and patient management. June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley) bantered with Ward just like a golf buddy when it came to Beaver's and Wally's antics. Ruth Martin (June Lockhart) had a cool head for emergencies and cash flow on the farm while Timmy looked for Lassie and Paul went to town. Laura Petrie had a partnership with Rob, not just a marriage. Even Aunt Bee directed Sheriff Andy around by the ear. Compare these female characters to the neurotic Ally McBeal or Seinfeld's sophomoric Elaine.

Today's wimpy females should study Alice Kramden. Alice, played by Audrey Meadows in The Honeymooners, was married to hot-tempered New York bus driver, Ralph Kramden, aka Jackie Gleason. Alice stayed at home in their tiny apartment with sparse furnishings and an ice box small even for a dorm room. Today she would be the victim of an insensitive sexist who ran his household like a tyrant. But Alice was a woman with wit and confidence.

Despite dependence on a marginal breadwinner, she knew no fear even when Ralph threatened her with "pow, right in the kisser" and "to the moon, Alice" as he made a fist (Ralph would do 1-2 for spousal abuse these days). Alice conquered with peeved looks issued while wearing a flowered apron. When Ralph blustered, she'd floor him and the audience with one line.

Funny that such strong women emerged on television in an era when Betty Friedan says victimhood began. Funny that in our progressive era, desperate women sell it all on prime time. Alice could give it to Darva and her ilk, "Show a little backbone, not a little leg." And Ralph would stand by as she roped in these whiney ditzes with his highest praise, "Baby, you're the greatest!" That, for all you out there in television land, was romance, straight from a bus driver, not a millionaire.

And all for a woman who was, above all, not a ditz.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


02/22/00: Cranky nitpickers make writing a [sic] experience
02/15/00: Those chameleon 60s activists
02/08/00: McCandidate McCain: Flirting with principles
02/01/00: The demise of marriage
01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
01/18/00: Off the Rocker Rorschach Test
01/11/00: Oprah's lemmings
01/04/00: Struggling mightily amidst the comfort
12/23/99: Confused fathers
12/14/99: Drop-kicking the homeless
12/07/99: Turtles and teamsters, side-by-side in Seattle
11/29/99: When conservatives behave badly
11/22/99: Compassionate conservative: Timing and targets
11/18/99: The elusive human spirit and accountability
11/11/99: Succumbing to the intellectual child within with the help of crackpots and screwballs
10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
10/14/99: Inequality and injustice: It's the big one
10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
09/30/99: The monsters of epidermal parenting
09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings