A blog about children's books can also be about what stories mean to us, especially if that meaning starts when we're young. So here's what The Mary Tyler Moore Show meant to me when I was in middle school and began watching it on Nick at Nite, or maybe it was TVLand:
It was a very funny show with great characters.
I probably should've been more focused on the fact that it was a show about a career woman. I would've applauded it for that, if I'd thought about it. But I don't remember thinking about it back then, at least not much. Mary was a grownup. She went to a job and did other grownup things.
You know why Mary's career didn't seem like a big deal to this '90s kid? Because career women were fairly normalized by the '90s. You know how they got normalized? By shows like TMTMS. (Among other things, obviously. But as we know, representation matters.)
I've been re-watching a few episodes this evening, and of course, by now it's very clear to me how amazing this show was. Though it was an ensemble show (with one of the first explicitly Jewish characters I remember seeing on mainstream TV), it was Mary's name scrolling over the screen during the theme song, Mary who carried the show. (Her previous show, you may recall, had her TV husband's name on it.) There's no extended love interest on TMTMS, and though some episodes focus on her (rather feminist) dating life, others focus on many different aspects of her existence. Friend stuff. Job stuff. Personal growth stuff. In the episode I started with at random tonight, sweet Hufflepuffish journalist Mary Richards spends a night in jail rather than reveal a source. You. Go. Girl.
All this is to say how sad I was to hear of Mary Tyler Moore's passing. (My initial reaction, actually, was more like a yelp of indignation.) Her best-known character seemed like a friend when I was young because she was sweet and funny, and now that I understand more about her, she seems even more like a friend.
And if representation matters, then God bless Mary-as-Laura Petrie for wearing pants.