When I was growing up, my family lived off of TVLand. This was the classic TVLand channel that consisted primarily of TV shows from the 60s and 70s, before they came along with their own original series and started adding shows from the 90s (“Everybody Loves Raymond”? Really? Not everybody loves Raymond).
One of the best things about these classic TV shows were the theme songs. By the time I was ten I could sing along verbatim to “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme, as well as “Happy Days”, “The Brady Bunch”, and “The Jeffersons”.
As you might imagine, my favorite shows were those that starred kick-butt female leads, like “Mary Tyler Moore”, “Maude”, and “Laverne and Shirley”. These shows, and the women in them, helped cultivate my definition of womanhood. They shaped my understanding that it was important to glorify strength and intelligence in women, not just physical beauty.
The theme songs that accompany these shows have become my anthems for feminism. If ever I feel down in the dumps about being single, or trying to make ends meet on my own, I can blast these songs for encouragement. They remind me that WE CAN DO IT!
“Laverne and Shirley” (1976-1983)
“Give us any chance we’ll take it
Leave us any rule we’ll break it
We’re gonna make our dreams come true
Doin’ it our way”
Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams co-star as two single professional girls living as roommates in Milwaukee in the 1950s/60s. It is a pretty corny show, but I used to get a kick out of it when I was a kid. The theme song got me through many a tough day in middle school and high school. Penny Marshall is a heavy-hitter in the movie industry, both literally and figuratively. She is the first female Hollywood director to gross over 100 million with a movie (BIG (1988) and A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992)). She is also a self-professed tomboy and baseball lover.
“That uncompromising, enterprising, anything but tranquilizing, right on Maude!”
What I love best about “Maude”‘s opening theme is that it lists some remarkable women from history, including Lady Godiva, Isadora Duncan, Joan of Arc, and Betsy Ross. It suggests that Maude, the modern day liberal feminist, is part of a long tradition of strong women, who acted for change. A big fan of the show, Rosie O’Donnell once performed the “Maude” theme song with Bea Arthur on her show!
“Maude” is a spin-off of Norman Lear’s hit TV show “All in the Family” in which Bea Arthur plays Edith’s (Jean Stapleton) cousin. Maude is a raging liberal feminist who lives with her fourth husband Walter, the owner of a local hardware store. Maude and Walter are always having spats over politics, social issues, marital problems, you name it. This show presented a lot of social issues that America as a country was dealing with at the time, from women’s rights to racism. “Maude” was the first show to openly talk about abortion, in the episode “Maude’s Dilemma” (1972). Maude eventually campaigns and is elected as congresswoman.
“Mary Tyler Moore” (1979-1977)
“You’re gonna make it after all!”
Everything about this show is kick-butt feministy. “Mary Tyler Moore” was produced at MTM Studios, a company Moore started with her then-husband Grant Tinker. The actress herself is a very independent person who has always prided herself on her discipline, both on screen and off:
“I’m independent, I do like to be liked, I do look for the good side of life and people. I’m positive, I’m disciplined, I like my life in order, and I’m neat as a pin. I love order and discipline.”
The Mary on the show is a single professional, with her own apartment and an important job as producer of a news show. Without being butch or anything of a prude, Mary Richards teaches young girls how it is possible to live a rich full life independent of marriage. The normalcy of this show is at once refreshing and liberating.
If the intro to “Mary Tyler Moore” doesn’t put you in a good mood, I don’t know what will!