The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a very successful series that focused its center around a divorced, independent woman. Rhoda Morgenstern was Mary’s neighbor that made a splash into this phenomenon. Rhoda, played by Valerie Harper, was another unmarried thirty-something who contributes sarcastic wit and an ongoing search for good dates and a husband during The Mary Tyler Moore Show series. This show set the stage for what would become a spin-off show called Rhoda. (Napikoski, n.d.)
You may remember the opening of Rhoda as she states her background:
“My name is Rhoda Morgenstern. I was born in the Bronx, New York in December, 1941. I’ve always felt responsible for World War II. The first thing I remember liking that liked me back was food. I had a bad puberty, it lasted 17 years. I’m a high school graduate, I went to art school. My entrance exam was on a book of matches. I decided to move out of the house when I was 24, my mother still refers to this as the time I ran away from home. Eventually I ran to Minneapolis where it’s cold, and I figured I’d keep better. Now I’m back in Manhattan. New York, this is your last chance!” (Rhoda, n.d.)
“When Rhoda premiered on CBS-TV on Monday, September 9, 1974 at 9:30 PM, it became the first program ever to capture first place in the Nielsen ratings with its first exposure.” (Moritz, 1975) This show stood as an epic premier and a series that would relate to the feminism happening in reality at this time. “Rhoda’s character arc over the years mirrors the feminism of the Women’s Liberation Movement.” (Napikoski, n.d.) This powerful, witty woman wasn’t afraid to make a statement and be someone powerful.
This series started out with Rhoda meeting a man named Joe. The quickly fell in love and got married. This seemed to be the best thing for Rhoda until they separated. This left Rhoda’s character alone in New York as a 30-something year old. (Rhoda TV Show CBS, n.d.) This was a perfect scenario to relate to the times changing in reality. The society was moving towards liberty for women. The Liberation Movement promoted strong, independent women. Also, it helped women see that they didn’t need a man to make it in the world. Rhoda related to those women.
My perspective: In a society of women that was fighting for change, this show couldn’t have been produced at a better time. Not only was it successful, it was a show that women could relate to. I feel Rhoda’s character stood for a brave and honest person. Getting divorced in a judging society can be hard and it still is in today’s society at times. Her character; however, got through the pain and continued to soar as a very independent woman. I applaud this show as helping pave the path for women and their voices.
About Valarie Harper: Valarie is an American actress best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the spin-off show Rhoda. She is a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and is one of the Hollywood Board of Director members. (Valerie Harper, n.d.)
Moritz, C. (1975) Current Biography Yearbook vol. 36. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, pages 183-184
Napikoski, L. (n.d.). 1970s Feminist Sitcoms: The Mary Tyler Moore Show. About.com. Retrieved November 10, 2012, from http://womenshistory.about.com/od/feminismandpopculture/a/Mary-Tyler-Moore-Show.htm
Rhoda. (n.d.). TV.com. Retrieved November 10, 2012, from http://www.tv.com/shows/rhoda/
Rhoda TV Show CBS. (n.d.). TVRage.Com. Retrieved November 10, 2012, from http://www.tvrage.com/shows/id-4997
Valarie Harper. (n.d.). Wikipedia – the free online encyclopedia. Retrieved November 10, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerie_Harper