MARY RICHARDS didn’t just turn the world on with her smile; she changed it forever. Before the debut of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–77), TV viewers had never seen a lead female character who was a happily unmarried, successful professional over 30. Enter Mary, hat flying. On January 29, Moore, 76, will be honored for lifetime achievement at the Screen Actors Guild awards (simulcast on TNT and TBS at 8 PM ET). She’ll be praised for her deft work on The Dick Van Dyke Show and her Oscar-nominated performance in Ordinary People. But it’s Mary Richards we cherish, for reflecting and shaping a generation of women. Here, four elements of the Mary revolution.
SHE INSISTED ON INDEPENDENCE: After the guy she supported through med school balks at marriage, Mary moves to Minneapolis and launches a career as a TV news producer. When her ex begs for a second chance, Mary wavers, then refuses. “Take care of yourself,” he says. “I think I just did,” she replies.
SHE HAD A SEX LIFE: Smashing a TV taboo, Mary is proudly and publicly on the Pill. Cultural change ensues.
SHE FOUGHT FOR EQUAL PAY: After learning the male producer she replaced was paid more, Mary confronts her boss, Mr. Grant. Result: Her salary, and the nation’s consciousness, are raised.
SHE EXPANDED THE IDEA OF FAMILY: Sly Rhoda, chuckleheaded Ted and the rest—we came to love them, too. In the series finale, Mary sums it up: “Sometimes I get concerned about being a career woman. I get to thinking that my job is too important to me. And I tell myself that the people I work with are just the people I work with. But last night I thought, What is family anyway? It’s the people who make you feel less alone and really loved. And that’s what you’ve done for me. Thank you for being my family.” No, thank you, Mare, for showing us we’re going to make it after all.
Want MORE? Read our interview with Golden Globe nominee Glenn Close.
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