Yesterday, the world said farewell to Mary Tyler Moore, the actor, producer, and pop cultural icon. She was memorable in every role, especially the mother in Ordinary People and the quick-witted, able wife on The Dick Van Dyke Show. But, here at TSU, we’ll always remember her for the modern, “spunky,” single woman on her own in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
In the opening of the show, Mary Richards drives to her new life, while the show’s theme “Love Is All Around” plays:
How will you make it on your own?
This world is awfully big, girl this time you’re all alone
But, Mary Richards always lived her single life with exhilaration, even when it was accompanied by a healthy dose of fear at what doing it on her own really meant.
In the premiere of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1970, Mary has just left her boyfriend, correcting her new neighbor Phyllis and her daughter that the relationship hadn’t blown up, “I made the decision.”
She goes on her job interview with Lou Grant and he asks why she isn’t married. She avoids the question at first in one small moment of the great comedic timing Mary Tyler Moore had throughout the show, especially with her boss. Finally, she does answer, “There’s no simple answer to why someone isn’t married.”
Later, her boyfriend shows up, ready to get back together, but finding it difficult to say “I love you” and bringing with him pilfered flowers from one of his patients (he’s a doctor she supported through his residency). Mary is hopeful when he first arrives and has missed him, but when he can’t get the words “I love you” out, she knows it’s time to move on.
“Take care of yourself,” her ex-boyfriend says. And Mary tells him, “I think I just did.”
From birth control to equal pay to working jobs alongside any man, Mary Richards in the 1970s helped widen the culture’s view of what was possible for single women. Without her, there would be no Sex and the City, no Living Single, no Insecure. And all of us here and all of you would be a little less understood in the world.
Oh and from a woman living in the Midwest, Mary’s coat wardrobe was always on point, including a fur, a mini length coat, and a toggle coat just in that hat-tossing opening.
If you haven’t already, raise a glass of sparkling to Mary Tyler Moore tonight while you’re lounging in your apartment all by yourself. She wouldn’t have wanted any other way.