Women Breaking Stereotypes with Modes of Persuasion

Just because the times have changed doesn’t mean television changed accordingly. It required people who dared to break the constraints of the studios and  networks that put them in place to begin with!

Mary Tyler Moore is an important role model as she faced these constraints “by facing life with humor.” Remembering Mary Tyler Moore: Breaking stereotypes while cracking smiles

Persuasion is achieved through credibility, emotions, and logic.With the recent passing of Mary Tyler Moore, I wanted to use this successful and groundbreaking female actress to commemorate her by using her as an example.

In terms of ethos, Mary Tyler Moore is 7-time Emmy-winning idol of early television and big screens, which gives her a an enormous amount of credibility.  At the beginning of Moore’s career she was a  dancer, and her first job was as “Happy Hotpoint”, a small elf dancing on a television commercial during 1950s. It took a while for her career to pick up, as she had to fit in with stereotypical roles assigned to her gender. Moore even lost a job due to her early pregnancy. Her looks is what got her through the door of Hollywood, but its not what made her what she is today. Carl Reiner, who was the producer and actor, was recently quoted saying, he gave her the job on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” after interviewing 23 other females, as he “immediately noticed her long legs and perfectly point hair,” however, it was the way she spoke that “sealed the deal.”

 

The way content was produced in 1960s was a  very homogenized and standardized product. There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room for creative and new ideas to be viewed on screens. The production process is very important when discussing the stereotypes in television. Television was considered a non-artistic medium, which was why studios and networks didn’t take risks. Moreover, the way content was produced was through “deficit spending,” which was a way for both the studios and networks to invest in potential hit series without losing a lot of money on the production costs. The studios would get ownership and future income through distribution windows, and networks would get syndication rights for a limited time only. That didn’t last long, as this system excluded Independent studios from ever producing content that would be viewed on television and networks knew they were in a position of asserting control capable of “bullying” the studios. Basically it was like an “exclusive membership” club only. With government intervention came the Fin-Sin rules which limited networks and prohibited them in holding a “stake” in ownership of content. Starting in 1971, was “The Golden Era of Independent Production.”

In 1969 Mary Tyler Moore and her husband created an Independent production company called “MTM Enterprises.” The “Mary Tyler Moore Show” was one of the great outcomes of this.  Created by James L. Brook and directed by Peter Baldwin, the show was about a single young girl who moved to the big city in search of her own success. Her job isn’t of a “secretary” a.k.a stereotypical job for a single female, but of a high position in the Television industry, where Mary’s boss greatly trusts and relies on her. On big time networks the characters for female and male leads were still very standard. Females typically housewives and mothers, and men as the “bread-winners” and dominant as always in terms of family matters. The difference in Independent studio content was that they were trying to get noticed, so the content produced was daring and creative as they were trying to make it “big.” With all this freedom came the first changes to how women were portrayed in television. Just in the first episode of “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” you could already pick up the differences in the script. Each episode tackles a subject surrounding women and how they fit into this ever-changing society. Second episode, her roommate is “frustrated” with her single status and and so her and Mary invite dates to their apartment. The men turn out to be completely terrible, and the lesson of that episode is that a woman “needs no man” to be satisfied and that the “right” one will come at due time. Now, surely now in television this kind of realization happens all the time, however, in 1960s and 1970s that wasn’t the case, especially the sitcoms that aired on prime-time Network television. Mary dared to break and succeeded in doing so, the stereotypes that were prominent in her time. She created her own show, just as Lucial Ball and other powerful famous figures to go against the standardized and homogeneous ways of big networks and studios.

“It was a whole different era then because we hadn’t had women in that kind of a role. Certainly not on TV.”-

“There was just something about her (Mary) that just made people feel like women could do anything and everything, and she did it with such grace.”  –

Lotz, Amanda D. The Television Will Be Revolutionized, 2nd Edition. NYU Press, 2014, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfwq5.
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