Maude and M&Ms

I have spent the better part of this day eating M&Ms and watching the first season of Maude. I am amazed at simplicity of M&Ms and the poignancy of Maude. I always loved the show, but I suppose I am just noticing the way it deals with race, women’s rights, and politics. It isn’t that I didn’t notice that sort of thing before; I think it may be that I wasn’t as invested in many of the issues the program raises as I am now.mv5bmje2mzm4mdmzn15bml5banbnxkftztywnjy3mzm2_v1_sx405_sy400_I wonder how many scholarly articles have been written about this show. I can’t imagine that there haven’t been any because the show is pretty complex while being surprisingly simplistic. Maude does more than just flip the female/male, black/white, and rich/poor dichotomies. The program actually explores the relationships between the groups of people and tries to sort out the wackiness of the early 1970s.

What frightens me about the program and the social situations it deals with is that they have changed so little since the show was created and filmed. There are three episodes that really strike me as representing problems that we still deal with today.

In one episode, Maude discovers that she is pregnant and has to decide whether or not to get an abortion. Despite the use of humor, the writers and the performers get at the heart of the decision that Maude has to make. Ultimately she decides that she and Walter are too old to have a child, so she gets an abortion. I am sure that when the episode aired, and if it aired again today, that viewers were a little unnerved that it didn’t end happily with Maude giving the child up for adoption or deciding that she and Walter were not, in fact, too old to raise a child. Well, it didn’t end happy and sometimes life doesn’t either.

In another episode, one of Maude’s friends from high school comes to visit her. When they graduated from high school, the girl, Phyllis, was known as Mousey and Maude was voted the most likely to be the first woman president. When they meet again in this episode, Phyllis has become a top executive at Avon and Maude feels sorry for her because she isn’t married. What the episode boils down to is the same problem we have in feminism today: is it better to be married with children and a happy home or to be a career woman with freedom and advancement opportunities? Maude and Phyllis decide that they both want everything. They both want to be free, bound, mothers, and executives. They each want the lives of the other.

For me, the point of feminism  is to recognize that both lifestyles or any combination thereof should be celebrated. I would like to say in my twilight years that I have celebrated the woman executive or the woman who chooses to stay home with or without children. Isn’t a good portion of feminism to support the right of women to choose?

The third episode that still rings true is one in which Maude has an identity crisis. She worries that her only identity lies in being Mrs. Walter Findlay, she contemplates her lack of monetary compensation for her work, and she feels inadequate because she doesn’t feel as if she is contributing to the financial well-being of their household. I think many women, whether they work outside the home or not, still feel those pressures. More than men, I think women wonder where their identities lay. How do we name ourselves if we are married? How do we identify if we aren’t married? Where do we find our worth? Of course, Walter does an excellent job of pointing out the specific fears of men, too. And I have to believe that my male friends struggle with the issues he raises.

I think watching a whole season of Maude has made me reconsider the progress I thought we had made with women’s issues, race issues, and questions of class. I am not sure weve made much progress, and in some cases I think we may have even digressed.

My favorite quotes:

“Maude! Sit!”

“God will get you for that, Walter!”

5 responses to “Maude and M&Ms

  1. This is what an English degree does to your head. Ya’ can’t watch anything without dreaming of potential analytic papers. 😉 I found a clip from Maude: the Abortion Episode on YouTube: Wow. “It’s as simple as going to the dentist.” Amazing. They won’t say this shit on TV now. If it aired in the 70’s, I can only imagine the uproar that followed. In regards to today’s shows: Don’t ya’ just wanna to rip the show The Secret Life of An American Teenager to shreds? I do. That, and Family Guy. Oh, and Bret Michaels and his skanky Rock of Love.

    Thank you for the offer on the ride. I Love Ya’ Sista’. But we got the Nissan Maxima moving – only takes a few cranks on the key then she purrs like an only-half-choking kitten. Plus, I just got a call from the transmission place; the van wasn’t stolen, but it WILL cost us our souls (and half of my student loan) to fix it. 😀 happy happy joy joy

  2. I don’t see any digression. In fact, in a decade or so I think women will have “caught up” with men. Men deal with so much you ladies don’t know about. You have to contextualize such considerations. Men are more able at self-containment of emotions and thoughts. They “brood.” Women are more open about discussing their thoughts and ideas to their close friends and family. Dudes aren’t. The general silence of men doesn’t mean there aren’t numerous issues they deal with and are concerned with, it means most of us have been conditioned by culture/society to act in a certain manner, just as women have. We have identity issues just as do women. It think it’s unfortunate when others generalize about the other gender. It’s unfortunate that we can’t understand one another on that type of level very well. That creates the generally false impression that men don’t have nearly as many personal crises. Just not hte case. A case in point is an article today on CNN or MSN that discusses the rapid increase in MALE eating disorders. Men tend to “suffer in silence.”

    Also, one point to consider: The women in shows like “Rock of Love” CHOOSE to be on the show. They aren’t forced onto those shows. Thus, they are exercising their feminist “rights.” Whether any one agrees with it or not, they are practicing the freedom the feminist movement has given to them. To complain about such is a slap in their faces and in the very fundamental idea of feminism. It’s unfortunate women CHOOSE to flaunt themselves and act in such catty ways, but they wanted to be on the show. They CHOSE it. One can’t have it both ways: Complain about how women are presented in pop culture, and want when to be empowered to make their own decisions. If a woman chooses to present herself in some “unseemly” fashion, it’s her choice. Who are any of us to tell her she’s wrong when we strive for equality?

  3. I wasn’t making any generalizations about other genders. I was simply saying that the episode made me more acutely aware of the struggles of some women to define themselves, and I think I even pointed out that Walter brought to light some of the struggles of men in a way that was helpful to my understanding. I would be an idiot if I didn’t understand that men deal with their own set of issues, but I would also be remiss if I tried to boil down a particular set of issues that face men or women. I know quite a few men who talk through their problems, and I happen to be a woman who bottles up quite a bit of her angst. In fact, I am in bottling mode most of the time.

  4. Also, I don’t think there is a “general silence of men.” I think men use plenty of avenues for bringing their struggles to light, as do women.

  5. I think your final point about women “choosing” is exactly what I was saying: work, stay home, lipstick and objectivity, no lipstick and critical of objectivity, they all are choices women make. I approve of choosing. I had a friend who made a shirt once that said: I like to suck cock and I am a feminist. I support her in that.

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