Tuesday, May 21, 2024

During the 1970s, Norman Lear recognized the appeal of mature everyday women in a television landscape filled with obvious sex and youth.

He is often credited for centering television plots around feminist issues like equal pay and abortion, as well as themes of racism and poverty. However, little has been said about the quieter feminism demonstrated through his choice of leading ladies and the characters they portrayed.

Lear made midlife actresses into stars without requiring them to look much younger than they were. Instead, he focused on granting them dignity, humor, and respect through meaningful conversations without being cruel or at their expense.

Amidst a television landscape filled with sexy pinups and beautiful superheroes, Mr. Lear’s leading ladies stood out for their everyday qualities.

Edith Bunker, Maude Findlay, Louise Jefferson, and Florida Evans were all middle-aged working-class women without being supermodels. Their characters were depicted wearing regular clothes that audiences could find in a department store.

Despite their unflashy outfits, they commanded a different kind of appeal that resonated with audiences.

Lear’s characters held attention, made the audience care about their struggles, and even had romantic lives. Women over 40 were depicted as having vital, erotic relationships.

Furthermore, these women confronted feminine reproductive issues, discussed sexuality, and were depicted as complex, sexual entities.

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