Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mary Richards is stalked and it's just hilarious!

The phenomenon of stalking and the serious consequences it can have were not recognized during the run of the Mary Tyler Moore show, and so when they wrote Episode 19, in Season 3, about Mary being stalked it was played entirely for laughs.

And worse...

Warren the stalker tells Mary he loves her after one date, and then proceeds to pester her for weeks in spite of her giving him no encouragement at all. Mary asks Rhoda to tell Warren's friend to tell Warren to "bug off."

Instead of bugging off, Warren pays to have the message "Warren loves Mary" on a billboard across from where Mary works, and Lou Grant thinks it's funny. Next Warren shows up to demand Mary come to lunch with him. She refuses to go to lunch and so Ted Baxter tells her she's taking the "hard-to-get routine too far." Then Warren handcuffs himself to Mary, and says "now we're prisoners of love" and tells her the maitre d' at the restaurant has the key so she has to go with him.

Instead of somebody calling the police, Mary is forced to go to lunch with Warren, and when she comes back she is crying, but no longer handcuffed. At least they don't laugh at her, and Lou offers to assault the guy. Mary says it's her own fault for being afraid to hurt his feelings.

By the end of this treatment Mary is cowering in her apartment, with the drapes closed and refusing to answer the phone because she's afraid, that after Warren doing "something humiliating to me for the last eleven days in a row" she's afraid of what he's going to do next. Rhoda comes by and tells her it's her fault because she's "afraid to make a scene."

Mary decides that she won't be afraid to make a scene in the future. So the writers of the episode, Jim Mulholland and Mike Barrie, resolve the stalking like this: soon after the scene where Mary is cowering in her apartment, she is having a "normal first date" at a restaurant with another man, and Warren appears with a mariachi band and a cake that says "will you marry me." Mary naturally assumes it's for her because it's the most logical assumption. So she makes a scene, and it turns out the cake is for another woman that Warren is asking to marry.

But because Mary made a scene, it ruins any chance she had with the other guy. They even have a scene at the end of the episode where she calls the guy and tries to explain why she made the scene - and since stalking wasn't a concept back then she doesn't have the words to explain it, and just gives up and hangs up on the guy.

So in other words, the writers of the show have set up a situation where Mary cannot win: when confronted with a man who won't say no it's either her fault because she's afraid to make a scene, or she'll be punished for making a scene by being humiliated and losing a guy she likes.

Don't ever let anybody tell you that feminism hasn't made things better for women. Things may not be perfect now, but it was much worse 40 years ago.