“As for Emma, she never questioned herself to find out if she loved him. Love, she believed, must come suddenly, with great thunderclaps and bolts of lightning, —a hurricane from heaven that drops down on your life, overturns it, tears away your will like a leaf, and carries your whole heart off with it into the abyss. She did not know that the rain forms lakes on the terraces of houses when the drainpipes are blocked, and thus she would have lived on feeling quite safe, had she not suddenly discovered a crack in the wall.”—Flaubert by way of Lydia Davis.
Dear FX Network: Are you aware that the first episode of ‘Wilfred’ tonight had a terrific second act break in which Elijah Wood’s character gets involuntarily institutionalized ruined by a commercial for the next episode of ‘Wilfred’ in which he is not? ‘Lost’ wouldn’t pull that shit and comedy shows shouldn’t either. Also, I’m not about to have a debate with anyone about how ‘Lost’ is technically a ‘comedy show.’ I guessed your joke already.
After you read this, you might be asking, and rightly so, why I took the time out of my day to type a passage verbatim from a fairly esoteric book no one I know has read. Well, I was bored, and also today is/would be Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday. I understand that the following passage is fairly acerbic but I think it’s important to note that Lucille Ball—while a hilarious and very talented comedic powerhouse of a woman—did very little to push society towards a thoughtful and intelligent place when women’s rights are concerned. Just because she’s a funny lady doesn’t mean she’s a feminist. In fact, I think it’s fair to say Norman Lear, a man (or a woman named Norman cleverly disguised as a man), did much more in the way of eliminating gender bias and promoting a female driven workforce as far as television production is concerned. After all, he hired Virginia Carter. And hopefully we’ve all seen Maude.
I hope to be half the man/woman that Norman Lear is.
I also don’t disagree with the contention that Lucille Ball was essentially “faking it to make it” (as my wonderful friend Caitlin has pointed out) and paving a way for female comedians later on down the road, but I do think it’s worth noting that people adore Lucille Ball when there are women such as Frieda Barkin Hennock—who the first woman appointed as FCC Comissioner the same year—1948—Ms. Ball started acting in a radio program entitled My Favorite Husband. All i’m saying is that I personally think someone like the former is more deserving of our praise, idolization and adulation than someone like the latter.
So, without further ado, here’s the passage i’ve been alluding to since the beginning of this blog-post which is a very unprofessional way to write an article.
"At this point the reader might ask, quite understandably, what about Lucille Ball? Did she not own her company? The evidence is overwhelming that the production decisions on I Love Lucy were made by men, central among them being her husband Desi Arnaz. In a 1956 Look Magazine interview Lucille Ball identified her style: “I had to learn to lean, to be dependent. I feel sorry for us American women sometimes. We’re brought up to take care of ourselves, to make our own way—and who needs it?”
This same attitude is borne out in the series itself. In a New York Times article (20 April 1958) Cecelia Agar went directly to the point when she wrote about the Ball and Danny Thomas series. “Both households operate in the Mediterranean tradition; the husband is absolute monarch; the household revolves around his way of life; his house is situated in the environment he prefers; he does not post a timetable of his comings and goings nor a map of his whereabouts away from home; each of his returns home is a boon conferred upon the rest of the inhabitants. The wife runs the house, rears the children, winnows out any possible source of irritation to her husband, and seeks to advance his career from what she alone sees as her place in the background.” Technically, Ms. Ball was a producer, but the evidence throughout her career makes clear that she depended upon others (men in almost every instance) to care for the production tasks and the selection of material. Her portrayal of the comic character she created always focused upon her dependence upon men to make decisions. This was particularly clear in the stories developed on I Love Lucy. Thus, we pay tribute to her remarkable success and impact upon the medium, but we find scant evidence that she stands in the line of women who were challenged by the inequities of sexism in the television medium. ”
THE HUSBAND Marriage may be the happy ending of the conventional woman-centered romantic comedy. But by the time the Husband lands in a domestic comedy, he may be a patriarch in name only, his rule willfully sabotaged by his unruly family. (Father knows best, but mother knows better.) Since the 1970s and women’s liberation the figure of the Husband has changed, and in today’s comedies of male sexual panic to be a husband is a more ambiguous state. Some of these hubbies are more like the Big Baby, with their wives as scolding, comforting, tolerant or impatient mommies. To be a married guy — see“Hall Pass” and the “Hangover” movies — is to be henpecked and undersexed, but also to be protected from dangerous libidinous impulses.
Oddly, being a father, which is, technically, the result of heterosexual you-know-what and therefore, symbolically, proof of manhood, is looked at in movies as a state of emasculation. Becoming a husband and father turns a man into a baby or a woman, removed from the company of men by diaper duty and other antisexual domestic chores. Unless or until mommy takes off, either to a (usually off-screen) new man or the grave. Single dads seem to outnumber single moms in the movies (the reverse of real life), and widowers in particular are potent sources of pathos and sex appeal. A man rearing children in partnership with a woman is barely a man at all, but a man raising kids by himself is perfect.