Thursday, September 05, 2019

Up Stairs

Would it be wrong of me to say that I liked Rhoda more than Mary? Would it confuse you to consider these options without having spent any quality time in front of a television during the 1970s? Mary Richards had a wacky upstairs neighbor named Rhoda Morgenstern. We were lead to understand that Rhoda struggled with relationships and her weight primarily because she appeared quite often dressed in a sweatshirt. And she complained a lot. Rhoda, in many ways, was Mary's id.
This wasn't a matter of Ginger versus Mary Ann. These castaways occupied a sliver of the situation on which their comedy was based. Movie star and farm girl. Mary and Rhoda were both single women forging a path in the brave new liberated world. Mary was wholesome, and Rhoda was not quite as wholesome. Mary's approach to life was to be indefatigable. Rhoda was not afraid to give up. Which may have explained Rhoda's relationship with her downstairs pal. It was a symbiotic kind of deal.
And somewhere along the line, Rhoda moved out of that upstairs apartment, and moved back to New York City. This was in a separate half hour from Mary's reality. This was a spin-off. That happened a lot in the seventies. In this case, I was fine with that happening. I was much more interested in the comparatively real-life challenges that showed up in Rhoda's world. Mary's newsroom pals were quirky and amusing, but not essentially relatable. Suddenly, Rhoda was the star and it was her little sister who became the comic relief. And while Mary continued to struggle with the single life in Minneapolis, Rhoda got married. This was such a big fuss over her nuptials that most of the country watched, including the men in the booth on Monday Night Football.
And a few years later, she and Joe got divorced. This kind of thing never happened to Mary Richards.
So I liked Rhoda more. I connected with her. Mary blazed a trail. Rhoda lived in the world. Valerie Harper played Rhoda. Mary Tyler Moore played Mary. How big a stretch was that for her? Valerie Harper passed away last week. She stomped on the Terra from the Twin Cities to the City That Never Sleeps. I miss her now.
Aloha, Rhoda.

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