Sometimes I like to have the television on in the background when I’m working at home just for the background noise. Since I’m not paying close attention, I usually put on a cooking show where there isn’t a plot or something I’ve already seen before.
Lately, I’ve been watching episodes of I Love Lucy on Hulu. I watched a lot of TV Land growing up, and loved shows like I Love Lucy, Rhoda, Bewitched, and Laverne & Shirley.
It can sometimes be shocking to watch something as an adult which was last watched as a child or teenager.
While Lucy’s character is certainly progressive, I Love Lucy as a whole is a lot more misogynistic than I remember.
Lucy and Ricky’s relationship makes me wonder how anyone fetishizes the 1950s household dynamic. The way Ricky constantly puts Lucy down, minimizes her concerns and interests, refuses to help her.
The way Ricky and Fred gang up on or belittle Lucy and Ethel when they start talking about women’s rights or gender equality.
There’s one episode after Lucy has had little Ricky where she is so exhausted she can barely function. She asks if maybe Ricky could tend to little Ricky if he cries in the night that night. Ricky immediately refuses, saying that’s what mother’s do, while fathers get up and go to work to support the family.
Lucy does get in a good retort where she says she wished she’d known the rules ahead of time and that next time they have a baby she’ll be the father.
And Ricky does try to get her a maid to help around the house (which of course ends up in shenanigans).
But so much of the comedy of the show is centered around Ricky’s temper or Lucy’s gullibility or naivete.
I suppose it goes to show how far we’ve come.
For the most part, I think modern television is moving away from the “war of the sexes” plot line where women are from Venus and men are from Mars.
We’re starting to understand marriage as more of an equal partnership, rather than one person taking care of another.
But it can be unsettling to rewatch a show you enjoyed as a child, and to think about how your parents laughed at those dynamics and what that might mean.
I know I Love Lucy was progressive for its time in so many ways, but parts of it are really hard to stomach in 2015.