“You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”
– Mary Tyler Moore
I grew up in the Oprah generation; she was well on her way before I even existed. I would rush home from school and enjoy that day’s lessons and insights before I would tackle my homework or head off to soccer practice. Those who know me well know that I have a slight Oprah obsession.
I still clearly recall the day that a surprise guest arrived on stage at The Oprah Winfrey Show and brought her to tears. It was someone I had heard her speak of, but really did not know much about. It was Mary Tyler Moore. Seeing the way Oprah reacted to the surprise caught my attention, and made me take a second look. Her reaction made me want to get to know this Mary Tyler Moore lady.
I started going through the tv guide and finding every rerun of the Mary Tyler Moore Show I could, and with every single episode I watched the more I fell in love. I was completely captivated. I also remember taping the cast reunion on Oprah; I had to have watched it about 100 times. As the years went on I was able to track down every season of the show on DVD, and if it were possible to wear out DVDs I am certain these would be toast.
Mary’s character put a focus on being a strong woman. She wore pants, she was a single female, she had goals, she was not afraid to chase them, and she knew what she brought to the table, she was the smartest in the room. At the time the Mary Tyler Moore Show was airing this was truly revolutionary. There are generations of journalists, comedians, and actresses who have since followed in her footsteps. Mary Tyler Moore was a game changer.
It is impossible for me to overstate what Mary came to mean to me, and the impact she had on my life. The more I watched the show the more I wanted to be Mary’s friend, and the more I wanted to be a friend like Mary. Mary Richards was a character I could relate to and learn from. She was hard working, she stuck to her guns, she was committed to the team around her, she lifted people up, she was kind hearted, she was determined, and most importantly she had an unwavering amount of self-worth and self-respect.
Watching that show was a transformative experience for me, it gave me the courage to be who I was, to chase my dreams, and to go out into the world and make it on my own.
I think the reason she resonated with so many is that we saw the best of ourselves in Mary Tyler Moore, and her lovable character Mary Richards. Both her and the show inspired people to move beyond the norms society had placed on being a woman. Because of who she was, the work she did, and the trail she blazed all of those years ago there are strong, passionate, intelligent women all over the world today that have her to thank. She was a force for good in this world; she was an icon, a pioneer, and an American treasure. I know I will forever be grateful for the work she did, and the legacy she left.
Last night after news broke of her passing online sales of her shows and movies spiked, my hope is that another generation is busy learning just how amazing she was. I am certainly grateful I had the opportunity to fall in love with Mary all those years ago.
That smile, and that ‘spunk’ radiated through our tv screens, into our homes, and forever into our hearts.