I Hate Lucy

I’ve been thinking about writing this article for a long time, but I never was sure just what offended me so much about I Love Lucy. It was something more than the jaw-dropping level of domineering Lucy accepted as her due from Ricky. And when I read this article which describes Lucy as “infantilized submissive… who cannot directly challenge her manly man”… suddenly I understood what had bugged me:

Lucy and Ricky are not just another submissive wife/domineering husband set. Lucy plays the spoiled child to Ricky’s overbearing father. Consider the structure of most episodes: she whines at Ricky to let her do or have something. Ricky tells her no. She throws a temper tantrum. He threatens her. She promises not to do it. She does it behind his back. He punishes her. He ultimately, indulgently forgives her.

Ethel and Fred weren’t like this. Ralph and Alice on The Honeymooners weren’t like this: people may now piously object to his empty threats to send her “to the moon”, but Alice was an adult. She and Ethel may have chosen to abide by certain sexist rules, but like most real life women of their time, they found ways to manipulate situations all the same, giving themselves a measure of control and equality – and they had husbands who really did appreciate them. That always helps. Donna Reed and June Cleaver were practically instruction manuals for How to be a Happily Submissive Wife, yet they acted like adults, and their husbands accepted some of their input on such wife-appropriate topics as the kids, the laundry and the neighborhood.

So why did American gravitate toward a creepy father-daughter couple? The obvious answer would seem to be that we want to think of women as infants – harmless and requiring a strong ruling hand. But then I think of how many millions of smoking habits Lucy managed to start with endorsement advertising, and I’m reminded that no one is more systematically infantilized in current US culture than The Target Demographic: young men. They whine for society to give them things or privileges, and the market rushes in to fulfill whatever urge they’re feeling, because like Lucy, young men have the product savvy and self-discipline of a bag of hair.

Comments

  1. Gategrrl says

    I remember the exact episode I realized how much I despised the Lucy Show. It was in a later season, when they all went to Hollywood, and Lucy is given a chance to fulfill her dream of being in a movie with a big movie star — and DUMPS it for Ricky — it was the most heartbreaking, shitty moment I’d ever seen on any series, where the main character’s main dream (in this case, being on stage in some, ANY capacity) was denied. There was NO payoff, the viewer didn’t get to see this woman, this sparkplug, get her dream, even if for only one film, for one role.

    I still despise it to this day.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    I sort of remember that one. What was the reason she dumped it for him? Did they need to leave or something? If I’m remembering it right, I was thinking, “But she could do that, and you could still do the other thing!” I may be thinking of a different ep, though.

  3. sbg says

    Y’know, I’ve never seen more of this show than they use as clips in a ‘greatest comedy moments’ type of show, and I think that’s all right with me.

  4. susan cross says

    How about when she goes Wahhh!Or when he turns her over his knee and spanks her?I hate shows where they have women act like total idiots”Edith Bunker”Or act like 2 year olds”Lucy”.And Donna Reed`s husband was supposed to be a doctor but if she needed a new dress forget it! She was always dyeing an old dress.CHEAP!

  5. says

    Wtf, spanking? I saw that when I was a little kid and my parents were watching with me and they changed the channel. So..l guess they were offended too? Then I saw it when I was older and l heard the laugh track in the background and l’m like “Wtf how’s this funny?” but seriously, how is it funny? :I

  6. cosisaidso says

    Not funny, never funny! I don’t understand why so many people think this was such a great show. Okay, the spanking thing is just creepy. That show makes the case that all women have to do to get their own way is whine, squawk, or bawl long enough. And it’s acceptable to be conniving and narcissistic. Not a good female role model, in my opinion. Btw, Edith Bunker was a decent human being, and not as stupid as she seemed on the surface. The Lucy character was a shell — no substance inside.

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