Rhoda was more beautiful than Mary, but she was the pathetic man-hungry one, because “Jew”
Valerie Harper, currently in some sort of happy nice time remission from her dumb brain cancer, joins the cast of “Dancing With the Stars” Monday night at 8 p.m. on ABC. That makes this a perfect time to talk at you about how we feel about Valerie Harper, and Rhoda, and Mary Tyler Moore, and Jews.
When my son was a baby, his first mom died. She had been a soap opera star, and the slutty teen who survived Piranha II. She also played the 11-year-old babysitter in the Mary Tyler Moore episode “Baby Sit-Com.”
So my son and I rented the whole season. And until we’d rented the season, and eaten it up (in just a couple of sittings, with a spoon) this was what I’d assumed about Mary Richards, and her pathetic, man-hungry, loser-y sidekick Rhoda Morgenstern.
Everyone knew Rhoda was the sad foil to Mary’s perfect, perky, spunky gal who seemed to have a different airline pilot or ski instructor falling at her feet in every episode. Rhoda, meanwhile, had frizzy hair. And a Bronx accent. I mean, really. Gross!
Then I actually watched the damn thing.
And then I got mad.
Here was Mary Tyler Moore, painfully thin—so thin her face sagged. So unhealthy-looking her skin had a caste of gray. And even as thin as she was, you can still see her girdle lines. People are terrible.
And Rhoda was juicy! And often had her hair piled in a big mess on her head like she’d just been most fabulously fucked! And she had green eyes the size of Jupiter! And bosoms and hips and… you get the idea.
We’re sorry if we’re body-shaming you, skinny girls. Oh wait, that’s right, no, we’re not.
Then Rhoda got her own show, and they decided that to carry her own show, she must be beautiful. And so she got designer duds, and never wore the same thing twice, and even had multiple fab dressing gowns for when she “casually” spent her mornings (in false eyelashes, hair done) at home. And they straightened her hair.
Because frizzy hair is for ugly girls. Girls who can’t carry a sitcom. Girls who are Jews.
This was all fine; you do what you have to do to get Valerie Harper her own show. But then they gave her a loser-y pathetic man-hungry sidekick of her own, Julie Kavner, playing her sister, Brenda. And Julie Kavner at least was plain-looking, as Rhoda never had been.
But they also had her say, at least five times per episode, what a fat honking cow of a pile of human Sad she was, and she probably weighed in at all of a buck-thirty, and really, 1970s television, just fuck you.
And so one night, I was a few glasses of wine in, and relating the long version of my Magnificent Discovery that Rhoda had been far more beautiful than Mary, but “Jew.” And the man who had been plying me with a very nice Malbec leaned in and murmured in my ear, “I always had a thing for Rhoda.”
And so I fucked him.