Working on this chapter about how the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was adapted for the screen in On the Basis of Sex, I was reminded of the interview scene in the pilot of The Mary Tyler Moore Show where Lou Grant asks her if she’s married and what religion she is.
In 1970 those questions were illegal thanks to Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But RBG had graduated in 1959 so the Act had not been around to help her. She was turned down because she was a woman and because she was Jewish – despite achievements like graduating first in her class and the distinction of being the first woman to work on two major law reviews: the Harvard Law Review and Columbia Law Review.
Then I did some searching on the MTM script and found this article about how, though the scene was written in 1970 by James Brooks and Allan Burns, it is still relevant today. Fascinating statistics between now and then including the fact that by 2017 in 38 percent of heterosexual marriages, women outearn their husbands.
After Mary Tyler Moore’s death Wednesday, I watched the pilot episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Though the show was revolutionary for its time for its portrayal of a single woman, working in journalism and living alone — I didn’t expect it to hold up all that well. Forty-seven years after the pilot aired, there are parts that are certainly retro. Louis “Lou” Grant (Edward Asner), for example, flat-out tells Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) during a job interview: “I figured I’d hire a man for it, but we can talk about it.” But there’s a lot in that first episode that’s still relevant for single women today.
And watch the scene if you don’t know it…