Melinda Henneberger: Mary Tyler Moore was a spunky inspiration

By Melinda Henneberger


The cast of the Mary Tyler Moore show
The cast of the Mary Tyler Moore show File photo

Before I started my new job the other day, my husband, who doesn’t often burst into song, serenaded me with a few bars from the old “Mary Tyler Moore Show’s” theme song: “Who can turn the world on with her smile?” Because for women in and out of journalism who grew up in the ’70s, starting over in a new place inevitably involves internally tossing your hat into the air just as MTM’s character on that show, Mary Richards, did: “You’re going to make it after all,” she told herself, and us — pointing the way to independence and integrity alongside belly laughs and, of course, that dreaded spunk.

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There had never been a TV character like Mary, a single woman starting out in TV news in Minneapolis after a broken engagement. The moral center of her fictional newsroom, she went to jail rather than reveal the identity of a source and insisted on equal pay. A stand-up colleague and unfailingly kind friend, her character was flawed and flummoxed but never sold out, a true professional without sacrificing her humanity.

Moore died on Wednesday at 80, and as a friend said today, when she threw her hat into the sky, she let us know that sky was ours.

Melinda Henneberger, mhenneberger@kcstar.com

Mary Tyler Moore brought a new depiction of the American woman to both “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Virginia Heffernan, a contributing writer for The New York Times, discusses Ms. Moore's roles and their influence.

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