Thursday, April 08, 2004

A Little Song, A Little Dance

Listening to Condoleezza Rice testify in the 9/11 Investigation this morning (and there's more to come chickens!) the memory of Mary Tyler Moore was so powerful I nearly threw my hat in the air.
From her smooth black flip hairdo, to her clear, well enunciated, (though sweetly shaky) penetrating voice, to her charmingly crinkled-in-frustrated brow, Condie (as Mr. Bush so endearingly calls her) is the embodiment of Mary Richards.
She's so obviously well brought up, so clearly dedicated to her boss, so neat and tidy and fresh and shiny, you find yourself anxiously waiting to hear her exclaim "Oh Mr. Bush!" in that unmistakably Mare sort of way. She even has the same gigantic, almost inhumanly bright smile. The question is, do the parallels extend further?
You remember Mary – beautiful and bright, yet so dedicated to her gruff but lovable old slob of a boss that she would always choose to support him over any notion or idea she had crazily cooked up. No, not just support - she would bend to his will, adopt wholesale any position he took... she just sort of melted whenever Mr. Grant appeared. Does Condie?
That is the question, as it is clear, from her classical piano playing skills, ice skating talent and refined and exhaustively educated background, that this is one smart and dedicated cookie. And a lady to boot.
Way back when the Mary Tyler Moore show was first on the air, Women's Liberation was still a nominally new idea. While Mare was no bra burning libber, early on she came to represent an exciting new image of womanhood available to young girls. The idea that you didn't just have to get married, get pregnant and get busy supporting your husband's career, was only beginning to be seen as a possibility. My mother and most women of her generation only worked if they had to - whether they wanted to work just never really came up. But the changes were already brewing; I was raised with the distinct idea that I could be whatever I wanted to be, and further, that I shouldn't be in an all fired rush to get married. (Aha! Now I understand…!)
So when Mary Richards came along - single, working, independent - this was the first role model I remember. I believe that this might have been where I first got the idea to work in news myself. Rice is older than I am, so it'a possible the character played by Mary Tyler Moore had an even stronger subliminal message for her than I. (She seems to have adopted her wardrobe and hairstyle if nothing else.)
But on closer examination, would you really want your daughter to turn out like the Associate Producer of WJM news? While she did have a job and her own apartment and lots of cute outfits, she never seemed to have the confidence that her life and living circumstances should have denoted. Of course it was where so much of the humour came from; she was too polite to take charge, too insecure to grasp power, too subserviently womanly to even call Mr. Grant ‘Lou’. (Well there was the once, but cut quickly short to disabuse any creepy notions of incest.)
And how about that Mr. Grant? With the exception of his wardrobe and hairdo, actually a pretty good fit for Condie’s current boss. A heavy drinker, bluff and blustery, more comfortable growling and gesturing than getting any work done, more a figurehead than a working newsman. And he had his Mary – cleaning up after his mistakes, explaining his excesses, sitting outside his office like an attack poodle, defending her boss with ferocious loyalty, willing to go down with his ship of state should the situation warrant.
I wonder if that's going to happen with Dr Condoleezza Rice.
As I write this, I’ve been listening to the Hearings and quite honestly, I can’t tell you if what she’s saying in defense of the Bush administration and in contempt of Dick Clarke, are true – or even if she believes them to be so. What I can tell you is that she has presented an articulate, seemingly reasoned, well researched, unbelievably prepared (brilliantly complimenting and quoting some of her questioners – and effectively shutting them down - for their own contributions to the debate over the years) and passionate performance; but more than that she has shown her deep and abiding dedication to her boss. She reminds one of a disciple in the act of attempting impassioned vindication of their leader... or Mary ardently defending her beloved Mr. Grant.
Will she turn out the lights when the show is over?

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