Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Theology of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"

I was saddened to hear of the death of Mary Tyler Moore.  I was most familiar with her as the character of Mary Richards, and all through the afternoon after hearing of her death, I thought of her as a character and the show as a shaper of my expectations of what grown up life would be like.

This morning, as I was casting about for blog topics, I thought about the theology of the show.  Now I am the first to admit that the show was not overtly Christian--nor was it religious in any kind of subtle way.  The characters don't seem to have any spiritual practices, beyond something that might be yoga-like, but would probably be called calisthenics.

And yet, the show has spiritual lessons, along the lines of how to live a good life and be a good person spiritual lessons--and those kinds of lessons seem to be a major part of most theologies.

Let us consider the theology of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show":

--You must be kind to your coworkers, no matter how much they exasperate you.  Even Ted or Mr. Grant may be enduring a great challenge about which you know nothing.  Even insufferable Sue Ann may be suffering.  Treat everyone gently.

--Your life may not have turned out as you planned.  But if you keep going, you may find your unplanned life is better than the one that you thought you wanted.

--Your behavior changes those around you.  In the beginning years, the other newsroom characters were much more extreme:  Mr. Grant was crusty and irritable, and Murray was acerbic without stop.  Through Mary's behavior, her coworkers become more gentle.  They are able to open up and feel more in the way of emotions, and thus make truer connections.

--I think of the theme song of the show, about turning the world on with your smile, taking a nothing date and making it seem worthwhile.  It's not overtly Christian, but it seems to synch with the verses that tell us we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  Christ gave us models for how to do that, and so did Mary Richards.

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