Those Girls

Single Women in Sixties and Seventies Popular Culture

Katherine J. Lehman

Long before Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, there was Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Every week, as Mary flung her beret into the air while the theme song proclaimed, You’re gonna make it after all, it seemed that young, independent women like herself had finally arrived. But as Katherine Lehman reveals, the struggle to create accurate portrayals of successful single women for American TV and cinema during the 1960s and 1970s wasnt as simple as the toss of a hat.

Those Girls is the first book to focus exclusively on struggles to define the single girl character in TV and film during a transformative period in American society. Lehman has scoured a wide range of source materials—unstudied film and television scripts, magazines, novels, and advertisements—to demonstrate how controversial female characters pitted fears of societal breakdown against the growing momentum of the womens rights movement.

“An impressively researched, analytically nuanced study.

—Women’s Review of Books

“Carefully researched, engagingly written, and resonant for contemporary scholarship, the book represents a valuable contribution to feminist media history and to the broader study of American social history. Above all, her account works against the tendency to homogenize both women’s experience and popular culture.

—American Historical Review
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Lehmans book focuses on the single girl—an unmarried career woman in her 20s or 30s—to show how this character type symbolized sweeping changes in womens roles. Analyzing films and programs against broader conceptions of womens sexual and social roles, she uncovers deep-seated fears in a nation accustomed to depictions of single women yearning for matrimony. Yet, as television began to reflect public acceptance of career women, series such as Police Woman and Wonder Woman proved that heroines could wield both strength and femininity—while movies like Looking for Mr. Goodbar cautioned viewers against carrying new-found freedom too far.

Lehman takes us behind the scenes in Hollywood to show us the production decisions and censorship negotiations that shaped these characters before they even made it to the screen. She includes often-overlooked sources such as the TV series Get Christie Love and Ebony magazine to give us a richer understanding of how women of color negotiated urban singles life. And she reveals how trailblazing characters continue to influence portrayals of single women in shows like Mad Men.

This entertaining and insightful study examines familiar characters caught between the competing fears and aspirations of a society rethinking its understanding of social and sexual mores. Those Girls reassesses feminine genres that are often marginalized in media scholarship and contributes to a greater valuation of the unmarried, independent woman in America.

About the Author

Katherine J. Lehman is an assistant professor of communications at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania.

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