Feminism in "The Lucy Show"

Finding the Feminism in 1960s Sitcoms

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on "I Love Lucy," 1950s. CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Sitcom Title: The Lucy Show
Years Aired: 1962-1968
Stars: Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance, Gale Gordon, Mary Jane Croft, many celebrities who guest starred as themselves
Feminist focus? Women, particularly Lucille Ball, can tell a complete story without husbands.

The feminism in The Lucy Show comes from the fact that it was a sitcom focused on a woman. Lucille Ball played a widow and Vivian Vance, for part of the show’s run, played her divorced best friend; notably, the main characters were women without husbands.

Sure, the male characters included a banker in charge of Lucy’s trust fund and a recurring-role boyfriend, but shows that revolved around a woman without a husband were not common before The Lucy Show.

Who Loves Lucy This Time?

Lucille Ball was already a famous, extremely talented actress and comedian when The Lucy Show began. During the 1950s she had starred with then-husband Desi Arnaz on , one of the most popular TV shows of all time, where she and Vivian Vance engaged in countless antics as Lucy and Ethel. In the 1960s, the comic duo reunited on The Lucy Show as Lucy and Vivian. Vivian was one of the first long-running divorced characters on television.

Not a World Without Men

Finding a little feminism in The Lucy Show does not mean there were no men. Lucy and Vivian did interact with plenty of male characters, including men they dated. However, the 1960s were an interesting time in TV history – a decade that saw inventive plot lines, experimentation outside the nuclear family model and the shift from black and white to color TV, among other developments.

Here was Lucille Ball, proving again that a woman could carry a show. Gone were the I Love Lucy plots that so often revolved around tricking or hiding something from the husbands.

Successful Women

The Lucy Show was a top ten ratings success as the women brought laughs to millions. Years later, Lucille Ball was asked why newer sitcoms weren’t as good as her classic sitcoms, despite a wider range of material.

Lucille Ball answered that they were "trying to make comedy out of reality – and who would want to listen to that?”

While she may have rejected abortion and social unrest as sitcom material, Lucille Ball in many ways IS the feminism of The Lucy Show. She was a powerful woman in Hollywood who could do anything she wanted, for years, and who responded to the women’s liberation movement with a voice and viewpoint that were unique, decidedly brave and already liberated.