I was talking to a woman recently who reminded me of the title character Maude, from the 1972-1978 TV series. Bea Arthur starred as the imperious, outspoken liberal woman who rubbed lots of people the wrong way. The character was supposed to have been based on Frances Lear, the wife of Norman Lear, the producer of the show.
Most of you will be too young to remember, but for a while, Maude was the archetype of a certain kind of woman many loved to hate.
Out of idle curiosity, I Googled "Frances Lear" and found this surprisingly honest obituary of her in the NY Times, from 10/1/96. (My comments not in italics):
Frances Lear, a mercurial figure in the media world who spent some $25 million she received in a divorce settlement to start a magazine named after herself, died yesterday at her home in Manhattan. She was 73...
Ms. Lear was married for 28 years to Norman Lear, the highly successful television producer of series like ''All in the Family'' and ''Maude.'' Her divorce settlement from Mr. Lear, an amount variously estimated to be between $100 million and $112 million, was one of the largest ever recorded. ''I was very much a part of his thinking,'' she often said, justifying the amount of the settlement. ''Norman could not have done his shows without me.''
(That may have been true of "Maude," in a negative sort of way, but seems highly doubtful in the case of "All in the Family.")
It is generally considered -- and she herself claimed -- that she was the inspiration for Maude, the feisty and opinionated title character played by Bea Arthur.
(A little surprising she would admit to that.)
Ms. Lear made a name for herself among feminists, working in political campaigns, including Eugene McCarthy's Presidential campaign in 1968; with the National Organization for Women on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment, which was not ratified; as a partner in an executive search firm specializing in placing women, and as a writer, producing articles for a number of national publications. But she believed that she had faded into the background as her husband's career took off in the 1970's. After Mr. Lear acquired his own movie studio and founded his own civil liberties group, People for the American Way, she discussed her frustrations in an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times in 1981.
A woman in Hollywood is a nonperson, she wrote, ''unless she is under 21, powerful or a star.'' She noted, too, that an industry wife was looked through, never at. In a later interview, recalling her years as a Hollywood wife, she said she had felt constantly ignored and undervalued, had had little self-esteem and had often been depressed.
(This seems a somewhat hollow complaint: a man in Hollywood is a nonperson unless he is powerful or a star as well.)
Ms. Lear, in her own words, ''always aspired to something out of the ordinary,'' and she moved to New York after her divorce in 1985. She quickly set out to change the nonperson identity she had felt in Hollywood by creating Lear's, a magazine aimed at women like herself -- ''the woman who wasn't born yesterday,'' as the magazine said on its cover.
Lear's began publication in 1988 and was a success. It began with a circulation base of 250,000 and grew to 350,000 in a year. But after two years, Ms. Lear abandoned her original concept and lowered the age of the theoretical Lear's woman to over 35. Abandoning the older-age niche put the magazine into competition with other women's magazines, and its advertising never recovered from the move.
Almost immediately after the magazine's debut, Ms. Lear developed a reputation for being unpredictable and hot-tempered. She held a series of intimate lunches in her apartment during which she sought, and then usually ignored, advice for her fledgling publication. She also frequently brought up more of her personal history than most of her guests were prepared for, revealing that she had a Dickensian childhood, that doctors had determined that she was manic-depressive and had prescribed lithium for her condition, that she was an alcoholic and that she had made several suicide attempts over the years.
(Who knew that Maude was manic-depressive as well as alcoholic? The narcissism, as demonstrated by her talking about herself inappropriately, is no surprise, though.)
There ensued a revolving door of editors and writers, many of whom complained of Ms. Lear's inexperience and capricious decisions. Numerous articles were accepted and not published, and layouts were changed at the last minute. In an article in The New York Times, a staff member recalled that when Ms. Lear had been told that she could not change a quotation, she had shouted, ''It is my magazine, and I will do what I want...''
(Such a revolving door always seems to revolve around a difficult personality. And shouting at subordinates who gently remonstrate also reeks of narcissism.)
Although circulation was more than 500,000 in its final months, Lear's ceased publication in March 1994. It had lost an estimated $25 million to $30 million in its six years of operation...
Ms. Lear was born on July 14, 1923, at the Vanderheusen Home for Wayward Girls in Hudson, N.Y., the child of an unwed mother and an unknown father. ''The odds were stacked high against me,'' she once said. She was given the name Evelyn, but she was renamed Frances when she was adopted after 14 months in an orphanage by Aline and Herbert Loeb of Larchmont, N.Y.
(Not having a bond with a nurturing figure for the first fourteen months of life does mean the "odds are stacked high" against any sort of good character later on.)
''Aline was outwardly affectionate with me for my father's sake, but she did not like me,'' Ms. Lear wrote in ''The Second Seduction,'' (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992) an autobiography that pulled no punches. The slim volume laid out in harrowing detail her personal history and most intimate experiences.
(And then, to be brought up by a stepmother who doesn't even like you -- let alone love you -- is more or less a guarantee of a narcissistic personality, and maybe even sociopathy.)
The memoir related her years of sexual abuse, beginning at age 12, by the man whom her adoptive mother married after Mr. Loeb committed suicide during the Depression. She told, too, of being sent to a psychiatrist, to whom she revealed her stepfather's abuse, and of the psychiatrist's betrayal in repeating her confidences to her mother and stepfather. Her stepfather, she wrote, ''met me at the door with a kitchen knife in his hand.'' Her mother ''turned and left the room, went into her bedroom, closed the door and protected her economic hide.'' On her mother's death, her stepfather was left 90 percent of the $100,000 remaining from Mr. Loeb's insurance, Ms. Lear said.
(That sexual abuse was pretty much the final nail in the coffin of her mental health; and it's obvious from her words that she hated her stepmother as well.)
Ms. Lear attended the Mary A. Burnham School for Girls in Northampton, Mass. In the 1940's and early 50's, she held a number of jobs, primarily in advertising and retailing in New York. She was, she never hesitated to say, dismissed from most of them for behavior like listening in on the boss's telephone conversations and drinking through lunch….
Ms. Lear had two short-lived marriages before she met Mr. Lear. Her first marriage, to Arnold Weiss, a traffic manager at the Navy Yard in Charleston, S.C., lasted less than two years. Her second marriage, to Morton Kaufman (''or Kauffman or Kaufmann -- I cannot remember how to spell my second husband's name,'' she wrote in the autobiography), was dissolved within a year. She said that he had been unfaithful, leading to her first suicide attempt and three weeks in the psychiatric ward at Bellevue Hospital.
(Multiple short term marriages are usually an indication that something is amiss. Pretending not to know how to spell your second husband's name seems like an affectation.)
''I tried to commit suicide three times seriously and three times with minimal interest in the outcome,'' she once said.
Lear is yet another social justice warrior whose politics are basically just an expression of her personal issues. Lear obviously bears no blame for the unfortunate circumstances of her childhood. But, once someone is scarred like that, they inevitably make others suffer for it.
In some ways Lear is a more extreme version of Susan Sarandon, whom I wrote about three posts ago. The dysfunctional family, the resulting personal issues, and the later outspokenness on social issues, are all of a piece. And it's always an aha moment when you find out where it all originated from.
There are people who arrive at stances on both sides of the political fence for a variety of reasons. But what distinguishes the SJW's like Sarandon and Lear is their outspokenness, which is often just a bid for attention in disguise. (Female suicide "attempts" are likewise often characterized as "cries for help.")
In any case, a disproportionate number of those "outspoken" bids for attention seem to emanate from the Left.
After reading that obituary, it's a little easier to understand "Maude." Unloved, molested as a child, bipolar, alcoholic, with low self-esteem, and hating her parents. Lear undoubtedly hated her stepfather more than her adoptive mother, since he molested her, but also hated the fact that her mother was dependent on her stepfather financially. This led her in the direction of feminism, which substitutes a vague resentment of all men for hatred of one.
Voila, another maladjusted leftist.