May 3, 2013 in Features

The Slice: Unfortunately, there was no Danielle Boone

By The Spokesman-Review
 

It’s amazing that so many women of a certain age turned out so well.

Once upon a time boys had plenty of role models in TV Westerns. Night after night, dashing and daring stars of horse operas demonstrated how to be brave, honest and true.

But girls? When they watched Westerns, what messages did they get? Let’s consider.

If they viewed “Bonanza,” they basically learned two things: Getting engaged to boys in certain families is a virtual death sentence. And young women running from danger in the outdoors will invariably twist an ankle and fall.

If they watched “F Troop,” they saw a capable frontier woman in the form of Wrangler Jane devote herself to propping up an incompetent boob of a boyfriend.

If they watched “Daniel Boone” they got to see Daniel go out and have adventures with bears and Indians while his wife stayed home and churned butter or boiled fatback.

Of course, there were some stand-up gals on TV. Consider Miss Kitty on “Gunsmoke.”

She was smart, capable and tough yet feminine. But perhaps the fact that she probably got her start in business as a prostitute makes her an imperfect role model.

On shows such as “Rawhide” or “The Rifleman,” women typically appeared as torn-dress travelers in need of rescue or shopkeepers held hostage.

On “Little House on the Prairie,” all the women went blind.

And if they watched “Have Gun – Will Travel,” little girls got the scary message that they might grow up to find themselves unable to resist a suave hotel dweller in a smoking jacket, even if he happened to be the least handsome man in the West.

Now there’s no question that “The Big Valley” offered a four-star female character in the form of Victoria Barkley. She was terrific in every way.

But that same show also gave us Audra, the vacant beauty who specialized in watching her brothers do the right thing while she was busy getting romantically involved with one defective personality after another.

It must be that little girls were smart enough to realize that unrealistic television shows set in the past had nothing to do with the future.

Today’s Slice question: Who has the Inland Northwest’s best in-laws?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email pault@spokesman.com. Yes, I know a horse named Spokane once won the Kentucky Derby.


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