Marlo Thomas on ‘That Girl,’ Women’s History Month, and Hollywood’s Learning Curve

Marlo Thomas has an essay up at the Huffington Post on the evolution of the single woman on television since the days when she was getting That Girl off the ground. And it’s got an incredibly revealing insight into how behind the curve Hollywood is when it comes to recognizing the realities of how women live their lives, and what they want to watch as a result:

Then I read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and thought, Wouldn’t it be great if we could see a show where the girl was the “someone?” ABC was brave enough to green-light my idea as a new TV series called “That Girl.” My character, Ann Marie, would be an aspiring actress living alone in New York who was independent and ambitious — and had the courage to utter the earth-shattering words (usually to her protective father): “But I don’t want to get married!” Although network researchers didn’t think a single girl had a chance in prime time, “That Girl” found her audience — because there were millions of That Girls in homes across America. We were not our mother’s daughters. We were a whole different breed.

It makes sense that a generation of television executives who couldn’t fathom that there were single women living in cities who would enjoy consuming stories about their lives would give way to a generation of television executives who would have difficulty grasping a new, and more complex set of aspirations and images of women.