July 06, 2010

In praise of Gladys Kravitz

Before there was Lenny Kravitz, before there was even The Jeffersons, on which Lenny Kravitz's mom appeared, thus providing me with a halfarsed link between this pointless allusion and the wonderful world of situation comedies, there was the archetypal meddling neighbor Gladys Kravitz. I just watched Bewitched for the first time in many years (not counting the terrible movie of the same name a few years back), and I have a few words to say about Gladys Kravitz.

First of all, who are we talking about when we speak of Gladys? People always want to argue about which Dick they prefer, York or Sargent, but fewer people will debate the relative merits of the two Kravoi, Alice Pearce and Sandra Gould. Pearce's Kravitz was brilliant and unproblematical in my opinion ... she was just a nosey, shrill, hysterical proto-Furley. The archetypal Gladys. Gould, who Kravitzed the episode I just watched, is different. Strangely attractive when she's not overshadowed by Elizabeth Montgomery, and not blessed with the hilarious facial expressions and brilliant slapstick timing of her predecessor, she brings another layer to the character.

With the first Gladys, we feel somewhat bad for husband Abner, even though he's a loser, just because his wife is so annoying. With the second, though, Abner's sterotypical long-suffering husband schtick crosses right over into verbal abuse, and the smirking Stevens' mock-innocent shrugging as Gladys "Cassandra" Kravitz tries to blow the whistle on their satanic hijinks smacks of cruelty.

Because, of course, she's right. Samantha is a witch, and her family is a whole pack of witches, (a coven if you will). Admittedly, as a former wacky neighbor myself, I have more than average sympathy for my fellow WNs ... but I think Gladys's reputation is undeserved. What if your next door neighbor were a witch? Wouldn't you try to tell people about it? I say Gladys is a hero!


Back when I was teaching, I was once talking about witches in connection with "Young Goodman Brown" and a student announced that his sister-in-law was a witch. "There's no such thing as witches," I replied. "I mean, can she fly?" If you're a wiccan, earth goddess worshipper, etc., more power to you, but if you can't fly, you ain't a witch in my book.

Of course, this was at the same university where I once drew the five pointed star, the "sign of Solomon" from Sir Gawain's shield, on the blackboard, and a student in the front row flinched--actually flinched. I said, "Did you think I was going to summon forth a demon from the blackboard? Really? Do you think that if I could summon demons out of the blackboard, there wouldn't be demons running all over this place by now?"

No sense of humor, some of these people. Maybe they should watch some sitcoms.


Michael said...

A bold reply about the demons, for you never know when a student will complain that his or her teacher was trying to force the students to practice demonology.

I had a student one semester who flinched when I used the word "orgy" (as in, orgy of destruction); when I asked him what was wrong, he said that was a horrible word. I said, but it gets its meaning across. I then made a point of using the word "orgy" every single day for the next two weeks until he quit flinching. And bless his soul, he didn't even complain to the dean. I like to think I toughened him up a little.

Rosemary said...

For myself, I'm going to be looking for an opportunity to use the term "Kravoi" as soon as possible.