By Donna R. Gore, M.A. "LadyJustice"
When television was in its infancy in the 1950’s, a show never to be missed was “The Honeymooners.” Ladyjustice was a young child and recalls the show to this day… However, in comparison to today’s “sophistication” and political correctness, this writer wonders how it achieved such popularity. Don’t say nostalgia, as if THAT can erase all past evil and chalk it up to, “It was an acceptable form of treatment between couples back then… “ When we apply what we know about domestic violence and intimate partner violence today, we should be horrified, shocked and dismayed at the treatment of women in the 1950’s and “wife as slave and one to be abused,” as portrayed in this classic comedy which all family members laughed at and looked forward to each week!
Yes, Ladyjustice can take a joke…at things that are truly funny… A review of many YouTube episodes revealed some funny stuff between Jackie Gleason and his sidekick, Art Carney. However, the married couple relationship can be viewed as “toxic” as Susan Murphy Milano frequently describes…. In fact Susan probably watched these shows too, as her own father was playing it out in real life each and every day! Such shows give evil people evil ideas….
The character of Ralph Kramden is a know- it- all bus driver, who gets involved in one get rich quick scheme after another who loves to dominate and bully his wife. In fact, it appears that his friendship with best friend Norton is far more “intimate” regarding personal closeness and compatibility than his wife Alice, the begrudging housewife/slave who serves “The Master.” Alice Kramden is your typical ‘50’s housewife, BUT, she is no pushover. She frequently stands up to her husband’s verbal, physical and psychological abuse. Writers for Wikipedia attempt to “explain away” his bad behavior by saying, “Ralph is very short tempered, frequently resorting to bellowing insults and hollow threats.” Well hidden beneath the many layers of bluster, however, is a soft hearted man who loves his wife….and is devoted to his best pal, Ed Norton.” How can we be so sure of this, Ladyjustice asks? We have a very insecure male who is barely scraping by to provide a living for his wife…Who is not at all ambitious, with the exception of lifting a fork…. His world revolves around bowling and he doesn’t appear to care about bettering his situation in real meaningful ways…. And so, he finds fault with everyone else.
How often has the character of Alice been frustrated, angry, in tears or wanted to run away from her apartment prison? Although we may not have seen blatant physical abuse, there was plenty of physical gesturing/threats, pounding on or throwing inanimate objects, screaming and verbal threats.
Ralph’s mother in law constantly reminds him of his weight and that he is a bad provider to her daughter. The character of Alice apparently studied to be a secretary prior to marrying Ralph. According to the storyline, she was one of 12 children with a father who never worked. ‘Talk about lost dreams and toxicity for these two characters caught up in the life within a Brooklyn tenement! This series was supposed to mirror the working class of the 1950’s and the way Jackie Gleason grew up. But, were the comparatively speaking “innocent 1950’s” really so bad? Was the working class so angry?
It appears to LadyJustice, that life in 2012 is a lot more complicated now, with far more sources of anger upon which the evildoers can blame their unacceptable and unlawful behavior….
Historically, the start of the Honeymooners began as a six minute sketch on the DuMont Television Network and then as one of the featured sketches beginning in 1953 on the Jackie Gleason Show (a variety/comedy hour) moving to the CBS Network. The Gleason show was a rival for the ever popular, “I Love Lucy” show. Several actresses were considered for the Honeymooner’s co-staring wife role. However, some were blacklisted during the time of the McCarthy hearings. What an opportunity for Audrey Meadows… She sent Gleason her “wake up in the morning look” in a ripped housecoat when she was considered “too pretty” for the role. What out-of-the-box thinking! Jackie Gleason was paid a whopping $65,000 per episode increased to $70,000 during the second season. Audrey Meadows received $2,000 per week.
The other two characters of the Honeymooners, included Ed Norton and skillfully portrayed by Art Carney and his wife, Trixie portrayed by Joyce Randolph, a relatively minor role. Ed Norton was your “average Joe” working in the New York City sewer system. He was goofy, yet affable and loyal to a fault to his friend, Ralph. Although his character supposedly went to typing school, “he didn’t like contained spaces.” He was proud to describe his job as, “A sub-supervisor in the subdivision of the department of sub-terranian sanitation. I just keep things moving.”
Trixie’s character was Alice’s best friend. She has a rather nebulous persona. However, written accounts say she used to be a burlesque dancer (which she denied).
Back to Intimate Partner Violence…
Ladyjustice reviewed about a dozen episodes of the Honeymooners on YouTube. Although the viewer can make the case that Alice was very capable of “giving it back to Ralph” with biting sarcasm, what would be the consequence if she had not stood up for herself? ‘Perhaps even worse… Would Ralph eventually follow through with his gesture “to the Moon” and make contact? You betcha!
On the other hand, being submissive and following an intimate partner’s demands to the letter in no way shape or form guarantees safety! So what’s a woman to do??? Anger and jealousy over “perceived infractions” will often continue to fuel the partner’s behavior. Alice does not have to do anything wrong in the eyes of the world. What Ralph perceives and does is what matters in the end with such toxic relationships.
A Few Examples of Ralph’s Verbal Abuse from Episodes of “The Honeymooners”
“Alice, you’re a riot…. I’d like to... (Waving fist); Boys and Girls Together episode;
“Just be careful Alice, Be careful… The life you save may be your own”; A Women’s Work is Never Done episode;
“Oh Boy, are you ‘gonna get yours… Just once… Pow” Peacemaker episode;
(Talking about not washing his bowling shirt or darning his socks) “… I’m gonna put in a new system right now. When I come home, if it isn’t done the way I say, you get one demerit. Do you know what happens to you when you get ten demerits…? A Woman’s Work is Never Done episode
Examples of Abuse Noted in Ralph’s Behaviors (From Susan Murphy Milano Time’s Up Book)
You are constantly told that you are crazy, that you need a psychiatrist; they threaten to have you committed. They tell your children that you are crazy and make them believe that they are not safe with you. They hide personal items in an attempt to convince you or others that, “you are losing it.”
They intentionally say things to embarrass you in front of others. They make remarks about your appearance or belittle you. They talk over you if you are engaged in conversation, or consistently contradict you in an effort to discredit you, or make you feel stupid.
They ignore you when you have “been bad”, or do not do as you are told. They act like you are not in the room. You are made to feel that you are invisible.
They withhold praise or affection. They make you feel that you’re mere presence disgusts them, that you are unattractive, and unworthy of them or anyone else.
You are made to feel worthless, no good, and stupid. You are told you’re your opinions do not count, that you couldn’t possibly have anything to say that anyone would want to hear.
They accuse you of having affairs, lying, or conspiring against them.
They use “those looks” or the inflection in their voice to illicit fear.
They disregard your personal space, or use posturing techniques to intensify your fear, therefore making it easier for them to exert their authority over you.
They destroy, or threaten to destroy your property; especially items that they feel have sentimental value to you.
They find fault in your friends and family and may even attempt to sabotage these relationships to further isolate you.
They limit your car activities by refusing to give you money for gas, pay for basic repairs, maintenance and upkeep or restrict your access to transportation.
They attempt to limit outside activities such as visiting family, getting involved with your children’s school, community functions, or attending religious services.
They dictate when and why you can leave the house, and make you account for your whereabouts at all times.
Says “you will die” or be killed, “my words”, sooner or later, one way or the other you will vanish
Informs you he knows exactly when where and how you will die
Makes threats to kill all you (including children) of for causing so much anger to them
Makes statements such as “If you ever call the police or file for a court order and embarrass me you will die”
Tells you they will ruin and destroy you if you ever breathe a word to anyone
Is Ralph Kramden an Abuser?
Profile of an Abuser
The abuser can be a male or female. The abuser can be sweet, handsome and assuming to everyone, but you.
An abuser knows exactly how to manipulate all types of situations.
An abuser is the most generous and helpful person to the neighbor, your family, and friends. If you tell anyone you are being abused it is not likely you will be believed.
When you are or were dating you thought it was “special” that this person was jealous of anyone who approached. Thinking how lucky you were until you moved in with them or married and the jealously turned into anger and rage, chances are you love this guy with all your heart and yet they still accuse you of having “secret affairs” or relationships with everyone else but, them.
The abuser is very insecure.
The abuser constantly questions your loyalty to them, the children and having a future together.
The abuser is clever at showing sincere intentions, but often has other motives
The abuser hurts or destroys family pets.
Jekyll and Hyde personality, they can be sweet one day and angry and violent the next.
The abuser is clever at showing sincere intentions, but often has other motives.
If you are pregnant, the abuser can become upset with you and angry and may attempt to make you miscarry. Once the child is born you may not be allowed to run and comfort your baby. An abuser expects the same attention and or sexual intimacy prior to the pregnancy.
An abuser may be unusually rough or use measures of discipline far too extreme on your child.
An abuser does not have the ability to love another person, is very critical of others.
An abuser blames you for everything that goes wrong in their lives; their job, outside pressures, whatever it is, you are blamed. Regardless of the situation; it is always your fault.
An abuser denies hurting you, almost acting like it never even happened.
The abuser will make excuses for why they become angry or physically violent.
The abuser blames their drug and alcohol abuse on you or their parents.
The abuser believes in maintaining control over every aspect of their lives to the point of obsession, including monitoring activities of you and or the children.
The Teeter Totter Abuser – remember when you were a child playing at the park?
An Abuser rises you up and brings you down the same way as a teeter totter. One day they are driving you out of their lives saying things like “I have had it”, you are “worthless”
“I am leaving” to this is all “your fault” and beating you to “make you behave”. The next day they are rising you up high by apologizing, sending you flowers, a card. They may actually cry or beg you not to leave them. They say things like: “I am sorry”; “It will never happen again”; “Don't you understand how much I love you?” They bring you gifts, or suggest a romantic weekend away. Suddenly they act as if they worship the ground you walk on.
Tarzan Abuser- their attitude and behavior is no different than “Me, Tarzan” (as they beat their chest) meaning they are superior to you, they are the “provider.” To “You, Jane” follow my lead, do as I say, be their slave, wait on their every desire, you are the invisible less important person in the relationship.
An abuser has an important career in the public, people depend on them for answers, and the abusive person brings this attitude home with them.
Take this seriously… and do not let your kids watch “The Honeymooners.”
Parting Comments: Alice/Audrey Meadows: Audrey Meadows was a lot more savvy than Alice. She was the only actor on the series who requested financial compensation- residuals be written into her contract for the viewing of shows over time. In real life she served as Director of the First National Bank of Denver for 11 years – the first woman to hold such a position! She also was instrumental in the design of flight attendant uniforms and customer service policies at Continental Airlines (her late husband’s company).
Smart woman!!! She protected her financial interests and was a pioneer career woman too! “Ralph” would have been so jealous!
Please go to http://www.documenttheabuse.com/. It may help you… It will certainly help someone you know!
www.donnagore.com Donna is also a Featured Columnist for Here Women Talk.