I’m grieving the loss of my TV Mom this week. Barbara Billingsley, who as June Cleaver played Mom to Wally and The Beave on “Leave it to Beaver,” died last week. (Of course, we would never have called her either Barbara or June. Hey, even the mischievous Eddie Haskell referred to her as Mrs. Cleaver: “Good morning Mrs. Cleaver. Don’t you look swell this morning! Is Wallace home?”) Fact is, she played Mom to all of us.
And now I gather that the sociological reconstructionists are criticizing Barbara or June or Mrs. Cleaver or Mom for having presented an overly idealized and mythical portrayal of the whole notion of Mom. Apparently, she was too good to be true. You know that question, Is nothin sacred? Well, now you have your answer. I mean, I’m not trying to cause a big sensation; but you’re talkin’ ’bout my generation.
Yesterday I came across a Letter to the Editor in the NY Times that captures my sentiments exactly. I don’t know and have never heard of Mark Thompson from Kensington, MD, but I mourn with him:
Your obituary of Barbara Billingsley, of “Leave It to Beaver” fame, suggested that her role as a cultural standard “may have been too good to be true” (“Barbara Billingsley, Maternal Ideal on TV in the 1950s, Dies at 94,” Oct. 18).
But that’s precisely the point. As a young kid growing up on such shows, I didn’t know they were too good to be true. They set a high bar, and I — and my siblings, and millions of others of our cohort — tried to clear it.
Today’s televised garbage sets no bar, and our kids are clearing that one, as well.
Kensington, Md., Oct. 18, 2010
“Gee, thanks Mom.” Onward, Malcolm Gauld