A Nardin Alumna and the Vice President Had Beef

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A Nardin Alumna and the Vice President Had Beef

Published in 1992, this real newspaper cover depicts the tension between the Vice President and fictional Murphy Brown.

Published in 1992, this real newspaper cover depicts the tension between the Vice President and fictional Murphy Brown.

Published in 1992, this real newspaper cover depicts the tension between the Vice President and fictional Murphy Brown.

Published in 1992, this real newspaper cover depicts the tension between the Vice President and fictional Murphy Brown.

M. Ende '19, Editor

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Meet Diane English, Nardin Class of ’66, the Emmy Award-winning writer/director/mastermind behind the hit show Murphy Brown.

(Source: Wikipedia)

 

Murphy Brown was a CBS sitcom that premiered in 1988, continuing for a jaw-dropping 10-year original run. It centered on the eponymous female journalist and news anchor, Murphy Brown. Now, it is a continuing program, one of the many reboots of the last few years, and it aims to relevantly discuss politics in a more 2018 manner.

 

In 1992, Murphy Brown, portrayed by Candice Bergen, gave birth to a baby boy. However, she was unmarried at the time, and the father of the child refused any involvement. 1992 was not prepared to watch a considerably common occurrence in reality unfold on the typically idyllic television screen.

 

Concurrently, the 1992 presidential campaign was fully underway. The incumbent vice president to President George H. W. Bush, Dan Quayle delivered a speech on May 19, 1992, regarding American family values.

 

“It doesn’t help matters,” Vice President Quayle said, “when prime time TV has Murphy Brown – a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman – mocking the importance of a father, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another ‘lifestyle choice.'”

Pullquote Photo

I don’t know that much about the show. I’ve told you, I don’t want any more questions about it.”

— President George H. W. Bush, May 20, 1992

 

English wasted no time. For the subsequent fifth season premiere, “You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato” (which satirizes Quayle’s infamous misspelling of “potato”), Murphy Brown manipulated the speech into seeming like a direct comment on Murphy Brown as a well-known TV anchor, not as a character.

 

The episode advocated for diverse families of all kinds and revived the conversation from earlier in the year.

 

Pullquote Photo

I never have really said much about the whole episode, which was endless. But his speech was a perfectly intelligent speech about fathers not being dispensable and nobody agreed with that more than I did.”

— Candice Bergen, 2002

Controversy has surfaced intermittently ever since the incident, with Dan Quayle occasionally cracking a joke about his dislike of Murphy Brown and his appreciation of The Osbournes. Bergen, on the other hand, has stated her understanding of Quayle’s intentions to criticize absent fathers.

 

Now, however, Murphy Brown has returned to CBS during a time of more political turmoil than throughout its original run. Dan Quayle’s mention of the show struck as a complete surprise, but now politics and popular culture overlap more easily.

 

English told Vanity Fair of her decision to proceed with the reboot, “Looking around at what was going on in our world and our country, I was feeling that if ever a show had a reason to come back, it would be this.”

 

Murphy Brown typically avoided over-involvement in opinion-proposing or side-taking, often presenting the facts through Murphy’s lens and allowing viewers to respond independently. (The show even enticed both politically parties directly at the Capitol – incomprehensible by 2018 standards.) Regardless, the show was still centered in a political environment.

 

Since it premiered (again) in September, Murphy Brown has already tackled a variety of topics: #MeToo, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, fake news.

 

English’s voice is a prominent contributor to so much relevant, active conversation regarding our country and our culture. She has shaped millions of Americans’ perspectives – over 33 million with “Birth 101” alone, AKA the episode with the out-of-wedlock birth heard ’round the world.

 

Without exploiting English’s earned, deserved success, it is powerful to watch a Nardin graduate, who endured the same stresses we encounter on a daily basis, be responsible for something so powerful itself, something as influential and important as commentary on our society. On whichever side of the aisle you fall, discussion is critical.

 

Maybe one of us will clash with the prime minister of Canada, or one of our names will graze the cover of an internationally recognized publication, or one of us will follow in English’s footsteps to become a show-runner. Ultimately, our voices matter. At Nardin, as women, as students, in the world – our voices totally and completely matter. So make them listen until they hear us.

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About the Writer
M. Ende '19, Editor

A senior, Maura Ende's passion is to learn a little about everything. In her free time she watches Parks and Recreation obsessively and occasionally fosters...

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A Nardin Alumna and the Vice President Had Beef