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When I Grow Up, I want to be Dixie Carter…

04/21/2010 4 comments

It wasn’t just the South and its legion of Designing Women-admiring-women that mourned Dixie Virginia Carter’s death last week. It was the world…thanks to syndication of the popular series, her continued acclaimed work as an actress and the powerful time machine You Tube, where clips of the sharp-witted Julia Sugarbaker spark peals of laughter today while reaching hundreds of thousands of views.

Who can forget the episode where Julia defended her baby sister and perennial pagent girl Suzanne (Delta Burke) in the “Lights Went Down in Georgia?”  Or her famous quote, “This is the South, we’re proud of our crazy people,” going on to add that we don’t hide them in the attics or away in institutions–we just ask folks which side of the family they’re on.

Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, watching Designing Women gave me a reason to be proud. Too many times the images projected over television or movie screens sold the image of slow-talking, slow-thinking people and a whole bevy of Southern stereotypes that will take generations to dispel (Daisy Duke in the Dukes of Hazzard, the wonderful “squeal like a pig” line from Deliverance a la James Dickey, and on….)

Designing Women was different. For one, these women had class. They were smart, sophisticated, funny and irreverant. Spoke their minds–and didn’t bite their tongues. Set in Atlanta, the design firm showed career women who made career decisions. Aided by the lilt of their accent rather than hindered by it. When I think back now, I realize just how important that show was to the psyche of the South, and its women and young girls.

Dixie Carter showed us just what it was like to be a strong, independent Southern woman. She ran her own business, handled her own affairs and looked fabulous while doing it. Along the way, she set more than a few folks straight, either about their small-minded attitudes or when they misjudged the tour de force that was Julia.

I never really thought about the impact of Dixie Carter and her character portrayals, described by the New York Times as “an actress who gave strong, opinionated Southern women a good name.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/12/arts/television/12carter.html

Now that I have, it’s clear. When I grow up, I want to be Dixie Carter.  Off to work on that now….

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