A collegiate view of The Donna Reed Show.
By Haley Sakuma
Will women ever get to exist without the pressure to please the male species? I wonder if I will live the rest of my days fighting the engrained compulsion to satisfy the minds and eyes of others, particularly of the opposite sex.
As a proud feminist, it does not feel great to admit that I have these thoughts … I pride myself on my ability to drop society’s image of “beautiful” and take my own comfort and confidence into consideration first. But watching “Mouse at Play” (Season 4, Episode 4) brought a lot of my own hidden insecurities to the surface. Turns out, women in the 50s struggled with similar questions that women today do: Does my hair look better up or down? Will they like me more if I wear this outfit? Should I look like this or that? It would be nice to be able to live solely for ourselves for once.
In this episode, Donna’s friend, Iris, visits her in an anxious state. Her husband is paying less and less attention to her by the hour. Oh, what more could go wrong for poor Iris? To shake things up in her marriage, she decides to color her hair — I can’t even criticize this decision. I once cut my own bangs just to feel something other than boredom. Iris’s venting causes Donna to evaluate her own relationship with her husband. Alex, whom she thought was winning the competition for Most Attentive Spouse, fails to notice some blaring new items of clothing on his wife. Could he possibly be falling down the ladder of attentiveness like her friend’s husband had? Cue the panic!
Sitting in the salon, Donna asks her stylist if she should do something different with her hair. He of course says, ‘Yes,’ like any good salesperson would. But, Donna prompts him, what would Alex think? Here we go again, throwing our own wants to the wind and putting others’ opinions before our own.
Luckily, her stylist replies what I wanted to shout through the screen myself. He tells her, “Shop rule #1: Don’t Worry About Your Husband.” Either Donna is a strict rule follower, or this sentiment struck a nerve. Either way, she leaves the salon with bleached hair.
Unfortunately for Iris, her plan to wow her husband with her new hair color does not go as planned. Instead of smothering her in compliments, he says she looks like a witch. Poor, poor Iris. Realizing that she may have made a mistake, Donna rushes back to the salon before Alex can see her and reverts to her old look. When Alex greets her that evening, he mentions Iris’s change in hair color and asks Donna why she doesn’t try something new with hers. Am I supposed to laugh or cry now?
While this episode may not be the most thought-provoking in the series, it did cause me to look in the mirror (literally and figuratively) and wonder why just my own opinion of my looks isn’t enough. Judging by their exasperation and back-and-forth trips to the salon, Donna and Iris were tired too. I may not be married, but I plan on taking the hairstylist’s words with me wherever I go. From now on, I’m done worrying about my husband.
-Haley Sakuma was a 2021 Donna Reed Foundation intern at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).