Bad-ass feminist, and fictional tv character of the 90s, Blossom Russo, has been a staple in my retro tv watching recently, and it's reminded me just how awesome she, and the show in general, really was, especially for the time period.
I was reminded of this just after re-watching the first episode, "Blossom Blossoms." This entire episode is about Blossom getting her period, and "becoming a woman." I can't even recall the last time I watched a family sitcom where the word "period" was even mentioned, let alone discussed for a whole thirty minutes.
Watching "Blossom" as a young adult was an amazing experience. I remember feeling like the show was so true-to-life--unlike, say, "Saved By the Bell." There were so many difficult dynamics going on in the Russo family, which made it incredibly real: the parent's divorce, the brother who is in recovery, the pressure to have sex, friendships, death, growing up, etc.
In many of the episodes, the "F" word (Feminism/st) is thrown about repeatedly. It's amazing. Blossom is constantly reconciling the choices she makes in life with her feminist beliefs. In one episode, "Driver's Education," Blossom passes the driving test after her best friend, Six, tells her to cry her way out of failing. Blossom gets home, and instead of feeling happy for passing, she is upset with herself, as she believes she didn't pass honorably. She makes a comment to Six about how passing in the way she did was "an affront to all women." I tell you, the writers of this show were genius.
But it's not just the writers who made the character Blossom so amazing--it was also the actress who played her, Mayim Bialik. She was not your stereotypically beautiful young woman--she was quirky--she was different. Unlike the attempt-of-a-feminist-character, Jessie Spano, there was no laugh track to Blossom's feminist statements. There was a real sense of respect from the other characters.
The writers were very lucky to find Bialik. Recently, I came across an article about her from 1991, right when the show took off. In it, she mentions that the writers initially had a joke about Blossom having a flat chest in the first episode. Bialik took issue with this, and immediately called the executive producer. In the article, she states:
'I gave him a piece of my feminist mind,' says Bialik, who in her triple-pierced right ear sports a small gold Venus symbol (the universal sign for womanhood). 'Flat-chested jokes are lame-o. It's important for young women to have positive role models. Blossom is someone who is smart and interested in things other than shopping and boys. She represents how girls are and how they should be.'
How many 15-year-olds on television sitcoms would say such thing?! Especially in the early 90s! The fact that Bialik identified herself as feminist right off the bat--to the press, no less--seriously makes me squeal with excitement. Girl is rad.
During most of the publicity surrounding "Blossom", Bialik spoke in depth about societal standards of beauty, and having confidence in one's own appearance. In a 1993 article for US Weekly, Bialik said:
My philosophy is that society has an image of what's beautiful, but it's not always right... I've always been raised to be confident with the way I look. I would never get a nose job [speaking to rumors that she had this done]. I think Barbra Streisand is very pretty. And Bette Midler. I never wanted to be Cindy Crawford. There's a different kind of beauty you can find in people like Meryl Streep and Glenn Close. I'd rather have a different kind of beauty than have someone look at me and say, 'Oh, isn't she pretty?' I'd rather people have to get to know me.
I know that the character "Blossom" is different than the actress playing her, however, I can't help but feel they come pretty damn close to being the same person, and that's awesome.
Also, girl could DANCE.