“To the Moon, Alice!”

“To the Moon, Alice!”
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On “The Honeymooners,” Ralph Kramden (played by Jackie Gleason) had a phrase that those of us of a certain age can’t help but remember.  “To the moon, Alice, to the moon!” he would rasp at his wife (played by the inimitable Audrey Meadows) whenever he had no less predictable comeback to her never predictable jibes. Of course, the idea was that this was how far he would knock her.  An upraised fist often accompanied his threat.

The audience, of course, would roar.  So hilarious this empty threat, for America knew that Ralph would never make good on the threat. Even Alice never flinched–supposedly because she, too, knew those words signaled an empty threat.  But underneath those words and the fact that viewers found them to be so hilarious, was the idea that such threatened violence was funny–and, somehow, that such treatment of his wife was a man’s right.

Alice’s only defense was her wicked wit, and unlike many abused wives then and now, she was never really punished for it.  Somehow America knew that if he ever made good on the threat, that Alice would be out the door and probably within a manner of days, on the arm of a man who didn’t weigh 300 pounds plus–a man who made more than the $65 a week Ralph made as a bus driver.

All-in-all, the situation was not very believable–that trim beautiful (sharp-tongued) Alice would ever be wooed and won by fat, acerbic, not-too-clever Ralph required a suspension of disbelief we were well-accustomed to in the early years of TV, not to mention the movies.  From “The Honeymooners” to “Doctor Who,” we were willing to believe anything to be entertained, but the element of violence toward women found so howlingly funny in the Jackie Gleason show was at least not echoed in the wildly implausible “Dr. Who” plots.  There it was highly likely that one would in fact (or in this case, fiction) be flown to the moon–something that never quite happened on “The Honeymooners.”

How far would I go for someone I loved?  Certainly not as far as Alice went. For although it is true that in my lifetime at least a dozen men have “sent me to the moon,” that is beyond the limits of where I’d allow anyone to knock me to!  Yes, I would and have done many things for those I’ve loved.  I have faced up to a gunman, done nursing tasks I never thought I would have done in a million years, faced up to a police captain to release a man  from jail (and succeeded) in a situation I should have had the good sense to know was impossible, and stayed in a country torn by revolution until I knew the man I loved would live, but one thing I would not do is allow myself to be knocked to the ground, let alone to the moon.  Abuse is something I would not take–by a husband, a lover, a parent or a friend.

It was inevitable that one clever cartoonist would come up with this answer to the question, “What did the astronauts find when they landed on the moon?”  Of course, Alice Kramden! But let me tell you, one person she would never have as a companion there is me! “I’d do anything for you, dear,” is a song those of us “of that certain age” will find familiar, but in my case it is not true.  I will not take abuse–either orally or physically–from anyone, no matter how close the connection, and have absolutely no expectations that anyone would take it from me.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take Me to the Moon.” How far would you go for someone you love? How far would you want someone else to go for you?

38 thoughts on ““To the Moon, Alice!”

  1. Olga

    Totally standing beside you. Interesting piece. Sad that too many women still do allow themselves to be “knocked to the ground” and stay silent. I think that emotional abuse can be just as effective in doing this and much more destructive to one’s being.

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  2. Damien Riley

    The role of women on old tv is truly astonishing. I think a lot of the characters know more than they let on though and they steer their men. I mean, that was their only choice. Gleason sure got his blood pressure up about her. Maybe they both kind of knew what they were doing?

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Well, it was humor. A similar sort of thing went on in “All in the Family,” although Archie stopped short of laying on of hands. I sort of remember one episode, though, when he did go to far and she left him. Am I imagining this?

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        1. lifelessons Post author

          Yes…the stats would certainly support that view, as did the attitudes, although women writers to made it on TV probably learned to write like men. There was a Blair Brown show –Molly Dodd or something like that–that was one of the first written from a female pt. of view. I didn’t have TV at the time so saw only a couple of the shows and I think it only ran one season in spite of rave reviews. I need to check up. Maybe it is available now…I remember that it was the first show where the character came out ofthe scene and talked directly to the camera and the audience.

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  3. lghoelson

    Judy, I think maybe you watched “The Honeymooners,”
    We people are a mixed up lot, we accepted the Honeymooner’s as humor, that was entertainment, while women were being beaten regularly by their husbands or boyfriends. In the forties and fifties some judges seemed to have an attitude that maybe the woman deserved it. I know my dad never did more than one or two day’s time in the slammer. He broke my mother’s arm once, jaw another time and blackened her eyes on numerous occasions. Thank the Lord for women’s resource shelters that are now available.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      I agree. And it was just a parent’s prerogative to beat and strap their children. I think there is still a tendency to think it is “family business,” but I, too, am thankful for family shelters and changing attitudes.

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  4. Swoosieque

    I still love watching those reruns, but always, always wondered why Alice would have married Ralph and am so glad that women are not chattel anymore and there is help for women who are mistreated and abused. Great take on the topic!

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Thanks, Swoosieque. I think part of the humor was the big mismatch physically. It made him the perfect patsy for so many jokes. I think I ran across him once on the front porch of a cabin on a preserve in Kenya. It was 1967 or 8 and if it wasn’t him, it was his identical twin. He said hi, I said hi and passed on. I’ve always wondered if it really was him.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Yes –Bluto should have been named Bruto. The predecessor to all the school bullies of today!!!! I guess a villain was needed for Popeye to win out against, again and again. Would that today’s terrible world bullies were so easily overcome.

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  5. granonine

    I agree with all you are saying. What is just as sad to me is that we morphed from Alice Kramden to stupid, messy, sloppy men whose wives’ main goal in life was to keep them from embarrassing themselves and their families. The children know more than the parents, of course, and keep reeling off one-liners that would have gotten me grounded for life. There are few family sit-coms that, in my opinion, showed life in real terms. Respectful kids who mess up now and then but don’t boss their parents around; wives who are smart and self-sufficient who chose smart, capable men to marry instead of someone they’d have to train. But I guess all that wouldn’t be funny.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Now I’m curious about what programs you are talking about. Since 1987, I could count on one hand the number of years I’ve had TV–by choice, although I always had a TV to watch videos and my family would send shows they liked to me–without commercials! Ah luxury. A friend still does this and I have Netflix so I have seen some programs, but perhaps not the ones you speak of..Which ones are they? I always have questions, don’t I?

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      1. granonine

        Juday, I don’t watch a lot of TV for the reasons I’ve stated. One of the first programs that comes to mind involved a main character named Jim. He was a flabby, mouthy, beer-guzzling dad to kids who were all smarter than he; his wife was a gorgeous blonde who regularly gave him the hairy eyeball to straighten him out. There’s a show that’s very popular right now–I think it’s called Modern Family–in which most of the male characters are lewd, ineffective and and crass, married to gorgeous women. Seems to me there’s also gay couple as well, who often save the day for everyone else. And the kids are full of one-liner genius. Those two are the ones that come to mind. I know there are others that, down through the years, we stopped watching because of the portrayal of the father as a dunce.

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  6. Lauren

    I enjoyed this piece as I always tell my husband my observations of old woman roles on tv to the “Jeannie’s-“yes master” role, to Laura, mary tyler moores role in the dick van dyke show who got to talk back and have fun, to the other roles on tv, it’s super different than today’s tv. how they would interact as couples.. I enjoyed your writing and thanks for reading mine.

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  7. OnChi

    Good for you! Abuse is the product of broken people who can’t control their tempers, and only serves to promote violence as an acceptable form of communication. When someone threatens physical violence, even if it’s funny, it’s usually a sign that that person would consider it if pushed too far. I don’t think Ralph Kramden would have ever hit Alice, but it is a sign of those times (which isn’t really that long ago if you think about it) that such a line was pulled off without so much as a blink of opposition. To be brutally honest, I am so used to that line, I never even associated it with the threat. How easy it is to become inured to something!

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  8. calensariel

    I have always thought I’d fight back if anything like that ever happened to me, but I’m not so sure. I’d just as likely stand there and cry and apologize for whatever. I’ve decided one can’t really know until they’re in that situation. I always thought I was vwey brave until the boiler blew up at church and I was afraid to go down to the basement to see how my friend Dan was…

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  9. lifelessons Post author

    Reblogged this on lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown and commented:

    This is for Marilyn–not a poem! Written over three years ago, it predated the “Me too” movement, but fits right in with the climate today of”one step forward, one step back.” Which will it be by the end of this political “reign”? Hopefully, if a woman winds up on the moon it will be literally and not figuratively.

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  10. dennyho

    I believe we all ‘bend our rules’ a bit when love is at stake, but knowing when to draw the line and readjust our blurred vision is paramount. Too easily any of us can allow our values and self respect fall to second standing if we believe we do this all for the love of another…and this can be in any relationship. It is good to remember that our own beliefs, passions, dreams, and desires are just as important than the next guy’s, or girl’s! I enjoyed reading your post and I wonder, does this show still exist on TV-land somewhere? I am going to look it up right away!!! Am doubtful but ya never know.

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      1. dennyho

        Sadly, I am old enough to remember the title!!! I did not see that it is running in my area but yes, it can be streamed as can most anything today.

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  11. Marilyn Armstrong

    I never liked The Honeymooners. I lived with a violent father and I knew what it really meant, whether it was a threat or a beating. I also never understood why ANYONE thought it was funny. I think the reason Garry and I get along so well is that he had exactly the same reaction to it and to all shows that are funny because they are violent.

    NOT funny. Violence isn’t funny. Violence against women is marginally unfunnier — but we live in a country where half the male population is in a permanent state of rage. Oddly enough, their rage is all Mom’s fault — or the ex-wife — or the crazy ex-girlfriend. These guys never do anything that could be considered their OWN fault.

    Now THAT’S funny.

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      1. Marilyn Armstrong

        He was a good actor, otherwise, but I found it really hard to let go of his TV show personality. I didn’t like “The Honeymooners” for a lot of reasons, among many others that I found it so awfully depressing. That was a miserable life they led and maybe that was part of the point. Regardless, I was lucky because no one in my house liked it, so i rarely was forced to watch it.

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        1. lifelessons Post author

          I think I’ve told you that I ran into Jackie Gleason sitting on the porch of a little cabin in African..I think it was Kenya, or perhaps Tanzania. I was coming down a path from our room, broke through some bushes, and there he was—as I remember, in a rocking chair. He said hello, I said hello, and I passed on.

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  12. Anton Wills-Eve

    Judy, as a very young USA-ophile, I read the Saturday Evening Post every week from 1947 to 1960, and believed that it was a picture of American life. War was funny because everyone in the military was a character in Bilko and every badman had been killed by Tom Mix. My American family relatives were all loving and generous. Then my godfather Walter Cronkite invited my sister and me to New York for 3 weeks at Easter 1960. The discovery that Norman Rockwell, Bennett Cerf, Richard Thurber and ‘Hollywood’ had been fooling me for so long took a very long time to get over. Thank God I moved to Paris for 7 years and lived in 3 foreign languages from the age of just 18 to almost 25. Domestic abuse was unknown to me in our family and there was no hint of it even on UK TV. But thank heavens I loved God because my regular unspeakable corporal punishment at school was the one part of growing up I was told was normal. It did nothing to make me a better person, simply made a crippling mental illness far harder to control, and I tried so hard to forgive every type of violence I suffered because I honestly hoped “they knew not what they did.” By the time I left France, with a string of academic achievements and five years simultaneously working as a journalist in Italy and Spain as well, I was determined never to stop helping victims of all types of abuse especially racist and psychological. But then six months in the middle East and more than three years in Vietnam coupled with a string of bereavements, including the loss of my wife and daughter, finally made me into the person I am. A victim of violence and abuse? Yes, but one who is incapable of ignoring people who cannot cope any more and is prepared to do anything I can for them. This is not some saintly virtue, it’s knowing what some people go through and not being able to walk away from trying to do anything I can for them. If I’d been a woman and ever been abused by my husband I am sure I would have walked out at once. You see I could never have really loved someone who loved me so little. I have never laid a hand on my wife or kids no matter what they have done. I know what it can do to their lives. Anton

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Hard to face the amount of brutality in the world. The only hope is to take note of those who respond in the opposite manner and hope they win out in the end.

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    2. Marilyn Armstrong

      Norman Rockwell was a serious proponent of civil right — and not just politically, but personally. If you ever get to see ALL of his paintings, you will see that most of them included non-white people. For some bizarre reason, most people seem to ignore his other paintings and only remember his covers on the Saturday Evening Post. But he was better than that.

      As far as family abuse goes, it is not limited to any country, region, religion, social status. It happens everywhere. If it never happened in your family, you just got lucky.

      I don’t get the whole physical abuse in schools either. It was NEVER allowed in American schools, at least during my lifetime. Not in public schools, anyway. Religious schools were a whole different story.

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      1. lifelessons Post author

        Spanking was allowed in my public school. I remember the first grade teacher spanking a little boy and then his parents coming and spanking him as well. i remember hating it at the time. That little boy committed suicide in later life. I couldn’t help but remember back to the misery inflicted upon him by that teacher..I believe it had to do with wetting his pants.. an additional indignity.

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        1. Marilyn Armstrong

          I may have been different from state to state. It was absolutely forbidden in New York and as far as I know, in all northeastern public schools. Many people did NOT agree with it, by the way. It’s still a subject of controversy. Personally, I think hitting kids just teaches them that the bigger person can beat up a smaller one. I don’t think kids learn anything from brutality — except to be brutal.

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