Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hey NYT, There Must Be A Better Word To Describe Bea Arthur On Page One Than "Battle-Ax."

First on the front page and then in the lede of its obituary this morning, the NYT described legendary television actress Bea Arthur as a "battle-ax."

The page-one headline reads: "Bea Arthur, TV Battle-Ax, Dies." The lede of Bruce Weber's otherwise respectful obit tempers the description somewhat, calling Arthur an "endearing battle-ax."

Much nicer!

For those playing NYTPicker at home, the Urban Dictionary defines "battle-ax" as "a very aggressive and bad tempered (old) woman." From comes this interpretation: "Slang. a domineering, aggressive, sharp-tempered person, esp. a woman."

We get it. Bea Arthur didn't exactly play shrinking violets. But hey, didn't anyone at the NYT ever watch "The Golden Girls"? Dorothy had a sharp wit and used it for humor, like lots of women on television all the way back to Audrey Meadows's Alice Kramden on "The Honeymooners." Was Alice a battle-ax, too? To the NYT, probably.

It seems sad to see the NYT reduce the career of a brilliant actress like Bea Arthur to a harsh slang metaphor that seems synonymous with "bitch," especially on page one. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, we know. But she deserved better.


Ron Hogan said...

The website is now softening the headline to "Bea Arthur, Star of Two TV Comedies, Dies at 86."

But seriously. When Larry Linville died, the Times only referred to him in its headline as the "officious major of M*A*S*H." Maj. Burns rates "officious," but Bea Arthur's a battleaxe? Please.

Betcha they'd never run "George Wendt, Television Barfly," should that unfortunate moment come.

Susan Berkson said...

But you know there are so *few* ways to categorize actresses; Madonna, whore, girlfriend, mother, and now, according to the Times, "battle-ax".

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. My mother wouldn't let me watch "Maude" when I was growing up because she said the woman was mean, rude and degrading. Arthur's idea of humor was insulting the other person and putting him-- and occasionally her-- down. While Maude seemed to think that this behavior was liberating and long overdue, my mother recognized that the behavior hurt all of us, men and women alike, by ripping out our hearts and cauterizing the wounds with a propane torch. The word "battle ax" is too kind. I would have chosen "jerk" or "wretched proof that women are just as mean and self-centered as men." Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

How about "bitter, soul-sucking harpy" or "sad, heart-crushing old bat?"