Darrin Stephens was the worst husband ever! Sadder even was Samantha’s complete acquiescence to his demanding and irrational behavior toward who and what she was.
Sadly, when I was a child I failed to grasp the subtle messages inherent in the Bewitched series, one of the more popular television shows of its era. Television was our social media and our influencers were the characters on our favorite shows each week. No wonder we bought the hype of the times and in the end paid a price.
Oh sure Darrin came off as a long suffering mortal with a witch of a mother-in-law, but who was really the villain in this scenario? And didn’t Endora have good reason to despise her misogynistic son-in-law?
Samantha’s desire to live within the rules set by her tyrant of a husband still leave me speechless.
In one episode she is cleaning the oven when Endora enters the kitchen and is quite perturbed to see her daughter doing housework.
Endora’s disgust is totally understandable, but Samantha’s contentment with her housewifely duties is also quite shocking.
If one sees her behavior as a lark and enjoying living the life of a mortal woman, well okay, I imagine we can all understand that mindset. We can also understand that any woman in her right mind would be thrilled to twitch her nose and a second later witness a sparkling house with no effort. Now I don’t know about you but if I could zap my stove clean, scrub the floors or have the dirty laundry show up clean and folded in the drawers, I’d opt for that solution in a New York minute.
However, the fact the real theme of Bewitched is not that Darrin Stephens married a witch, but that he was constantly and angrily forcing her to abandon her nature and behave as a mortal is what frosts my cookies. His constant reminders that he is the “King” of his castle are enough to make a modern woman puke and cast him as one of the most reprehensible characters in television history.
Unless of course her magic suits his purposes and then it is welcomed. Can you say hypocrite?
The message here goes much deeper than simply Samantha choosing to live a mortal life.
It is a man dominating a woman and forbidding her to be who she is. Simply perpetrating the myth that women are subservient to men.
Sounds like the fifties to me.
Darrin’s constant rants about being the head of the household and demanding she stop using witchcraft, becomes more egregious when his daughter is born a witch and he then outlaws her nature as well. Sadly, it is hard to watch for it takes me back to a time when women were expected to do the bidding of their husbands and act as society deemed a proper wife should, cleaning, cooking and childcare.
I am absolutely not saying those are not wonderfully virtuous aspects of a woman’s life, but it should be her choice. No one should diminish any choice a woman makes that will fulfill her and make her happy.
Samantha was a witch and as such she was privy to powers and abilities far greater than ordinary women could imagine.
Yet Darrin insisted over and over in a rather screeching tone by the way, she not use her powers or simply put, just be who she is.
At this point I must stress that I am well aware it was a comedy and make believe, and no I don’t believe in witches, but of course Tinkerbell is another issue.
Yet the theme of the show, husband against wife or witch, his power over her powers and her inability to be herself and have to sneak around just to be her true self, is yet another reason women of the fifties were brainwashed into such behavior. Of course there is always Lucy who wants to be in Ricky’s show and need I say more?
This is not comedy to women who were raised in a time when their opportunities were limited to what society and their father’s felt was appropriate for women. Raised in a home where women were expected to be no more than wives and mothers and a daughter’s duty was to get her MRS degree and provide her parents with grandchildren and a successful husband I can speak firsthand of the damage these attitudes can inflict.
A man demanding we be something other than what we were, denying our visions or dreams for ourselves and having to bow to the male order sentenced too many women to failure to live up to their potential and achieve their dreams.
Watching reruns of this show I wince at his very vocal demands that Samantha bend to his will.
Perhaps even sadder is the fact Samantha continues to use her powers behind Darrin’s back. That he hates his mother-in-law because she simply wants her daughter to be who she truly is and have the life she was raised to enjoy is selfish and petty.
Samantha’s desire to live mortally feels hollow in that she continues to use her powers and thus has not truly committed to a life without witchcraft. Is a good marriage one that has both partners hiding and sneaking around to do the things they enjoy, but the other forbids?
Using her abilities proves she is comfortable with her own self and is only bowing to his demands to please him. This is even sadder that a woman would deny herself to appease a man.
During the fifties and early sixties women in sitcoms were powerless and had to resort to sneaky tactics to achieve their will. I believe “Father Knows Best” says it all.
This lesson was never lost on young girls watching and believing the husband rules and women must be clever and hide their true self.
It was the Darrin Stephens of the world that set the women’s movement back by years. Watching a woman as attractive as Elizabeth Montgomery married to a dork like Dick York is tough enough to buy, but the fact she is capable of twitching her nose to improve her life and change the world and is forbidden to do so is just sad.
Darrin Stephens is just representative of how women were held back and chained to a paradigm that forbade them freedom of choice over their own lives.
Young women today would never tolerate such weakness in their role models. Although the women’s movement made a great first effort, it failed to take into account the fact that some women did choose to be housewives and mothers and this was their prerogative as well. Whatever lifestyle a woman wants she should be able to select for herself.
Women have shown time and again they are very capable of multi tasking their lives. Of course one’s priorities should be in the right places and hopefully the things that truly matter will always be in the forefront. Yet it is not fair to tell a woman how to live, what to choose or what she is capable of in this world. No one should be a Darrin Stephens and dictate who one should be.
Unconditional love and acceptance is what we strive to find in this life and I can definitely tell you it didn’t exist on Bewitched.