I Love Lucy S02 E18 – The Inferiority Complex
First Aired: Feb 2 1953
I’M BACK, BABY!
I know, you were probably worried. You probably thought, “Geez, Joanna hasn’t posted in forever. Maybe the overlords at WTF Lucy got fired for sexual harassment and the whole blog has gone up in flames, permanently charred in tawdry scandal.”
Have no fear! No one involved in this site is a creep. I mean sure, my dog humps my leg while I write, but boys will be boys, know’m saying? So you’re safe here.
Speaking of safety, I got some hate mail while I was away for “ruining this beautiful show.” THEY’RE ON TO ME. I decided while sexual harassment and assault plague every industry in the country, while black and latina women make pennies on the dollar to white men, while women are sold as slaves in Libya and Iraq and burned alive in Burma, that to fight the real fight, I’m going to bring down the greatest comedienne of all time. THAT’LL SHOW EM!
If you don’t know by now that Lucy is an icon to me and that I regularly hold myself back from praying tearfully at the feet of the I Love Lucy lunch box sitting to the right of my desk, you don’t know me at all. And if you don’t recognize we’re having a good time here, you can go Fred yourself.
Now, to the show!
We open on Ricky surrounded by presents as Fred comes in, and we proceed to be subjected to about five minutes of jokes re: Fred being a woman. It’s like S02 of Friday Night Lights or every Michael Ginsburg storyline in Mad Men – we know the writers are trying to do something, but it’s unclear what. Instead, it comes across as creepy filler for when the creative team wanted to get out of the office early.
Ricky has bought presents to take to the hospital for Lucy: candy, perfume, and a bed jacket. He wants her to feel like she’s getting a lot of attention.
It’s been two weeks. That bitch doesn’t want candy. She wants to come home from the damn hospital so that you can change the diaper for once and she can take a real nap. Go pick up your wife, numskull.
Lucy’s depressed because last week one lady had triplets and another had twins, and now Lucy fears she short-changed Ricky. If triplets are the standard we’re putting on women now, Octomom deserves that Nobel Prize we gave Malala. Get off your lazy asses, women who only carry and push out one baby at a time. Your uterus is small and no one is impressed.
Ricky worries Lucy is getting another inferiority complex. He flashes back to the time Lucy “out of the blue had a full-fledged complex,” and I am absolutely sure he’s right. There is no possible reason besides “out of the blue.” As long as “the blue” refers to the place where we ladies hold our reasonable emotions before you gaslight us.
The rest of the episode is a flashback:
They sit around telling jokes. Ethel asks Fred not to tell his, because there are ladies present. So Fred tells it anyway.
Let’s look at the bright side, here. Sure, he told a joke his wife begged him not to tell. But we’ve been through a lot these last few months. So with every gross thing Fred does, I’m going to thank him for not standing up, pulling his pants down, and bringing himself to full climax on a live set. We need to acknowledge what a victory that is. I commend him.
Lucy tries to tell a story, but she can’t really articulate it. In fact, as she struggles for the right words, she completely unravels. She misses the punchline; her timing is off. They stare at her in confused torture. It’s basically every night I do standup.
Ricky: Lucy, you haven’t told a story right for your whole life.
Ricky knows that women like Lucy don’t need words of encouragement. Our egos survive off kinky bed jackets and the occasional piece of chocolate.
Lucy wanders off to bed, desperately sad. To stop her, they convince her to play cards. But then no one wants to be on her team.
Lucy: It’s pretty obvious that no one wants me for a partner. I’m going to the bedroom to tell myself funny stories and play solitaire.
I can’t imagine why this unfunny, untalented loser who no one wants to play with might feel bad about herself.
At breakfast she tells Ricky:
Lucy: You know something? I’m not very bright. I don’t do things well.
Ricky: You’re the cleverest and most fascinating woman I’ve ever met.
But she forgot to strain the orange juice. And she salted the eggs twice. And she burned the toast in the oven because she knocked the toaster and broke it. If I let my retriever loose in the kitchen for an hour, he’d whip up a better breakfast.
So Lucy starts biting her nails. Bursts into tears. Falls into chaos. She has discovered womanhood in all its glory: incessant internal nagging paired with inevitable failure at living up to the unreasonable standards of the patriarchy. Welcome, Lucy. Have a drink. Here’s the good news: Once you’re worn down to nothing, little victories like going to the laundromat without makeup will make you feel like Wonder Woman charging into No Man’s Land.
Lucy: We might as well face it, I’m a big fat flop.
Ricky: You can do a lot of things.
Lucy: Name one.
He can’t think of anything and neither can she. Ethel tries to cheer her up by saying there’s no one that can get the hair color Lucy can. But Ronald McDonald would come around less than ten years later and even prove that wrong.
Lucy becomes bedridden with despair.
Ricky: Lucy, are you still in bed?
Lucy: I was going to get up but then I asked myself why. And there I had me.
They call a psychiatrist. Mad props to this show for making such a progressive choice. But isn’t this supposed to be a comedy? Writers, your job is to write jokes, not just copy down the details of me and my friends’ lives.
Turns out, “psychiatrist” back then didn’t mean someone for Lucy to talk with. It meant two dudes will sit and talk about her.
Doctor (to Ricky): Pay a lot of attention to her. Flatter her. Bring her flowers and candy.
OMG he GETS US.
Ricky tried that already, he says. So the psychiatrist recommends flattering her using a different man – a hot man. And you know what, he’s not that far off. If they brought in an experienced lesbian instead, this plan could actually work.
Doctor: At 8:00 tonight, a tall, handsome man will appear at the door. Call him Chuck Stewart, an old friend.
The psychiatrist brings himself. That this man thought he could pass as “handsome” should be enough cause to revoke his license. He raves about her beauty and Ricky gets super uncomfortable.
Doctor: What eyes! What lips! What hair! Gorgeous creature, a living doll…
…(and everything else men say to women on a city bus).
He dances with her while Ricky watches. This is sooooo bizarre. Cue the slow saxophone and handsy undressing. This is a Cinemax setup if ever I saw one (not that I ever have, Mom).
So let’s recap: Lucy has what appears to be fairly serious depression. To cure her, a psychiatrist comes to her house under false pretenses to dance with her in front of her husband until she feels better, essentially making the doctor either: a) a con artist, b) a prostitute, or c) a sexual assailant. When you don’t know which one it is, you have a serious ethical problem. My therapist ALWAYS knows which one of those she’s being.
Then Ricky tells Lucy her fake admirer is actually a psychiatrist, and Lucy bawls. Of course she does! The audience is right there with her at this point. No one laughs.
So Ricky brings Fred and Ethel over. The gang admits to each other they caused this. But rather than explore why they felt comfortable shitting all over their friend until it wounded her at a soul level, they decide to laugh at her jokes and let her win at bridge.
Lucy comes out of the bedroom:
Lucy: Oh Fred and Ethel. I guess you came to see Ricky? I’ll just go back in the bedroom and sit in the dark.
That joke had me laughing more than any other so far on the show, and I mean any episode ever. Because it’s so damn true. I’ve had depression, and sitting in a dark bedroom is legit. She just left out the pound of pasta eaten in the shadows while The Great Muppet Caper plays on
my her laptop.
But the show offers such a terrible cure. Her friends treat her like a child and totally patronize her. They laugh at all her jokes. They pretend they want to play bridge with her. They let her sing a solo. She’s their Make-a-Wish kid.
That isn’t how depression works. THAT ISN’T HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS.
If they really want to cure her depression, they should let her get a job. She’s been begging to work in the industry for years now. She wants to use her time and gifts well. She wants to feel meaning in her daily life and leave a legacy as she grows older. And she wants friends who will encourage and support her, just as she does for them.
That, or she just really wants a new bed jacket. It’s anyone’s guess.
Join me next time for S02 E19: The Club Election. And follow WTF Lucy on Facebook and Twitter!