Fantastic Female Friday- Abigail Sciuto (NCIS)

There are many things that are supercool about Abby Sciuto. It’s easy to harp on about her aesthetic, her taste in music, her ability to use unconventional methods to make sure that justice is served! She might not have the action chick flair of Ziva David or Kate Todd…

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..but Abby fights crime. As a lab geek, it would be easy to have her sidelined, cast aside and there to drop cookies for the agents and portray her as nothing more than a quirky Caf-Pow addict.

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But Abby gets storylines all her own. Memorably, in the episode “Cover Story,” back when McGee was secretly an author and based a character after Abby which made her the target of a Thom E Gemcity superfan’s wrath. She and McGee had a brief fling around that time as well, but it didn’t ruin their friendship. In season 2, Abby goes undercover to catch a Black Widow and a serial rapist. Or when gets herself in a tight spot, abducted on her way to testify and defend her evidence, a task for which she vainly attempts to turn down her eye catching style, the men are about to run to her rescue but when they find reach her, she tasers the hell out of her would be attacker and saves her own self.

In the season 3 episode “Bloodbath,” she has a stalker ex-boyfriend, things turn deadly when she has fake evidence left in her lab that triggered a dangerous chemical reaction: She told McGee to drop to the floor and explained what had happened while they crawled across the lab, McGee flips her onto her back and risks his health to drag her out. She does some soul searching in Gibbs’s basement, wondering if it’s all her fault, if she brought this on herself. He lets her find her own answers and a drunken Abby says that it’s not her fault and that he’s a creep. The character is very vulnerable and this terrifying situation is shown without victim blaming and turned out to be a touching and remarkable episode. Abby is embarrassed to tell everyone what she has going on, she questions herself… but in the end, with support, she overcomes the situation. It was wonderfully written and acted, conveying perfectly that partner abuse can affect anyone and how those relationships can influence the victim’s mentality.

Back in season 1, Abby’s fear of autopsy alerts everyone to an emergency after a terrorist infiltrates Ducky’s lab and demands all evidence returned… but this also gets Kate into a dangerous situation when she pretends to be Abby and Gerald shot for playing along with the scheme. (In the end, Abby conquers her fear and sleeps in the morgue.)

In season 5, she saves a military dog who is accused of murder. The dog also took a bite out of McGee -who shot him. Abby defies McGee and Director Shepherd to clear the canine’s name.

And you could be thinking that these plots make Abby seem like a kid sister, and to an extent that isn’t inaccurate. Abby is a very relatable character, what makes that so is that she isn’t perfect, she has struggles. She has family issues (like when she finds out she has a brother she hadn’t known) and abusive exes, she takes loss (of both Kate and Jenny) hard. She hides out at Gibbs’s house on occasion and one time at McGee’s. She let’s personal problems (like when she had body image issues after a little person she was dating said he liked smaller girls) interfere with work persona.

Basically she’s an actual human being.

And if you take a look around at the people you know, you will probably find that some of your favorites are a little much. A little immature, quirky… but cool, compassionate and always waiting with a comforting hug… mine are anyway.

And besides, it’s not always Abby that needs saving.

In season 7 she’s called to Mexico to teach a seminar on forensics in cold cases. Day one she deals with catty co-eds, but soon she’s got more trouble as a cartel leader, Paloma Reynosa, gives her a bullet. The one that killed her father. The case that she’s set to work is that of Gibbs’s deceased wife and daughter. Their killer was Paloma;s father, Pedro. And the bullet that that killed Pedro? Abby finds out that the bullet striations matched Gibbs’s SIG Sauer.

And Abby’s faith is shattered and she’s mad. She’s mad that she’s in a situation where she has to compromise her ethics. Gibbs never confesses. He never says one way or another whether he planned and executed the execution of his family’s killer. But Abby, true to herself, true to her sense of right and wrong, good and evil, decides that Gibbs doesn’t get a pass. Not because he’s saved people. Not because he’s her friend. She submits the report, which Vance then “loses”. And it was there that Abby’s character was proven.

MURRAY PERRETTE WEATHERLY

She’s also a total babe. Not just when she’s playing dress up. Her *unconventional* style gets her plenty of attention as well, aside from the hookup with McGee, she uses her swagger to make connections that gain her access to NASA equipment.

And the babely actress, Pauley Perrette:

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Brings some of herself into the character as well. On the season 1 DVD, talking about her childhood, it’s said that she grew up near a junkyard and would see all the wrecked cars come in. She would analyze where the damage was and what might have happened to the cars. Young Abby appears in flashbacks in the season 10 episode “Hit and Run” where she is shown investigating “her first case.”

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Pauley Perrette also makes music as the front woman of “Stop Making Friends”and her vocals have appeared on NCIS soundtracks.

Perrette has also been well known for her involvement with the NO H8 campaign. NO H8 was started in response to the ban of same sex marriage in California in 2008, it’s a silent protest that uses social media, education and outreach to give a public voice to those struggling with bullying, discrimination and inequality.

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Pauley helped design this dress and wore it to the People’s Choice awards in 2011. She likened this to wearing her heart on her sleeve.

All of this leaves me to wonder if it’s life imitating art or art imitating life that Perrette is as caring and cool as Abby.

Recently the actress suffered a serious allergic reaction to hair dye which inspired me to go back to henna over chemical dyes. The future of Abby’s raven locks may be in jeopardy and the star is weighing her options.

Abby’s character development has taken her from “kid sister” to “best man”, from quirky goth lab tech to indispensible team member, she’s panicked and gotten it together to help her friends, she’s questioned the morality of those in her life and she is cautious about who to trust but once you are in her heart, that’s where you stay. Abby deals with things very humanly, she’s a very well written character. Remember how she famously disliked Ziva at first? This wasn’t because of the “women hate each other” trope, this was because she was still grieving and she could only think of Ziva as Kate’s replacement and she wasn’t ready. And everyone loves Gibbs (and the ass-kicking Ziva David) but it’s Abby who saves the team from mediocrity.

Fantastic Female Friday- Captain Maldonado (Almost Human)

Lili Taylor, who I until recently only knew as Lisa from “Six Feet Under” played Maldonado. She also recently starred in Hemlock Grove as Lynda Rumancek, but pending incarceration forced her to flee the country and she didn’t spend much time on screen in season 2. Hopefully this will be rectified by a trip home in season 3.

But we’re not here to talk about Peter the werewolf’s doting momma; we’re here to talk about John Kennex’s boss and friend, Sandra Maldonado.

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Now Maldonado is not without stereotypes. She’s obsessive about her job to the point where she neglects her personal life. She’s “past her prime” and never married and never had children. In episode 5 a criminal that she’s trying to put away tries to get in her head about it. Only it doesn’t work. At all. She doesn’t start to doubt herself or her decisions. She saves her friend, puts away the bad guys, delivers a venomous smackdown speech and gets hit on by a lawyer.

While even in that episode (which gave the most development to Maldonado’s character) Karl Urban’s Detective Kennex was always front and center he wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for her. She got him back on the force when everyone said he was too damaged, when everyone doubted him, she did not. And she chose Dorian to be his partner. 

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Because they are friends and peers. They trust each other. She doesn’t have a romantic interest in him, she likes him because they’re relics. They’ve done the job together long enough and watched the world change before their eyes. They have a mutual understanding that John didn’t have with much younger potential love interest Detective Stahl (Minka Kelley). And he knows that he wouldn’t be there without her, and he tells her so. What?! a straight white male action hero MC admits that he’s only there because he’s privileged enough to know someone?! And that someone is a female friend. And she isn’t berated or questioned for it.

Captain Maldonado is well respected, she’s in a position of power and uses her influence to do favors for her friends. They didn’t have the actress portrayed by someone irrationally young (the way the “NCIS” female team leaders are always much younger and saucier than Agent Gibbs). It was believable.

Occasionally Kennex’s tiffs with Detective Paul made her crazy but she never came across as inept or not in control. Like when Kennex spread increasingly ridiculous rumors about why Detective Paul was out of work. Or when Dorian punched Detective Paul Or when Kennex shot an MX. Kennex never pulled these stunts when under her watchful eye. He pulled them off away from her gaze like a cocky 4th grader showing off in front of the class when their classroom teacher is out and the substitute doesn’t know what he’s in for. 

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A thoughtful friend, skilled investigator, authoritative leader, bold decision maker. A clever boss who looks out for her friends like family so much so that it negates the “Can career women really have it all?” rhetoric and her no frills pantsuits. Sadly, there wasn’t much character development, partially because the episodes were all shown in the wrong order leaving even the main characters with disjointed growth.

I’m still living in a dream world where FOX will reverse their decision and bring back Maldonado and her crew for a second season. Maybe if they win that Emmy they were nominated for…

Fantastic Female Friday- Joan Watson (Elementary)

There are 1,000 reasons why Elementary is a show better than Sherlock. At the top of my list for reasons that this is inescapably true: Moffat can only write one character at a time, Sherlock gets called out on his irrational bullshit -his actions have repercussions!, and Lucy Liu as Watson.

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(Semi-)Recently Liu discussed being typecasted because of racism and stereotypes in Hollywood. In the interview she mentioned how she is always given the roles of “emotionless Asian woman,” this trope currently rears it’s ugly head in Agents of SHIELD with Ming-Na Wen’s character, and this has been following Liu since the mid nineties with her role on Ally McBeal. She discusses her favorite roles, including one of my all time favorite movies Lucky Number Slevin. In that film (which was a snappy dialogued conspiracy-riddled action flick) she played Josh Hartnett’s love interest. And I remember leaving the theater thinking “Wow, I didn’t know Lucy Liu was so cute. She was adorable.” 

And she was, she babbled on about nonsense and wore pigtails and cute sweaters and was not a “tough chick” or an ice queen. She fell for Slevin Calebra hard. And she did a great job. And the only reason I was surprised was because I’d only ever seen her as a butt-kicking babe (not that I’m anti-action-chick by any means). Charlie’s Angel’s, Ballistics: Ecks vs Sever, Kill Bill, Ling Woo on Ally, Domino… fierce. But not much range. Her role as Lindsey the neighbor who stops in to borrow a cup of sugar and ends up embroiled in a con in which Slevin seeks revenge on mobsters for the death of his father changed that. She was sweet, she thought it was a game, but she was scared. No Matrix action scenes, no impossible stunts. Just smart and sharp behavior. Just a plot twist and a crush.

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And so when I heard she was going to be playing Watson. I ran the whole Watson is a woman? Watson is a woman of color? Holy shit, awesome. I’ve read a Sherlock adaptation where Sherlock is a woman (and didn’t care for it in that case), but even Watson as a woman in a Sherlock Holmes adaptation for a major network… MAJOR. Even better still when I started watching.

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It doesn’t have the same style, flair and effects budget as BBC’s Sherlock (it also has more than 3 episodes in a season). While it’s written more like the procedural dramas that CBS is known for cultivating well, it doesn’t lack character development. As Joan Watson progresses into helping Sherlock with his consulting work, she tries to keep up the boundaries but stumbles into it naturally. When she shows Sherlock how doing squats will help him stay awake and focussed I started to become impressed. She’s making a new life for herself but she isn’t burdened with psychosomatic disorders or self doubt. She gave up medicine because she second guessed herself, but she takes pride in the work that she’s found and where it leads her.

She also doesn’t put up with half the shit that Martin Freeman’s John Watson does. Freeman’s Watson is constantly dragged around Sherlock as if he has nothing else to do, he counts Sherlock as his friend and it seems to be enough that he is basking peripherally in his greatness. For Joan, this is not the case. She has her own intentions, first to keep him sober, then to learn investigative skills (because it’s still helping people). As the season 2 progresses, she starts choosing cases on her own, whether or not Sherlock is on board. We get inside to her motivations with becoming a sober companion- her father was a drug addict. She still loves him, he had an untreated mental illness and this doesn’t defeat her, it envigors her to help others (and still keep an eye out for him). In last week’s episode, she investigated a doctor that she used to work with who may have undertreated a murderer. Sherlock found something he felt was more important to do. But she did things her own way, proving that she doesn’t exist to orbit around Sherlock Holmes and bask in his glowing aura of pompousness and arrogance. 

And Elementary‘s Sherlock is arrogant. his pushy investigative style got an ex-con on his last chance fired from his job. The man, in turn, went to shoot Sherlock and Detective Bell got caught in the crossfire. She doesn’t sugar coat it for Sherlock that he caused this.

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And she doesn’t back down when he hooks up with her friend. She even pranks him into thinking that he impregnated her. She goes along with small shenanigans (like dressing up the turtle) but that’s about it. 

Often her medical expertise saves the day, her interpersonal skills keep them out of more trouble. She’s the perfect companion, the perfect sidekick, and a great friend. She’s always willing to help short of running headlong into danger, she’s not reckless, she’s not broken. She’s just trying to do what she can. A life in progress. But nothing about her character is bogged down. Joan Watson is a very positive and driving force for Sherlock, not the other way around.

CBS has some love connections on their procedurals (Deeks and Kenzi NCIS-LA, Ziva and Tony NCIS) But thus far they have not touched that with a ten foot pole (because women and men can just be friends! hooray!) as Liu said in an interview on CBS This Morning, “Maybe in ten seasons, when we’re out of ideas.”

Elementary was recently renewed for season 3. They’re well on their way!

Fantastic Female Friday- Hot Ice Hilda (Outlaw Star)

The mere mention of her name gets a strong reaction from Outlaws, pirates and space forces alike. She steals and android from notorious Chinese pirate guild, the Kei Pirates, and in an altercation that ends with the death of their leader at her hands.. she loses one of them, and an eye. She gets a cybernetic arm and swears vengeance! Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Sadly, Hot Ice Hilda only lives 2 episodes in to Outlaw Star.

Hilda’s pursued by the Kei pirates across space and crash lands on Sentinel III. With her ship and arm in disrepair she plays innocent under the identity of a blonde rich girl named “Rachel Sweet” and cons Gene Starwind into helping her out with materials and repairs. She also enlists him as a bodyguard. When Kei pirates catch her scent, her true identity as the infamous outlaw is revealed. Gene attempts to complete the job he agreed to. He shoots the pirates with the magical and obsolete Caster Gun while Hilda chucks grenades, they make it to the barn where the ship is hidden, Hilda thanks Gene …and then shoots him and takes Jim hostage to finish repairs.

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Gene doesn’t die and she ends up taking him along into space (which he’s always been afraid of) they get into various shenanigans and the two have sex. Hilda has the stereotypical warrior/traveller viewpoint and just wants a warm body next to hers. She on the “masculine” side, she yells at Gene when he is scared she is demanding and doesn’t do anything in the way of being sympathetic -but she still encourages him. After a brief stop over on Blue Heaven (where guns are not allowed and she fights with her badass robot hand and a taser) she, Gene, Jim and Melfina return back out into space and they are attacked by Kei Pirates and the outlaws The MacDougal Brothers. Hilda proves that she will do anything to the Kei Pirates. Even if it means her own life… Her message to Gene?  “Outlaws never go down easy, now matter what happens to them.” And she dies taking out the last pirate there to fight.

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Hot Ice Hilda is responsible for the whole plot of the series! Hilda was the one searching for the Galactic Leyline. She didn’t know what it was, she just knew Kei pirates wanted it, so she wanted to get it first. And you really can’t argue with that logic. She’s vengeful, but mature and rational, capable, savvy and utterly ruthless. She was the one responsible for getting Gene into space and off Sentinel III where he was a big cocky fish in a small pond. She was the catalyst for so much of the plot. And she was fridged. But she provided more than emotional turmoil for Gene (although there certainly was that), her infamy brought them enemies, her disregard of an order from a Ctarl-Ctarl ship brought the wrath of Aisha Clan-Clan down on Gene and co., her death left Melfina’s existence a mystery and a treasure to be searched for. 

It’s just really awesome to have this REALLY not girly, not conventionally feminine love interest who gets some unassuming man caught up in the adventure of his life. In many adventure fantasies it is a woman getting dragged behind as the plot unfold because of the drive of a man. But in this one everyone else is just along for the ride, whether they want to be or not.

Too bad that she was too badass for a story about some guy with red hair and his 11 year old business partner. (Just kidding I love this show, but it would have been totally different if she hadn’t left Gene alone in space to have his adventure and get vengeance)

Fantastic Female Friday: Lorelei

(Marvel comics, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD)

From the Agents of SHIELD episode “Yes Men” it was easy to gather that Lorelei had feminine wiles that would cause “men” to go to endless war. She’s used to commanding armies, she’s used to demanding the finer things. But to her… they aren’t men, not really anyway, they are soldiers… they are ants. 

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Lorelei made her first appearance in Thor #337  in 1983. The story that she falls into is one of unrequited love, she’s always getting at Sif for liking Thor (since the 80s!), Loki likes her and Lorelei can have any man she wants… well almost, she can’t seem to get Thor. There’s lots of convoluted trickery including spells, potions, dragons and fake names. Amora, her older sister, tricks Lorelei and Loki into falling for each other. In Loki:Agent of Asgard #2.. this is still somewhat the case. Although, it’s more likely that he feels a fondness for her because of their similar status in their families. Lorelei gets in over her head enough, from wreaking small havoc on the love lives of her cohorts to teaming up with Pluto and spawning Valkyries.  

She’s a little much. 

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But look at the way people are all captivated by Hiddleston, there’s no reason to hate on a female version of Loki.

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But Lorelei’s not a knock off.. she’s her own personality evolved out of a similar experience. She might be a “tramp” and a “hussie” but let’s face it: So? She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it. And that’s hardly the only weapon in her arsenal. She has sorceress powers, can turn men to stone and she’s skilled in combat.

So when she is set free in Thor: the Dark World and debuts on the small screen taking over a biker gang’s empire in the middle of the desert -did anyone recall that Odin was being impersonated by Loki at the end of that film?! So did Loki want his lady friend back? …think about it.

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While I’m not a fan of her role in reinforcing the gender binary (her power only works on men… doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room… also no mention of gay men or lesbian women… erasure is a dick move, this should be retconned by now.. shit.) and despite the fact that her powers aren’t limited to coercion she’s seen relying heavily on her feminine wiles.. I’m still a fan. It is tropes on tropes. But we live in a world where people do infact have “good looking” privilege. Lorelei takes that to the next level. And that’s one of these times when I want to remind everyone why “conventional gender roles” are bad for everyone: Is it really her ‘fault’ that men will all fall on their swords for her? They were taught to look out for beautiful damsels in need… she just eggs them a bit further. It’s that specific reason that I can justify that it is only ALL men influenced regardless of orientation. Male privilege. Society said that men are heroes who fight for women. And this is the result. She’s manipulated a broken system to her will. 

Fantastic Female Friday: Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz

Jewish comedian and actress Melissa Rauch became a regular on The Big Bang Theory in the show’s 4th season playing the smart and sweet Bernadette Rostenkowski. The other female regulars include “every-girl” Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and the frumpy genius Amy (Mayim Bialik). Bernadette is the whole package (and a small package at that -Rauch is only 4′ 11″ like me).

She’s casual cute, low maintenance pretty. She’s super blonde, perky and buxom. In the TV world characters like that are a dime a dozen, but added in that she works in the biotech/pharmaceutical field and is super smart and has a career in a very male dominated field… yeah, busty blondes with baby voices don’t usually get to go down that path. She’s successful in a male dominated field and she still gets along well with women, she takes her work seriously but is always down to party.

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Unlike Amy who is unfulfilled in her relationship (she wants a more physical relationship than the asexual Sheldon can fathom), Bernadette makes it clear with Howard what she wants from the relationship (like for him to move out of his mother’s house). And she’s not a snob, she gets along well with everyone in their social circle… mostly..

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In a recent episode, Leonard was talking about his work saying “no one goes into science for the money” and Bernadette responded, “Speak for yourself my company both invented and cured restless eye syndrome last week. Cha-ching you blinky bastards!” And in the end, it’s not her relationships with a variety of women for a variety of reasons, her fortitude to ask for a true partnership with her husband… it’s that -that she isn’t saving the world, and she isn’t an ego maniac, but she will think like a boss…

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And she will armwrestle her friends for who gets to be Cinderella when they go for Disney makeovers. And maybe you’d agree with Mayim Bialik who *doesn’t understand princess culture and think wanting to be the rags to riches, shoe losing princess is foolish, but when she yelled “My car -My rules!” I was sold. Nevermind that she never feels out of place in the comic shop whether she takes an interest to have something to discuss with Howard or if she’s popping in after she burns a Batman comic with her curling iron.

*Can I side note? I have every reason to like Mayim Bialik. A feminist neuroscientist who advocates for attachment parenting. She’s even vegan, VEGAN for crying out loud. And I still don’t. And I want to. But the post about the Disney Princess scene …and let me be real, I’ve been disliking since she said this in TWOTHOUSANDELEVEN to CNN in an interview with Kari Byron:

Bialik: I was on the floor at Comic -Con and there as a gorgeous, five-foot-nine, busty woman in a teeny, tiny Ewok outfit with tattoos and her belly out, and she wore a button that said “I love nerd girls.”

And this is my bias, you know, but I thought, “You don’t look anything like a nerd girl. You’re stunning, you have an awesome stomach, you’re wearing an Ewok bikini, you’re busty, you’re tall.” And I’m thinking, wow, how much the image has changed.

She was at least ten years younger than me. And I was thinking, its like the 3rd wave of feminism, I’m really a second wave feminist, but 3rd wave is like “I can look however I want, you still have no right to challenge me about my intellect. But it was just so funny because that would never have been my image of a geek. But it’s shifted so much. I feel like an old hag next to her. I’m a true nerd girl! Come on!
 Da fuq? Parts of it sound worse than I think was intended. But REALLY? and to say that in front of Kari Byron (Who will probz get an FFF someday. I was Kari for Halloween once, I love her so freaking much) who is an attractive woman and is constantly fighting the bias that she’s just a “token hot girl” and Mayim busts out with the “You don’t look like a nerd girl” / “I’m a true nerd girl” GO HOME. I have actually been mad about that for almost 3 years. You can read the whole thing here, but this is Kari Byron’s response:

Byron: I’ve noticed sort of a backlash against attractive girls that happen to be nerds or gamers, almost constantly challenging the fact that’s they’re nerds or geeks as if there’s no way that’s a possibility, and I don’t know if that’s a generational thing, or you just need to always hate beautiful girls for something!

EXACTLY

And that’s why I picked the unabashedly attractive, bossy, saucy, hard working, capitalist, martini sipping, flirty, sweet, big breasted Bernadette

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Because let’s face it. Intellect +career +income +social skills +fashion sense +compassion +wit +drive +decisiveness? 

the heck else do you want?

Fantastic Female Friday: Lily Munster

Lily (Dracula) Munster, Countess of Shroudshire, is the matriarch of the Munster family. Unlike many of her 1960’s TV contemporaries; Lucy Ricardo, Samantha from Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie; Lily was more likely to be playing responsible adult while the antics of her husband, Herman, got them embroiled in zany schemes.

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While technically Lily Munster is a “sandwich maker”

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The outspoken Lily is very protective of her family -even defending the house with cannons after Grandpa accidentally sells it to a demolition crew intent on turning their haunted mansion into a parking lot. She never forgot where she came from, doing charity work collecting donations for her home country of Transylvania. The (usually) Stay at Home Mom is very involved in the lives of her son, Eddie, and her “hideous” niece, Marilyn.

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Sultry and always confident, Lily tells Marilyn of the importance of being self assured and ambitious. While Lily usually ruled the roost at 1313 Mockingbird Lane she also had several jobs during the series: a welder, a palm reader, a model, she even notably opened a salon with Marilyn which went under after she gave everyone monster makeovers. Like I said, the uberconfident Lily sees herself as the ideal of beauty, who wouldn’t want to look like this:

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When neighbors or fellow country club members behave rudely towards the Munsters she takes offense but she never wavers in her belief that it’s their problem and not hers. She’s always eager to socialize and is polite even if she doesn’t understand their taste in fashion. While the other Munsters take it more personally when people don’t like them she assumes that it’s their problem and they are snobs. She’ll do anything to spare her sensitive husband from criticism from rude people. Don’t knock housewives, and never mind that on top of wrangling a coming of age woman, a young boy, a stuck in his ways father and an accident prone husband she also has a science lab in her basement and a monster under her stairs.

She’s the daughter of Sam Dracula, married to a Frankenstein’s monster, sister and mother of a werewolf.. I’m not entirely sure how genetics work on this show… Funfact: Lily’s claims dress is lined with pure unborn centipede.

Here’s Yvonne De Carlo as Lily singing “Look Away”