Tyger, Tyger, burning bright!


Misogyny's endless summer: In its obituary for Yvette Mimieux, the New York Times barely mentioned it. The passage in question read like this:

Ms. Mimieux was a child bride in “Toys in the Attic” (1963), based on the Tony Award-winning Lillian Hellman play. Mr. Crowther declared her performance “showy but without plausibility” in his Times review, which was not much nicer than what he said about her co-stars Geraldine Page and Dean Martin.

In 1964, Ms. Mimieux turned her role as a doomed surfer with epilepsy on the television drama “Dr. Kildare” into a starring movie role with the show’s star: She was Richard Chamberlain’s too-nice-for-sex new bride in “Joy in the Morning” (1965). She also reputedly became the first actress to show her navel on television.

Then her career took a downward turn...

"Her role as a doomed surfer" on Dr. Kildare barely got a mention in the obituary itself. 

In comments, things were different. Comment 2 went like this, along with that one response:

COMMENTER FROM FORT WORTH: Yvette made a big impression on me as a little kid in the early 1960s, especially in her roles in The Time Machine and in the “Tyger, Tyger” episode of Dr. Kildare. It must have been her blend of extreme beauty and delicacy that melted my pre-adolescent heart.

RESPONSE FROM PHILADELPHIA: Me too! I was twelve when I saw “ Tyger, Tyger.” I’ve never forgotten it.

"Tyger, Tyger" was a two-part episode of Dr. Kildare in January 1964. It was a very important cultural moment in early-60s network television. 

Other commenters remembered it. For example, Commenter 5:

COMMENTER FROM WASHINGTON D.C.: I remember crying my eyes out watching her in the two Dr. Kildare episodes "Tyger, Tyger." Such a beauty.

RESPONSE FROM COLORADO: Amazing how I also remember her in this show, so many years ago. Lovely woman and interesting in aging.

RESPONSE FROM MISSISSIPPI: So glad these two  episodes are remembered. Even the music from them was great.

RESPONSE FROM NEW YORK: Oh my God! Blast from the past!

There were only 73 total comments to the notice of Mimieux's death, but Tyger, Tyger punched well above its weight. In these comments, people began to circle around what made the episodes important:

COMMENTER FROM D.C.: I was a child in 1964 when I saw Yvette Mimieux in an episode of Doctor Kildare, "Tyger, Tyger," in which she played an epileptic surfer.  Ignoring Kildare's concern, she continues to surf and eventually has a seizure while surfing...

RESPONSE FROM BOSTON: I was so impressed with the episode "Tyger, Tyger" that it remains the only Dr. Kildare episode I recall.  It also turned me into a William Blake fan and I memorized that poem.  She was so beautiful and seemed so fragile.

RESPONSE FROM NEW JERSEY: Yes, it was a great episode! When you think of the plot, not being able to give up surfing, it really does belong to a more innocent time.  It really was memorable—two impossibly good-looking blonde people in that ill-fated romance.

For the record, Mimieux's impossibly good-looking surfer was Kildare's only romantic interest during the five-year series. She died on the beach, in the doctor's arms.

Why did people remember Tyger, Tyger? This comment is intriguing:

COMMENT FROM NEW YORK CITY: After all these years, her performances resonate: Where the Boys Are, Tyger Tyger, Light in the Piazza, The Time Machine. The male critics of the day were quite sexist and nasty. Try reading what passes for film criticism from those days online.

That commenter listed Tyger, Tyger with her three most remembered films—and that highlighted comment "brings the eternal note of sadness in."

Were male critics of the day dismissive of Mimieux? We can't speak to that point. But Tyger, Tyger was a giant TV event not just because the young Mimieux was "impossibly good-looking," but because of the greatness of the episodes' theme, in which a very young woman was brought center stage possessed of full and total and complete self-possession and agency.

Again, it was January 1964. Mimieux was cast as Pat Holmes, a young woman surfer with a serious medical condition which made it unsafe for her to continue with her passion for surfing. 

But in the type of role which would traditionally have gone to questing males, the Mimieux character rejects Kildare's sound medical advice. As in the Blake poem for which the episodes were named, she was burning with a bright flame. She was involved in a quest.

She insisted on extending her quest—and she died in a surfing incident at the end of the second hour, with Kildare pulling her out of the water.

We recall these episodes for their greatness in letting "the girl" go center stage. We recall them for their greatness in letting a very young woman who was a surfer perform the depth of her passion. 

We ourselves had just turned 16;  we were now living in California, where the sexual politics was much better than it had been in the old-world Boston area. We're grateful that the Kildare writers presented this type of fully-empowered young female character, just as "the problem that has no name" was starting to be discussed.

(The wife of one of our many young teachers gave The Feminine Mystique to our older sister when she went off to college.)

Someone else was watching Dr. Kildare in Alabama. He was eight years old:

COMMENTER FROM ALABAMA: I must confess to my first crush as an eight year old boy. Yvette Mimieux was not only beautiful but her character  on Dr. Kildare was determined not to let a terrible illness define her. So on she went, to her ill-fated rendezvous with the ocean.

At eight years old, he wouldn't have known that he was being allowed to see something a little bit different.

In 1959, Hollywood had taken a step in this direction with the Sandra Dee character in Gidget. But Tyger, Tyger was pointing the way toward a new and better age of young women's empowerment.

That said, the backsliding is ubiquitous, right to the present day. Kirsten Sinema voted the wrong way this week, and so—at New York magazine, no less!—she was reviewed like this:

JACOBS (1/19/22): She was absent from the chamber for most of the final hour of debate where Democrats inveighed against the filibuster. Minutes after listening to Mitch McConnell’s speech, she slipped out of the chamber and returned with a bag of cough drops, from which she carefully unwrapped one and slipped [it] under her face mask. Then as the roll call began, she prepared for her big moment. She reached into her overstuffed handbag and pulled out a brush she ran through her hair. Then, removing her mask, she applied a layer of powder to her face and carefully re-did her lipstick. Then she pressed the cough drop wrapper to her lips, letting the lozenge drop out and chasing it with a sip of water. She looked tense as senator after senator stood up to solemnly pronounce their vote, smoothing out the wrinkles in her sweater, until finally her name was called. She stood up erect, both hands on her desk, and shouted “aye.”

There were 106 comments to the Ben Jacobs piece. No one mentioned the oddness of this treatment, which comes from a very old playbook—one which refuses to leave.

In the past, we've been puzzled by Sinema's peculiar behavior. That said, we'll have to admit that we thought her Senate speech, in which she stressed "the underlying disease of division," did in fact speak with striking clarity to a very important point.

That said, it's amazing to see where the boys are today, even after all these years. The gentlewoman cast the wrong vote. Even within our own enlightened tribe, a published essay responded by discussing her lipstick, her overstuffed handbag, her powder.

Tyger, Tyger was a major TV event for teenagers of the time. It's generally described as the highest rated program in the five-year run of Dr. Kildare, a humane and intelligent TV show which called intelligent attention to a great many medical issues.

We recall Tyger, Tyger with something resembling passion. We're grateful that we got to see it. Then as now, it was an unusual program, promoting a hidden set of values.

We read the Blake poem at Aragon High. That TV show cut a bit deeper.


  1. "We recall Tyger, Tyger with something resembling passion. "

    It is called lust, Bob.

  2. "it was an unusual program, promoting a hidden set of values."

    Soon it would spawn another "unusual" program, called Baywatch.

  3. Yes, women have been fighting all these years for the right to SURF on a public beach!!!

  4. Somerby seems to be blocking my comments.

  5. Part one of my blocked comment:

    This is the kind of column a misogynist writes when he wants to say that misogyny is over (because his sister read The Feminine Mystique) and then talk about the perfidy of a current female Senator as if she were demonstrating empowerment.

    Where to begin? Those 8-year old boys most likely remember Mimieux for her bikini than for her "empowerment" as a young lady with a terrible disease (how exactly does that empower anyone).

    Somerby seems impressed that a TV show portrayed girls as being allowed to surf (as Gidget did). Does he imagine it represented progress in TV that a beautiful woman was shown in a bathing suit? Did Somerby not notice that the "empowered" character in that show DIES AT THE END. When women transgress gender roles and behavioral norms, they have to be punished in the script. She died. That isn't progress -- it is a warning to impressionable young women watching that they shouldn't try anything similar or they might come to a bad end.

    Meanwhile, women's lib was working on things like equal pay, access to jobs beyond the "pink ghetto" and being able to get a car loan without a co-signer or being able to eat in a restaurant alone without being thrown out as a suspected call girl.

    1. No, an eight-year-old is likely to be impressed with a pretty “older woman” who is excelling at a sport that requires a considerable degree of athleticism and a sport that is endowed with a cachet coolness.

      It takes an adult to archly imply that a woman is a defiant attention-seeking pill in the way of Jacobs. That’s his opinion. He could have said it a more direct and less charged way.

    2. And in coolness and in early death.

      Jacobs manifested your same impulse of gender stereotyping because it suits a political objective.

  6. Part two of my blocked comment:

    Somerby loves movies where girls surf. He once called Blue Crush his favorite film. He calls the reviewers mean for criticizing her acting. I remember Mimieux too, especially in The Time Machine, but she was never a very good actress. She was very beautiful and did fine portraying characters who could not speak, and 8-year old boys are not evaluating her portrayal of emotion, so I think the reviewers statements were accurate, and I am a feminist. I want to see women praised for their work, not their looks. That concept seems to have escaped Somerby, who goes on to complain that Sinema is being mistreated because her behavior (fixing her makeup and hair) is described.

    Somerby has no standing to complain about sexist treatment of Sinema, as if she were an empowered woman pursuing her senate obstruction in the face of a terrible illness, only to die in Richard Chamberlin's arms. She is a big girl and she can stand the brunt of criticism evoked by her own actions as a senator. We have apparently reached an age when even women can be corrupt (anyone remember Phyllis Schlafly?). However Sinema is being treated, it has nothing to do with misogyny. Neither did the reviews of Yevette Mimieux's acting. Her casting and roles were a different story, but oddly, Somerby doesn't complain about those.

    1. Jacobs' words are a little strange but less so with context: Sinema's every public action is highly stylized and deliberate towards a self serving goal. Somerby pretends he is unaware of this context; furthermore Somerby's take on Sinema's speech is bizarre - not only was it a muddled mess, inconsistent with her past positions, but it was also a rhetorical distraction from her actions, which in reality enhance divisions. Somerby loves to trot out MLK jr's propaganda about "love" but MLK was clear he had no love for the filibuster which he saw as a "tragedy" blocking voting rights, so now nearly 60 years later we are back to having to fight for voting rights, and Somerby says yes to girls surfing but says "shush" to equal pay.

    2. Naomi & anon, a/ka Corby and several others 6:31, I suppose you have the right to use as many names as you want, but it does give the deceptive picture that there are several jumping on in the attack, when it's just you.

  7. Being an actress is a hard business because of the misogyny, assholes like Weinstein, and obstacles as one ages.

    Here is what happened to Mimieux:

    "Mimieux married Evan Harland Engber on December 19, 1959, but kept the marriage secret for almost two years.[29] She was married to film director Stanley Donen from 1972 until their divorce in 1985,[1] and then to Howard F. Ruby, chairman emeritus and founder of Oakwood Worldwide.[30][31]

    Late in life, she took up painting and created a personal website for the exposition of her works."

    Women are not idiots. There are situations where a woman decides it isn't worth it to pursue a career under the circumstances. Many women take a line of less resistance by marrying and finding other interests and work to do.

    It isn't the ending Somerby might have wished for, where his surfer girl goes surfing against all odds and dies anyway, but it is smart to get out of a field where filmmakers don't appreciate what you do and your main fans are 8 year old boys with their tongues hanging out.

    I believe that Sinema is as mediocre as a senator as Mimieux was as an actress. Perhaps this is Somerby's subtle way of urging Sinema to find a nice man and settle down. No, Somerby doesn't do subtle. If he did, he might have appreciated the many other fine actresses of that time period.

  8. Brigitte Bardot was as beautiful as Mimieux, but a much better actress.

  9. Sinema is a truly awful politician but is in fact following the overall strategy of her party.

    Quoting Thomas Frank, no stranger to the culture war (take a deep breath, Democrats this is not history that makes your party look good):

    The Democratic leadership council, the organization that produced such figures as Bill clinton, Al gore, Joe lieberman, and Terry McAuliffe has long been pushing the party to forget Blue collar voters and concentrate instead on recruiting affluent White collar professionals who are liberal on social issues. The larger interests that the DLC wants to desperately Court our corporations capable of generating campaign contributions far outweighing anything raised by organized labor. The way to collect the votes and more important the money of these coveted constituencies New Democrats think, is to stand rock solid on say the pro-choice position while making endless concessions on economic issues, on welfare, NAFTA, social security, labor law, privatization, deregulation and the rest of it. Such Democrats explicitly rule out what they derived as class warfare and take great pains to emphasize their friendliness to business interests. Like the conservatives, they take economic issues off the table. As for the working class voters who were recently the party's very backbone, the DLC figures they will have nowhere else to go Democrats will always be marginally better on economic issues than republicans. Besides what politician and his success worshiping country really wants to be the voice of poor people? Where's the soft money in that?

    This is from his book called "What's the matter with Kansas?"

    1. The DLC was dissolved in 2011. Other people are calling themselves New Democrats today.

      I am not sure what is wrong with people banding together to represent their own interests, even middle class people and the politicians who felt that pursuing their votes was a good idea. They were open about what they were doing.

      "The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was a non-profit 501(c)(4) corporation[1] founded in 1985 that, upon its formation, argued that the United States Democratic Party should shift away from the leftward turn it took in the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. One of its main purposes was to win back white middle class voters with ideas that addressed their concerns.[2] The DLC hailed President Bill Clinton as proof of the viability of Third Way politicians and as a DLC success story."

      I don't consider it a crime to be poor. I don't consider it a crime to be middle class either. The Democratic party should be pursuing all votes, in my opinion. Progressives seem to be covering the class issues competently, in my opinion.

  10. "In the past, we've been puzzled by Sinema's peculiar behavior."

    The behavior described by Ben Jacobs is intended to show her nervousness at bucking her entire party.

    He isn't describing the details of her Gucci bag or giving us the shade of her lipstick. Somerby doesn't understand why Jacobs describes Sinema's actions and attributes it to misogyny, but Jacobs seems to be mainly pointing out what she did, moment by moment, not assessing her in a sexist way, as occurs when feminine accessories are used to objectify women or pigeonhole them.

    Somerby doesn't understand the nuances of misogyny or sexism, immersed in them as he is. He tries lamely to weaponize feminist accusations and turn them against those who are critical of Sinema (e.g., Ben Jacobs). But he doesn't know how to do it because he just doesn't get what is wrong about it. He either is, or pretends to be, one of those guys who is terminally confused about whether he should open the door for a woman or not, and no doubt thinks the NY Times is being misogynist when it reports fashion news.

    No one has overlooked what Sinema did as a senator by casting her vote (which Jacobs describes), because they were preoccupied with describing her shoes. Somerby says:

    "Even within our own enlightened tribe, a published essay responded by discussing her lipstick, her overstuffed handbag, her powder."

    That isn't what Ben Jacobs was describing. He was describing her nervousness, her trepidation, her disengagement from the process (by being absent) and her treatment by her colleagues afterwards. None of that has anything to do with her clothes, hair or makeup.

    Here is how you discuss lipstick:

    “Red is dead” is a friendly campaign that is made to heat up the competition. It started in 2011 when the Redbull team won the F1 World Championship with the Renault engine. The Ferrari’s red started reminding Renault’s yellow… so did the lipsticks."

    1. Jacobs was describing her handbag as being overstuffed. He was alluding to her primping as Rome burns, smoothing her sweater before standing up and saying “aye” on camera.

      That’s not the approach he would have taken with Manchin, if Manchin had straightened his tie.

      You anonymices and other hacks are ridiculous. You defend women being termed “Karen” when they are being insistent or non-compliant and call a blogger sexist for rationally critiquing the words of professionals. You justify any hypocrisy by arguing that it’s okay against “wrongdoers”, a term which means anyone with an opinion that varies from yours and/or anyone who is even peripherally defended by your nemesis Somerby.

    2. Good catch Cecelia.
      These anonymices are as hypocritical as someone who cries about the rare business being looted during a protest, but doesn't make a peep when private equity firms loot businesses 24/7/365.

    3. If you put a gun in a purse, there isn't much room for anything else, alas.

    4. There goes Cecelia, wrongdoing again. No, the word doesn't quite fit that sentence.

      Wrongdoers refers to those who are criminals or engaged in acts that are antisocial or hurt people. That should have been obvious from context.

      Don't you have a plane flight to disrupt somewhere by not wearing a mask? Isn't there a school board meeting you'd like to disrupt? I have a strong sense that your presence is needed elsewhere. Oh, yes, your mother is calling you...

    5. Naomi, not to worry. I can multitask.

      No, a wrongdoer has not been solely used within the context of a lawbreaker.

      It’s anyone who doesn’t agree with you and so deserves your abandonment of all the principles you bragged about possessing the day before.

    6. "...your abandonment of all the principles you bragged about possessing the day before."

      Everything on the Right is negotiable, except the bigotry.

    7. Anonymouse 2:47pm, consider embroidering your pithy if repetitious remarks on donut cushions.

      You’d make a fortune.

  11. Wouldn’t it be great if Bob could connect this old Dr. Kildare to Trump leaning on Governors to adjust election results in his favor? Well, it would make about as much sense as this.
    Yvette was in a really scary “One Step Beyond” too. Probably on YouTube.

  12. About that gender wage gap:

    "Women in same-gender partnerships in the U.S. are more likely than their male or opposite-gender counterparts to take home less pay, according to new research. Experts say that’s probably because LGBTQ+ women are faced with more than one wage gap.

    According to data released by the Census Bureau, same-gender married couples, on average, have higher median household incomes and higher rates of dual employment than opposite-gender married couples.

    But when same-gender couples are separated into those with two male and two female partners, labor market outcomes differ vastly, according to an analysis by The Hamilton Project, an economic policy think tank within the Brookings Institution.

    On average, the combined income of married men in same-gender relationships is 31 percent higher than that of married women in same-gender relationships and 27 percent higher than the income of married opposite-gender couples, according to the report."

    1. It was the 70 cents for the same amount of work that was being disputed, but don’t let that keep you from arguing with the air.