I Love Lucy will always be an iconic piece of television. However, since it aired seven decades ago, there are plenty of jokes that aged poorly.
Is there a television show more iconic than I Love Lucy? It’s been almost 70 years since the show first aired in 1951, and it still resonates with fans today. People can’t get enough of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, played by real-life married couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They have wacky situations, along with their best friends, Fred and Ethel Mertz.
While the show is certainly a classic, there are various jokes and storylines that haven’t aged well over the years. Take a look at 10 jokes and plot devices that wouldn’t be acceptable if the show was on the air today.
Lucy And Ethel Attending A Charm School
The season three episode “The Charm School” begins with a party. The women are in one room, gossiping and talking about fashion, while the men are in another room, talking about sports and politics. The opening scene demonstrates the stereotypical differences between men and women in the 1950s. However, at one moment, Lucy mentions that Ricky has been asking her to lose some weight. Whoa, mister!
When a beautiful, attractive young woman attends the party, the men practically fall at her feet. Lucy and Ethel (Vivian Vance) decide to attend a charm school to change their appearance. They want to be beautiful, too. This situation wouldn’t be acceptable today.
The Men Flirting With Other Women
Whenever a beautiful woman is around Ricky and Fred (William Frawley), they can’t help but flirt with her. This happens in the season six episode “Desert Island.” They flirt with beautiful swimsuit models while vacationing in Miami, Florida. Later in the season, they flirt again with guest star Barbara Eden in the episode “Country Club Dance.”
Lucy and Ethel, along with new friend Betty Ramsey (Mary Jane Croft), decide they need complete makeovers to be more glamorous for their husbands. Again, this is an outdated, stereotypical situation from the 1950s. The women were already beautiful. They didn’t have to change anything about themselves. Today’s viewers would have recognized this.
An Older Man Hitting On Lucy
In the season one episode “Lucy Plays Cupid,” Lucy decides to be a matchmaker between her spinster neighbor Miss Lewis (Bea Benaderet), and an older butcher, Mr. Ritter (Edward Everett Horton). This episode is difficult to watch in 2020 because there are several uncomfortable instances.
For example, Mr. Ritter becomes infatuated with Lucy and corners her against a wall. Luckily, she fights back. What would have happened if Lucy didn’t defend herself? While the audiences in the 1950s perhaps laughed at the situation, it’s unacceptable for today’s viewers.
Ricky Disapproving Of Lucy’s Hairstyle
It seems like an outrageous idea—that a husband would disapprove of his wife’s choice for her hairstyle. However, in the season three episode “The Black Wig,” Ricky puts his foot down about Lucy wanting to get an Italian haircut. What’s wrong with that?
All Lucy wanted to do was cut her hair short. It was that simple. Once again, this is a stereotypical 1950’s situation in which a husband must approve of everything about his wife. This episode certainly shows its age.
Joking About Ethel’s Weight
One of the most frequent jokes on I Love Lucy is about Ethel Mertz and her weight. She’s supposed to be older and she weighs more than Lucy. Her husband, Fred, loves to tease her about her weight. It’s brutal behavior and Ethel isn’t that overweight.
For example, in the season three episode “The Million-Dollar Idea,” the four friends are having dinner, and Ethel is finishing off the leftovers. When Ricky mentions that Ethel is a growing girl, Fred says she’s growing sideways. It might be a lighthearted joke, but it hasn’t aged well. Joking about a woman’s weight wouldn’t be acceptable in today’s television.
An Episode About Native Americans
There are some episodes of I Love Lucy that wouldn’t be politically correct in 2020, including the season two episode “The Indian Show.” Ricky’s nightclub is producing a Native American-themed act (even though they used the term “Indian”). Actors dressed up as Native Americans show up to the apartment and Lucy and Ethel practically beat them to death out of fear.
This episode would not be approved by producers and executives in 2020. It was appropriate in the 1950s, but it’s unacceptable now. It might be a hilarious episode, but the way the characters talk about Native Americans would raise some eyebrows from today’s viewers.
Lucy Being On A Schedule
In the season one episode “Lucy’s Schedule,” Lucy has the habit of being late. When she causes Ricky to be late for an important business dinner with his boss, Ricky decides to put her on a strict schedule. She must record how long it takes her to complete household chores. He is the man of the house and she must obey him like a trained seal.
This is an outdated scenario that only happens in shows from the 1950s and ‘60s. Today’s female viewers would be appalled by the episode. Could you really blame them?
Lucy Can’t Be In The Show
At its core, I Love Lucy is a sitcom about the wacky Lucy Ricardo wanting to perform in Ricky’s nightclub acts. Ricky is the performer in the family, and he likes to keep it that way. Sure, Lucy might not be the best singer in the world, but she isn’t as untalented as everyone says. She can dance and perform comedy, and she proves it numerous times throughout the show’s six seasons.
But Ricky doesn’t want Lucy to be in show business. He wants her to stay home and be a housewife. In the 1950s, women were housewives, but Lucy had aspirations. She wanted to perform, but Ricky rejected her every time. It seems like Ricky has some ‘splainin’ to do this time.
Ricky Loses His Temper
According to Lucy, Ricky is a hotblooded Cuban. He tends to lose his temper, especially when Lucy buys a new dress or causes a wacky scene. He yells at her and she eventually cries.
Anytime Lucy knows Ricky might lose his temper, she makes subtle jokes referring that he might hurt her. In the season two episode “Lucy Wants New Furniture,” Lucy says she’ll close her eyes because she can’t stand the sight of blood. While Ricky isn’t an abusive husband, these jokes are in poor taste in 2020.
Ricky Spanks Lucy
Ricky might not be an abusive husband, but he sometimes spanks Lucy for her bad behavior. This happens only a few times on the show, particularly in “Ricky’s ‘Life’ Story” and “Ricky Loses His Temper.” While it isn’t frequent, it’s uncomfortable to watch in 2020.
The studio audience members laughed at this treatment, but no one would laugh about it today. A husband shouldn’t spank his wife like a child, but it was the final laugh in these episodes. Poor Lucy. This would be unacceptable on a current TV show.
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