April 12, 2010

A paragon of strength & rectitude

dixie carter             I was very sad to hear of the recent passing of Ms. Dixie Carter, but I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate a lady who is the epitome of a southern belle and in a way provided inspiration for this little blog’s very existence. Known by so many for her role on Designing Women, Ms. Carter's Julia Sugarbaker is something of an icon in her own right. Julia was never at a loss for words and her delivery of those now infamous "tell it like it is" speeches was just priceless. Some friends of mine who work with the public have a running joke: "Don't make me go all Julia Sugarbaker on you" when the need arises for someone to be put in his/her place.

As a child, I watched Designing Women with my parents when it first aired, but most of the jokes and innuendo were over my head. It wasn't until later that I was able to fully appreciate the story and characters from an adult perspective. Before Designing Women, the only shows I had ever seen featuring characters from the south were the Dukes of Hazzard, The Waltons and the Beverly Hillbillies. I think what stood out about DW was how the south served as another character on the show, but one to be celebrated instead of mocked or pitied. 

I will admit that I mostly pretended to be Suzanne...with all the tiaras, a maid and her very own pig. But there have been some moments when I channeled Julia...thinking to myself how would Julia Sugarbaker respond to this situation? Obviously all humans are flawed and since characters are human too (even make-believe ones), Julia Sugarbaker had her foibles as well. Yes, she often put her foot in her mouth. Yes, she had a tendency to speak out of turn. Yes, to some she might have been seen as brash, pushy, unyielding and stubborn. But she was fiercely loyal to those she loved, including her beloved south. She stood up for what was right, even when it might have been unpopular and she wasn't afraid to get in someone's face if necessary.

Now you might be thinking that I'm letting Julia Sugarbaker overshadow the real person here, Ms. Dixie Carter. But I have to think that Miss Dixie couldn't have played Julia so well had she not ultimately possessed similar qualities. Born in McLemoresville, TN, she attended the University of Tennessee (my alma mater) as well as Rhodes College in Memphis. She raised two beautiful daughters (who both made an appearance on Designing Women) and spent the last twenty-five years married to Hal Holbrook (a one-of-a-kind southern gentleman).

I recently read Delta Burke's 1998 autobiography and in it she talks about a falling out that took place between some members of the Designing Women cast around the time of show's downfall. I can't tell you how happy I was to see pictures of the cast reunited (and seemingly reconciled) at an event in 2006. designing women cast reunited

These southern ladies made quite an impact on me and I believe that it is in part because of women like Dixie Carter that people from the south feel proud to be so. Julia Sugarbaker once said that “here in the south, we don’t lock up our crazy people. We put them on the porch for all to see.” Dixie Carter will be greatly missed, but her sass and charm will live on in the ones who knew and loved her. And the great thing about creating such a wonderful character is that while Miss Dixie has left this earth, the immortality of Julia Sugarbaker is a given…for there will always be things to stand for and people who need to be told ‘what’s what.’

7 comments:

  1. "And that, Marjorie - just so you will know - and your children will someday know - is the night the lights went out in Georgia!"

    I don't really remember all of the words to that speech, but I used to know the whole thing by heart and I would practice it in my room. I thought some day I would have to say something similar about one of my sisters.

    I'm kind of sad that I really don't know a lot about Dixie Carter. I think I just always assumed she really was Julie Sugarbaker. I never thought of that as an act.

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  2. At a family gathering Saturday, I actually said "We don't hide our crazy people in the attic...it's the South, we sit 'em out on the front porch for everyone to see." When I heard the next morning of Miss Dixie's passing, it was as if I had lost one of my own family members. I choose to believe we have a little Julia in all of us.

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  3. Saw your profile on another page. Glad I read your interesting and well-written blog. Look forward to following you here. Cheers!

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  4. I just featured your blog on my blog as the southern spotlight of the week -come check it out -http://sweettnbiscuits.blogspot.com/2010/04/southern-spotlight-southen-belle-simple.html

    I adore your blog !! I'll be posting it on facebook , twitter and southern mommas too :)

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  5. I found your link from Sweet Tea and Biscuits. I too used to warn that I was abuot to "go Julia Sugarbaker" on someone, I too love me some Delta Burke and by the time you claimed to be a UT grad (so am I!) I decided I should just go ahead and follow your blog!

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Lay it on me y'all!