Notes on passing of Bea Arthur – from classmate Christopher Heath

The following was written by my Naval Academy classmate, Chris Heath.  I publish it because I agree with his sentiments and admire his writing.

The comedienne Bea Arthur passed away over the weekend. The event attracted a surprising amount of national attention on the mainline TV shows such as Today, etc. I’m sorry that she passed away, and her friends report that she was a kind and generous person in her private life. But her comedic shtick, of course, was the put-down – what was referred to repeatedly today as “razor-sharp” wit. Frankly, I lost my taste for Bea Arthur years ago. In her comic persona as Maude, or Dorothy in The Golden Girls, her specialty was simply being cruel to people. Whether it was the ditzy, innocent Rose, the oversexed Blanche, or just an innocent bystander, Bea Arthur (well, Dorothy) could really cut them down to size. I don’t recall that it was ever in self-defense – her victims were targets of opportunity for laughs.  Congratulations.

Was it funny TV? Yes – millions thought so. Did I watch and laugh? Yes, for a while. But it really got tiresome over time, and I sometimes wondered if Bea Arthur ever thought about how she made a living.  I quit watching years ago, as I said.  It just quit being funny. By the way, have I ever delivered a “razor-sharp”, beautifully timed put-down? I’m sure I have on more than one occasion – but I regret it now. It’s judgmental, as I am prone to be – and a poor way to get attention. I’d rather be known for something else.

In the way that TV does, Bea Arthur made it acceptable – and even cool – to be mean to people.  Despite all the media outpouring, we don’t owe her any thanks for that.  R.I. P.

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