In the 1970s summers, Susan would spend endless days at my house where we would pretend to fight bad guys as a Charlie’s Angels duo. (When Susan wasn’t around, I transformed into Princess Leia.) I preferred Kelly Garrett to Jill. That made sense, I’m sure, in our childhood minds. Susan had blond hair, I had brunette.
Farrah Fawcett created the role of Jill Monroe to bombshell perfection. Her red swimsuit poster sold 12 million copies and adorned the bedroom walls of adolescent boys. Her Breck blond feathered hair inspired copycats galore, and her bubbly personality wooed fans of all ages.
Sadly, Farrah died on this day, six years ago in 2009, from cancer.
After only one year on “Charlie’s Angels” as Jill, Farrah, who was nominated for a Golden Globe, left the show. Some called the move stupid, but Farah was already an icon and so what was the point of solving mysteries with two other angels.
But for everyone who remembers Farrah as a jiggly detective, there are two roles that she played that should never be forgotten.
In 1983, Farrah went to off-Broadway, a bold step for a Texas angel, where she replaced Susan Sarandon (yes, that Susan Sarandon) in “Extremities”, a controversial play about a would-be rape victim who turns the tables on her attacker.
That play, later turned into a 1986 film in which Farrah starred, focuses on Marjorie, a woman who works in a museum. One night, while getting into her car, she is attacked at knifepoint by a masked assailant who forces her to touch him sexually. She escapes but he steals her purse. With that personal information, he begins to stalk the woman with mental and physical consequences. In one scene, Marjorie overpowers the man, spraying his face with insect repellent as he is about to rape her. She then ties up the man, subjecting him to a dose of his own medicine. He pleads for his life and makes him confess his crimes against other women.
Farrah described the role as “the most grueling, the most intense, the most physically demanding and emotionally exhausting” of her career.” She received critical claim that led to her next role as a battered wife in the television movie “The Burning Bed,” a story based on the true-life story of Francine Hughes, a Michigan wife and mother who was battered for 12 years.
“The Burning Bed” was the first to provide a national 800 number for women in domestic violent situations. It also was the first to show the brutal reality of domestic violence. More than one-third of Americans watched that movie, a huge number in the era before Netflix and widespread cable television shows.
Women’s groups hailed that movie as a turning point in the national discussion on domestic violence, which clearly continues in 2015 as the NFL battles its own problems with the issue.
The images of America’s favorite “Charlie’s Angel” – the late Farrah Fawcett – being beaten and bloodied, brought the issue of domestic violence literally into the nation’s living rooms, said Susan Shoultz, executive director of EVE Inc., a local nonprofit that serves domestic violence victims told the “Lansing State Journal” in a retrospect piece about the movie in 2009.
While it’s fun to remember Farrah as the all-American fantasy blond driving the blue and white Cobra sports car on “Charlie’s Angels,” it’s far better to remember her legacy for dragging taboo women’s issues into the glaring light.
Suzi Parker, TBS’ resident mixologist, is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Echo Ellis: Adventures of a Girl Reporter,” “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt” and “1000 Best Bartender’s Recipes.” She writes frequently for The Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, and numerous other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.
To schedule an interview with Suzi or book her for a speaking engagement, you can reach her at email@example.com.
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