Which Girl?

Publishers’ catalogues are flooding in these days, and one of the more intriguing books on the fall 2011 list for the University Press of Kansas was That Girl: Single Women in Sixties and Seventies Popular Culture.

The forthcoming title, by Albright College communications scholar Katherine J. Lehman is described by the press as “the first book to focus exclusively on struggles to define the ‘single girl’ character in TV and film during a transformative period in American society.” In her take on the young, unmarried career woman, Lehman ranges widely through “unstudied film and television scripts, magazines, novels, and advertisements.” Her sources are as disparate in tone as Get Christie Love! Wonder Woman, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. “Feminist cultural history at its best!” a blurber exclaims.

A book to watch out for.

Except that now we must watch out for Those Girls not That Girl.

After The Chronicle had received its proofs, but (thankfully) before the finished books were produced, Kansas changed the title and cover art due to a “legal issue” with Marlo Thomas. The actress and activist has apparently trademarked the phrase “That Girl”…at least in this related context.

The press is now producing new proofs with a new cover image. On the original jacket, three Charlie’s Angels are a pouty pedestal for three photos of actresses above.  What originally was a troika of Diane Keaton, Marlo Thomas, and Mary Tyler Moore, now has Sandy Duncan in the middle, a perky for perky substitute.

No doubt, readers of a certain age will remember the situation comedy That Girl, which ran on ABC from 1966 to 71. Thomas played Ann Marie, an endearingly goofy heroine new to Manhattan. A struggling actress, Ann Marie had a constantly changing, way too “matchy matchy” wardrobe, a set of worried parents back in Brewster, N.Y., and a bemused magazine-writer boyfriend.

“Donald!” she would rasp-squeak at some point in most shows. “Kansas!” one imagines her rasp-squeaking now.

How Thomas or “her people” learned of the scholarly book, we can’t say. Citing an “ongoing legal issue,” the Kansas press declined to comment at this time. An effort to reach Professor Lehman was also unsuccessful. But here’s hoping that a newly plural Girls triumphs over the adjectival-phrase grab.

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