I love Lucy is a famous sitcom featuring one of the most famous TV couples, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, played by the couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The show – and their relationship – was known by everyone around the world, and the comic writing and performances made it an absolute classic.
However, this is a show from the 1950s, which means that the standards around relationships, sexism and their romantic interactions were very different than they are now. When you see the relationship between Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on screen today, there are some clear moments that will make viewers shudder that would never reach television today.
Updated January 14, 2022: More than seventy years after the show premiered, I Love Lucy is still one of the most famous and influential sitcoms ever. In Love Lucy, which helped establish both the genre and the tropics that would come to exemplify it, was a landmark series that shaped television history in ways that those who produced it would not have imagined.
That said, there is no doubt that the show has gotten a lot older. From outdated stereotypes to ridiculous marital demands, there’s a whole lot in I Love Lucy that just doesn’t fly with modern audiences.
15 Ricky teaches Lucy to make rules for golf
Ricky is embarrassed about Lucy’s athletic incompetence, so he and Fred teach the best friend couple Lucy and Ethel set rules for golf that are completely ridiculous and weird in the hope that they would stop playing with them.
Ricky should not be embarrassed about his very own wife. Lucy only wanted to spend time with him and she was willing to do something that Ricky loved so much. Although Ricky did not want Lucy to play, he should at least have been honest with her and expressed how he felt without thinking of a strange plan for him to get his way.
14 Ricky tries to make Lucy’s camping trip miserable
In a similar scenario, Lucy wants to spend time with Ricky, so she decides to take Ricky on a camping trip. Ricky does not want that to happen, so he makes a “practice” camping trip with her to see how she likes it. He hopes to make her tired and scare her from wanting to go camping with him again.
This is another case where Ricky should have been honest with her and appreciated the fact that his own wife wants to spend time with him. Once again, the performance plays into gender stereotypes in a painfully obvious way.
13 The Ricardos visit Cuba
In 1956 I love Lucy episode “The Ricardo’s Visit Cuba”, Ricky and Lucy travel to Cuba, and Lucy eventually wins the love of Ricky’s family. It was a pretty heartwarming episode and a great moment in their marriage on screen, but it was met with quite a bit of controversy.
Tensions between the United States and Cuba were at the highest level at the time, as the Cuban communist revolution was already underway. Today, however, there would be no reason to tumble around Ricky’s legacy.
12 Lucy tests Ricky’s fidelity
Lucy is worried that Ricky might be tempted by other women, so she puts on a black wig and pretends to be someone else to test Ricky’s loyalty to her.
Although Ricky caught Lucy’s plan early, Lucy should not have even tried to do this in the first place. An important component of the marriage is trust, and Lucy and Ricky needed to communicate with each other if they were having problems instead of Lucy almost fooling Ricky into being unfaithful.
11 Lucy cries wolf
To test Ricky’s love for her on several occasions, Lucy pretends robbers are in the apartment hoping she would scare Ricky out and see if he comes to save her. This gets to the point where a couple of real villains are tying her, Ricky, Ethel and Fred do not believe in her as they think she found a way to bind herself. Lucy should have trusted Ricky’s love for her instead of terrifying him for her safety – and of course she should not be lying about anything so serious.
10 Lucy’s pregnancy
One of the most controversial aspects of I love Lucy was the show’s handling of Lucille Ball’s real pregnancy. Instead of trying to hide it, the authors chose to include it in the series’ story. Pregnancy at the time was a relatively taboo subject, with many still believing that it should not be discussed on television.
Today, this aspect of Ricky and Lucy’s relationship would not be a problem at all. Lots of sitcoms have mentioned the topic several times without any issues, and were I love Lucy adapted in the modern era, Lucy’s pregnancy would not have registered as something unusual.
9 Lucy lets Ricky go to jail
When Lucy and Ethel trick Ricky and Fred into thinking that a restaurant they are at is being robbed, Ricky and Fred rush them to the rescue. When they realize that no one is actually there, they trick Lucy and Ethel into believing that there really are villains instead. Lucy and Ethel are annoyed even though they tried to trick Ricky and Fred first and they allow the police to take Ricky and Fred away who they think was really trying to rob the restaurant.
Lucy and Ethel eventually got them out of jail, but no joke or ugly trick justifies letting someone you love go to jail just to teach them a little, innocent lesson. Not to mention a waste of resources and time for people who should have been dealing with real crime.
8 Ricky refuses to recreate the day he proposes to Lucy
When Lucy thinks their marriage license is invalid, she tries to get Ricky to recreate the day he proposed. Ricky does not care about this scenario, and when Lucy tries to make Ricky romantic, he lets her down.
Clearly, Lucy cares about this, so Ricky should have tried his best to support her. He was selfish instead, and it’s no wonder Lucy got mad at him. Their engagement was one of the best memories of Lucy’s life, and the fact that Ricky would not even try to recreate it for her shows that their marriage needed some work.
7 Casting of Lucy’s husband
Although primarily remembered as an innovative TV series, I love Lucy actually began as a radio program with the title My favorite man. It featured Lucille Ball and Richard Denning, who according to CBR were cast in the role in favor of Desi Arnaz because the network feared how the public would react to a mixed couple.
Today, this would never be a problem, and Desi Arnaz would have been cast in the role of Lucy’s husband right from the start. Of course, this does not mean that Denning did not work in the role, he was just an unnecessary addition.
6 Ricky does not let Lucy go into show business
A recurring plot line in this show is Lucy’s eagerness to be a part of Ricky’s performances or any other audition she encounters. Ricky just wants a simple housewife and he certainly does not want Lucy involved in his show or any other show. He constantly demands that she follow his order, but Lucy always finds a way to get involved without Ricky being aware of his plans.
Lucy is an adult woman who has the right to perform if she really wants to. Ricky should have no control over this and he should have supported her in every way he could. The assumption that she should ask her husband for permission at all would terrify viewers today.
5 Ricky flirts with a young woman right in front of Lucy
As Lucy and Ricky go to dance, they meet a young woman, played by Barbara Eden I dream of Jeannie fame. Ricky instantly falls in love with her, leading to him flirting and dancing with her right in front of Lucy.
Ricky did not even think about how his own wife would feel about this, especially since Lucy herself witnessed it all. His random ignoring of his wife would not be acceptable today.
4 Ricky puts Lucy on a schedule
When Lucy gets herself and Ricky late for a dinner with her boss, Ricky makes a schedule for Lucy for all hours of the day.
It should be up to Lucy to make a schedule for herself if she notices a pattern of her delay. But her own husband makes one that she can follow, and he even states later that she is like a “trained seal”. This bothers Lucy and she gets revenge. Lucy certainly needed to be in charge and manage her time herself, but it’s certainly not right for her own spouse to do this for her – especially for every minute of every day.
3 Ridicule Ricky’s accent
One of the most memorable sketches in the entire series sees Ricky struggle to read a children’s book intended for their child. Confused by the pronunciation of words like “bough”, “rough” and “through”, Lucy comments that it shows how little he knows about the English language.
While some good-natured ribs are fine, Lucy takes real trouble with Ricky’s pronunciation of certain things, and she seems to go from wanting to help Ricky to wanting to ridicule him. Since the two are married, Ricky’s accent really should not bother Lucy.
2 Ricky beats Lucy
On a couple of occasions, when Lucy does something that makes Ricky upset, he beats her. Lucy is an adult woman who has the right to make her own decisions. No matter how Ricky feels about them, he has no right to use force on Lucy in that way to get her to do what he wants her to do.
Back then, many would have seen the other way around. Today, however, behavior like this is not even close to acceptable in a marriage.
1 Desi Arnaz’s Real-Life Scandals
Although they were always portrayed as a happy couple who always managed to patch things up eventually on TV, in real life, the marriage between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz was nowhere near as idyllic. The two constantly quarreled and tried to separate several times, and their marital strife was only exacerbated by Arnaz ‘infamous infidelity.
The two managed to make it work back in the 1950s, but in a modern social climate, such scandals would likely lower a show. The two continued to have in-depth careers, but that might not have been the case if the show had premiered in a recent decade.
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