Rambling about Designing Women

With news of the passing of Dixie Carter, I had a hankering to watch some scenes from “Designing Women”, the show in which she co-starred back in the 1980s. I always enjoyed her rants as Julia Sugarbaker, but it was the ensemble cast that drew me to the show. There was something about each of the characters that represented a part of me, which was a large part of the show’s popularity, I think.

My favorite character on that show was Suzanne Sugarbaker, as played by Delta Burke. If you never watched the show, Suzanne was a former beauty queen who was a vain and self-centered, but endearing all the same. Especially after Delta Burke’s well-publicized weight gain. That was the first time I remember an actress’s weight problems being discussed so publicly. (Wouldn’t that be awful?)  As a “big girl”, my heart went out to Delta Burke, but her performance in the show grew stronger from it.  The episode “They Shoot Fat People, Don’t They?”, in which Suzanne attends her high school reunion and overhears people snarking about her size and then wins the award for “Most Changed”, is one of the best episodes of the series.

I searched for a clip of that episode online, but no luck. I did find a text version of Suzanne’s acceptance speech, upon winning the award:

I guess maybe I deserve this award for the Person-Most-Changed, but (pause) not for the reason you think. Last night I got my feelings hurt because I came to this reunion thinking I was beautiful and what I find out was that I’m fat (pause) at least you think I am. But that isn’t the biggest change in me. The biggest change is that the old Suzanne wouldn’t have shown up here tonight. She would’ve just gotten thin before the next reunion and then she would have gotten even. But I’m a little older and I hope a little wiser than that person used to be.

A lot of things have happened to me. A lot of things have happened to all of us. Sandy Smothers was killed the night before we graduated. Diane Mitchell’s got two sets of twins and Gayland Chadwick’s working in the White House. We had a lot of dreams together and there’s no point in pretending some of mine came true and some didn’t.

I met a little boy from Africa tonight whose family died of starvation and I realized that I spent the whole day at home worrying about the fact that I had too much to eat. I’m not sure the old Suzanne would have appreciated the absurdity of that but this one does.

Some of you men wanted to know about my bra size, but I’d rather talk about my heart because (pause) it’s a little bigger than it used to be. The old Suzanne wouldn’t have forgiven you for the things that you said, but this one will. Because when I look around this room tonight, I don’t see receding hairlines and the beginnings of pot-bellies and crow’s feet. I just see all the beautiful faces of old girlfriends and sweet young boys who used to stand on my front porch and try to kiss me goodnight. And you can remember me any way you’d like, but that’s how I’ll always remember you.

And so I thank you for giving me this award for the Person-Most-Changed, however you intended it. I’m gonna treasure it because #1. I love trophies and #2. I earned it. Thank you.

If you weren’t a fan of the show, or weren’t around for it, that speech may not resonate so much. For me, it says a whole lot about self-acceptance, self-love, and personal discovery, not to mention the ability to see the best in others. Suzanne grew up that night, but not too much. :)

While I didn’t find the episode I wanted, I did find a couple of scenes which find Suzanne dieting. And not too well. :)

I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of a few of those thoughts, too. :)

So much for 80s nostalgia.Fortunately, we’ve moved past the rice cake dieting days (or I hope all of us have!) and know a lot more about health, fitness, and what constitutes true beauty in a person.

Were you a fan of “Designing Women”? Did you have a favorite character? Okay, then, have you ever eaten a rice cake? With jelly? (Note: I used to heat them in the microwave and spread them with peanut butter. I dare anyone to top that! :))

16 thoughts on “Rambling about Designing Women

  1. Egads, rice cakes.

    That show had some fabulous acting and some even better writing. RIP, Dixie.

  2. I was so sad when I saw the news because I used to watch every single episode. And when there were marathons, I'd still watch the ones i'd seen a million times.

  3. i loved that show. my favorite characters were suzanne and julia, i think because i adore my sisters so much and it was fun to see how different the two were, and how they bickered, but still loved each other.

  4. Oh, Cammy, that brings back good memories of the 80's…..

    I loved every one of them! Annie Potts and Jean Smart were great, too. And, good old Anthony. He was like Eldin the Painter on Murphy Brown. Always had a wise line.

    Delta was so funny her in role, and Dixie was so dignified and regal bringing Sis back to earth.

  5. I agree with you: Delta Burke was the first actress that I remember being so publicly thrashed over her weight. Her issues with her weight made me like her more because I could relate to her as a real person and not just an actress. Thanks for reminding me about her – I'd forgotten.

  6. I watched too. I remember that about Delta Burke. But also that she was beautiful despite her size.

    About the other… Several years ago I tried an elimination diet to see if I had a food intolerance. I ate a lot of rice cakes! With almond butter.

  7. Thanks for the poignant post about Designing Women – one of my favorite ensemble shows from the 80's. Strong women, important issues, great writing, amazing acting. The speech from Delta Burke's character really touched now, even as it did when I first saw it. Thank you again. /sniff

  8. I was so sad to hear the news and even more sad (disappointed?!) when I shared it with my husband and he said:
    WHO died? who is that?

    I thought Id married so well :)

  9. oh gosh, thanks for the stroll down memory lane.
    that was a great show and i remember how poor delta burke was crucified for her weight gain. she was almost the catalyst for actresses to be publically tortured for gaining weight. SO not right.

  10. I love the twist on the "Most Changed Award." That was a really great piece. Thanks for post!

  11. Rice cakes, back in the fat-free-will-make-you-thin. I really BELIEVED, even though it didn't actually work.

    That's a gorgeous speech and I love it. Charity is really the only way to go although it is hard to reach that high sometimes.

    Great post.

  12. I used to love that show! As much as I liked Dixie Carter, I really enjoyed Delta Burke's character a lot!

    No rice cakes here. Too dry for me.

  13. I absolutely loved "Designing Women"! I was a huge Julia/Suzanne fan. I loved the interaction between the two sisters. I would probably have been Julia if the part has been available to me.

    Rice cakes….oh yeah! I once made a pizza out of one. Not recommended.

  14. Will I get rocks thrown at me if I admit I've never seen Designing Women?

    :) Hope you're having a great week!

  15. Well, apparently I have been out of the loop because I did not know Dixie Carter passed. I did watch that show – loved Delta Burke. And love that speech – glad you posted it!

  16. I watched this series with my mom when I was younger and I remember it well. Particularly Delta Burke and her weight gain. My mom really identified with her as my mom was always gaining/losing/gaining/etc. Great series – thanks for bringing back the memories. :)

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