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Tyne Daly Saves Dirty Harry (and Promotes Affirmative Action) in One Fell Swoop

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“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it has about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before…” — Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention (2008)

“She wants to play lumberjack, she’s going to have to learn to handle her end of the log.” — Dirty Harry in The Enforcer (1976)

Thanks to the presidential election, everyone’s talking about the “glass ceiling” again. Hillary Clinton came close to breaking through it; now McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin says she hopes “voters will shatter that glass ceiling once and for all” by making her the first-ever female Vice President. Those failing to appreciate the significance of either campaign should watch Tyne Daly fight for respect in The Enforcer.

It’s the 1970s and Dirty Harry’s tolerance for liberal ideas is
being tested again, this time by affirmative action. Inspector Kate
Moore (Tyne Daly), is one of three women promoted to homocide by a mayor hoping to broaden women’s participation in the force. But Harry is used to
saving women — not relying on them. Callahan says his new partner’s promotion is unfair to better qualified men; she’s a risk who could get him killed.

So, how does she do? Director James Fargo doesn’t do her any favors. She’s “a whole shopping list of alleged feminine incompetences,” wrote Richard Eder in The New York Times.
“She runs with her arms flapping all anyhow, holds a pistol as if it
were a chamberpot, asks stupid questions, goes around with her mouth
gaping, and talks in a high-pitched quack.” Roger Ebert had a more positive interpretation. “She
speaks up for herself, has intelligent observations to make…and doesn’t do dumb female things,
except once when she can’t find her gun in her purse
.”

In
the end, she saves Harry’s life. Unfortunately, she dies doing it. But her death is not in vain. So while the debate rages on about the
merits of affirmative action, the truth is, without it Dirty Harry
would be dead.

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