Remembering Dixie Carter Through Julia Sugarbaker


To a particular generation of women, Dixie Carter—who passed away this weekend from cancer—is fondly remembered as Julia Sugarbaker on Designing Women. But in real life, Carter was a Republican and often disagreed with her character’s liberal rants.

Designing Women—a sitcom which ran from 1986 to 1993 and focused on four women who ran an interior design firm in Atlanta with the help of their supposedly straight, ex-con delivery man—was created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomas who didn’t shy away from flaunting her liberal views, or her friendship with the Clintons. Bloodworth-Thomas managed to turn her CBS sitcom into a platform for opening a discourse on many hot-button issues ranging from AIDS, prayer in school, feminism, and the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas controversy. As the show’s star, Dixie Carter (through her character Julia Sugarbaker) delivered most of the left-leaning diatribes and passionate speeches.

Because Carter—a registered Republican—disagreed with many of these monologues, she had it written into her contract that for every one of these liberal speeches she gave, she would get to sing a song in a future episode.

I’m glad that she made that deal with the producers, because it produced scenes like this one.

Although Carter was a Republican, she described herself as a libertarian and was a supporter of the gay community (which probably made up the lion’s share of her fan base).

And I’m beginning to wonder if the story about her song-for-a-speech deal is entirely accurate. It would make more sense to me that she didn’t have that trade-off written into her contract because she didn’t agree with the sentiments of the speeches, but rather, because they were incredibly long-winded speeches that required a lot of memorization.

Anyway, although the feminism and social issues discussed by Julia Sugarbaker made an impression on me as a pre-pubescent girl, nothing really stuck with me like the idea that one needn’t wear underpants when wearing pantyhose.

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