You know what I enjoyed the most in The Black Panther? It was those kick-ass women at the Black Panther’s side. It’s so fun to identify with someone who fights boldly and takes care of business. I’d like to think I could be one of those women. Then reality hits. My ability to kick anyone’s ass is sadly lacking. Not only can I not take care of exciting business, but the only business I’m likely to get involved in is other people’s business. I'm like one of those characters peeking out behind their curtains wondering what their next-door neighbors are doing. So much for bold action; I’m more like Gladys Kravitz, the patron saint of all nosy neighbors.
Who is Gladys Kravitz, you ask? For those of you too young to have watched all episodes of Bewitched, Gladys Kravitz was Samantha and Darrin Stevens’ neighbor who was always surprised about what goes on at the Stevens’ house. She always would scream and run for her husband Abner after seeing something magical and end up looking like a fool. Kravitz was played by two actresses during the eight-year run of Bewitched, Alice Pearce and Sandra Gould.
The nosy, Kravitz-like neighbor is a stereotype, especially if it’s a woman. It could be Mary Richard’s landlady, Phyllis, played by Cloris Leachman on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, or it’s the landlady’s wife, Mrs. Roper (Audra Lindley), in Three’s Company. Yet men get in on the action, too. Rick Moranis’ Louis Tully always paid attention to his attractive neighbor, Dana Barrett, in 1984’s Ghostbusters. He always knew when she arrived home.
The nosy neighbor as a supporting character shows up in murder mysteries or crazy comedies, but they also sometimes show up in leading roles. The most famous of these is the neighbor-watching photographer played by Jimmy Stewart in 1954’s Rear Window. His poking his nose into his neighbor’s business leads to the discovery of a murder.
Interestingly, when a supporting character gets nosy, they’re just being nosy, but when a leading character get nosy, then something mysterious really is going on. Shia LaBeouf plays a teen under house arrest in 2007’s Disturbia. Spying on his neighbors turns serious when it looks like a murder happens. Then again, it could get even spookier, as when a teen discovers that his neighbor is a vampire in 1985’s Fright Night and its 2011 remake. A neighbor’s nosiness, even when it’s a leading character, can end up more funny than spooky. Tom Hanks and his neighbors begin wondering about the new neighbors in 1989’s The ‘Burbs. Let’s just say, things get crazy.
May there never be serial killers or vampires living next door, but if there are, may my snooping abilities save the day. It’s not as kickass as warrior women in a superhero movie, but I’ll take it.