I was nine when Saturday Night Live premiered, too young to watch the late night comedy show. When friends at school came in reciting parts, my mother assured me they were not allowed to stay up that late and were only repeating what their older siblings had told them.
Within a few years, I was old enough to stay up — often, at first, while babysitting waiting for parents to return home.
Yes, I know who Gilda Radner is and I still laugh and use “never mind” in conversation. I was 22 when she died, and I am now older than she was at the time of her death.
As some of you may have read, part of her legacy – Gilda’s Club, for people living with cancer and their friends and families — may be changing its name in parts of the country, and in some areas already has, to remove her name. The Wisconsin State Journal, in an article Gilda’s Club changing name, as fewer know namesake, reports the reason for the change at the Madison, Wisconsin location “is that our college students were born after Gilda Radner passed“; it’s the fourth one to do so; and the assertion that “The national organization is phasing in the new name, Cancer Support Community, Stenz said, and the Gilda name will slowly go away.” (Other locations that did this didn’t appear to do so for the “Gilda who” reason, or at least didn’t share it with the press.)
Much reaction has followed; for example, see A Gilda’s Club Loses Gilda by Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. One part to point out: from what I’ve read, there is no nationally driven desire to change the name at all locations. It is a strictly local decision. See What’s In a Name at BrandChannel.
Names matter. They matter very much. The idea that if younger people don’t know who someone is, the answer is to remove the name and further erase them from memory appalls me. It bothers me in part because I work with teens; and do we respect them so little as to say, “you don’t know it? End of story, let’s not mention it again, if it’s not something that you know or remember, forget about it.” As someone who works with teens in a story/information setting, the idea of not providing further information where a lack exists is chilling. The idea of catering to this rather than correcting it bothers me. Add a qualifier to the name. Have a part of the website saying who Gilda was. To the question “Gilda Who” answer, “Radner,” not “never mind, no Gilda here.”
Names matter. They especially matter when the person is dead. Gilda’s Club is part of Radner’s legacy, and in all honesty, it really doesn’t matter whether or not someone remembers her because the name means she lives on. To change the name tells those college students “and the person you know with cancer? Maybe yourself? If they die, in a couple of decades, people won’t know who you are, or care, and any memorial people have done for you or your loved one will be removed.”
Names matter. I can understand that some people don’t know who Gilda is; there are plenty of people who I don’t know anything about. No one is saying anyone has to know anything about Gilda; though, of course, it would be nice if they did because she was a very talented woman. I’m not shocked that people don’t know who she is; again, I’m shocked that the response to this is to erase her name.
What are your thoughts on the name change? And do you know who Gilda Radner is?