Lessons learned from “Murder, She Wrote”
I am a fan of mysteries. Growing up on cop shows like Cold Case and CSI (thanks to my mom who has a crush on Lieutenant Caine in CSI: Miami), mystery shows have been programmed into my mainframe. Don’t even get me started on the thrill Sherlock gives me.
Until it was removed from Netflix a couple weeks ago, I had been filling my mystery void with Murder, She Wrote, a show from the late 80s/early 90s featuring Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher. Jessica is a retired English teacher who now writes murder mysteries and finds herself having to solve real-life crimes. The show, though dated and leaves the watcher curious as to why Jessica has such bad luck with finding dead people, there are many lesson to be learned from watching her in her antics.
- There will be people who want to prove you wrong, but that just makes proving them wrong at the end of the episode that much sweeter. In almost every episode, Jessica must compete with the local authorities in order to solve a murder. The police (usually an older man) tends to judge her for either her lack of experience (which is not true, but we’ll get into that later) or the idea that a woman can’t be smart enough to solve a murder with the big boys. She brushes this off her shoulder-padded blazer and carries on in cracking down clues, following leads, and acting on small observations that no one else would’ve caught. In the end, she always finds the killer before the cops and shows them what she’s made of.
- If you have a certain set of skills, don’t be afraid to interject and get involved where those skills are needed. Through her research (and personal experience) on murder, Jessica has seen it all and knows what to look for. Her attention to detail and eye for inconsistencies sets her up to be the perfect detective. Quite often, she’s called upon for this expertise to help someone out of a jam and is no stranger to stepping in and offering advice to those officially working the case. In our own lives, we have unique experiences, interests, and skills that others may not. In times where you are the only one with knowledge on a certain subject, speak up and let your voice be heard. You may shed light on a perspective that others hadn’t considered.
- If Jessica Fletcher can network, so can you. In almost every episode, we meet a new friend or relative of Jessica’s. These connections get her into countries, important dinners, and into elite spaces where she can make new connections with important people. While she is in her late 50s at this point and has thus had more time to make these connections, she’s proof that even an English teacher from a tiny town in Maine can network to get her to places all around the world.
- In everything, be kind and don’t judge. Jessica is a very kind and hospitable person. She is well-respected in her town and rarely talks bad about others, unless she has genuine concern about that person. She’s always willing to take someone in or make them a cup of coffee, even when she’s in the middle of finishing up a book. When she’s faced with murder, even if someone may be the obvious suspect, she doesn’t jump to conclusions about them unless she has all the details. She is a model character with integrity and grace.
- You may wear many hats in your life and things may not turn out like you planned. Jessica Fletcher is an older woman, that’s no secret. But, though she is older, she is strong and has seen and been many things in her life. She was a wife to a man fighting in the Korean War, a mother-figure to her nephew Grady when he moved in with them, a teacher and mentor to her students when she taught English, and, after retirement, she’s taken up a dual-career as a mystery writer and a murder investigator. While we’re in our twenties and we have to make decisions that will keep us afloat for a while, it’s important that we as a generation understand that that first job may not be the last one. And neither will the second or third or even fourth. Just because we pick a path now, which will impact our life no question, doesn’t mean there won’t be other forks in the road and other paths to pick.
Jessica Fletcher taught me many things in our short relationship. It’s weird, but I consider her somewhat of a role model.
And, if nothing else, as illustrated in almost every episode, even if you’re a 60-something murder mystery writer, there will always be someone to hit on you.