Jessica Walters, actress, dies at 80. Photo from Arrested Development.--

Everyone that knows me knows that Arrested Development is one of my favorite shows of all time (seasons 1-3, that is). I was saddened to hear that on March 24, Jessica Walter, who plays Lucille Bluth, the matriarch of the show, passed away. 

Lucille Bluth wasn’t always my favorite character on the show. The way she carried herself due to her family’s wealth never sat right with me. The first time I watched the show, her lack of social awareness frustrated me more than anything else. For example, in one of her most famous lines, Lucille expresses these unfavorable traits saying, “It’s one banana, Michael. How much could it cost? Ten dollars?” in response to Michael explaining to his brother, Gob, that he shouldn’t be taking bananas from their family banana stand. Despite having these classist tendencies, Lucille Bluth reminds me of my own mother in some ways, and reminds me of two palpable lessons my mother has taught me.

  1. In some cases, being brutally honest isn’t a bad thing

Lucille is known for clapbacks against her kids, and the first time I watched the show I couldn’t help but perceive her as a rude mother. However, after rewatching this show, I realized that Lucile genuinely cared about her kids, and only wanted the best for them. For example, Lucille is constantly critiquing her daughter, Lindsay – telling her how to dress, how to speak, and in general how to present herself. This reminded me of my own mother. My mother constantly finds little things about the way I present myself to fix, like the way I do my hair and makeup and my posture. I found it annoying at first, but with time I realized my mother only wants what’s best for me and how she believes I can present the best version of myself. For Lucille, she just wants to bring out the best in her own daughter, Lindsay. My mother believes that it’s important we bring out the best in the people we care about, and if that means we have to be brutally honest with them, then so be it, and Lucille’s mannerisms toward her children carry that same deeper meaning. 

  1. Family comes first

Watching the show the first time, I always thought Lucille was selfish. For example, she begged her son Michael to stay in Orange County and run their family business as well as try to find ways to get her husband out of jail, rather than take a job opportunity in Phoenix. Rewatching the show, however, made me realize that she does an incredible amount of work for her family. Taking care of her youngest son, Buster — making sure he has everything he needs and making sure he feels safe wherever he is — is not an easy task to take on. The way she looks after Buster, even though he is a fully grown adult, reminds me of my own mother and how she always is taking care of me and my brothers, even though we are fully grown adults. My mother has emphasized the importance of “family” to my brothers and me since we were toddlers, and makes sure that we know that “without family, there’s nothing.” I see that same sentiment in Lucille in the way she runs her household. 

It’s safe to say that this role was made for Jessica Walter. Walter highlights the complexity of Lucille Bluth and executed every line perfectly, balancing humor and sensitivity. Lucille may not be my favorite character on the show, but the lessons she reminds me of from my own mother could never come from any other character on this show.

Columnist Smarani Komanduri can be reached at smaranik@umich.edu.