‘The Nanny’ Treated C.C. Babcock Terribly, But It’s Time To Reclaim Her As An Icon
The beloved sitcom actually did one of its most dynamic characters dirty.
When The Nanny made its debut in the ‘90s, the world (and Mr Sheffield) fell in love with Fran Fine. We also learned to hate her rival, C.C. Babcock.
Throughout the series’ six-season run, C.C. is portrayed as being self-centred, ego-centric, cold and uncaring, particularly in the way she relates — or fails to relate — to Mr Sheffield’s children. She thrives off conflict, and seemingly lacks the ability to exercise even the most basic tact.
But a recent re-watching of the series cast the series’ most reliable villain in a completely different light for me.
I realised the beloved sitcom actually did one of its most dynamic characters dirty. Far from the uptight bore I remembered her being, C.C. Babcock’s ambition, strength, and complete unwillingness to suffer fools makes her exactly the kind of woman I want to be around.
Hell, she’s the kind of woman I want to be, and a woman of her calibre undoubtedly deserved better.
She Was The Woman Behind The Mediocre Man
Throughout The Nanny’s six seasons, C.C.’s professional success is overshadowed and undermined by her feelings for Mr Sheffield, to the point that much of her success is implicitly attributed to her decade-long business partnership with him.
But while Mr Sheffield — the man who famously “passed on Cats” — was regularly touted as the “big Broadway producer”, C.C. was out here kicking professional ass and taking investor names long before Sheryl Sandberg was preaching about “executive leadership qualities”.
Which leads me to…
She Knew Her Worth
In The Nanny’s third season, C.C. quits after Mr Sheffield once again rebuffs her request for their working relationship to be ratified as an official business partnership — and does so by reminding her she started as his secretary, no less.
(That’s called tenacity, Maxwell.)
But C.C. Babcock wasn’t about to wait around for a man who couldn’t conceive of her as an equal to recognise her worth. Instead, she lets her absence expose Mr Sheffield’s incompetence, and then rubs salt in the wound by partnering with Marvin Hamlisch, one of his biggest competitors on the Broadway scene.
A few episodes later, having returned to work for Mr Sheffield on more equal terms (the Hamlisch partnership was merely an expertly executed ruse that made full use of C.C.’s smarts and networking ability), she panics about what she’ll do if Mr Sheffield follows through on his threat to quit theatre altogether, but reject Niles’ suggestion she also retire and enjoy the considerable wealth into which she was born.
And, later, rather than beat herself up when a new production garners bad reviews from critics, she simply plans to have her body cryogenically frozen so she can be revived in a future when Broadway is dead and theatre critics are out of a job.
You see, C.C. Babcock knew her worth. Sure, she enjoyed the privilege that comes with being a white woman from a rich family, but C.C. was also acutely aware of the inequality she faced as a woman in an industry dominated by men. She hustled twice as hard for half the credit, and she wasn’t prepared to be a door mat.
She Was A Catch!
C.C.’s intense and undying crush on Mr Sheffield is one of The Nanny’s longest-running and most reliable jokes: a trope that’s exploited for cheap laughs at every opportunity.
When Mr Sheffield and Fran finally become engaged in the show’s fifth season, C.C. spirals into a deep depression, gaining weight and ultimately being institutionalised for a month. This type of mental break is no joke, but it provides an opportunity for C.C. to take stock of her life and romantic inclinations.
And her new outlook on love leads her to… Niles, the man who’s been negging her for the better part of a decade. When their mutual hatred manifests as lust in the show’s sixth season, the pair are eventually wed in the show’s finale.
A product of its time, to be sure, the implication that a man’s mistreatment of a woman is a front for his deep-seated affection for her is one of the most disappointing things about The Nanny.
So, while her inevitable romantic pairing with Niles was arguably the most satisfying conclusion, it wasn’t the one she deserved. Confident, intelligent, and driven, C.C. Babcock was worthy of a partner secure enough to build her up, not cut her down.
She Was A Good Friend (When She Wanted To Be)
The first time C.C. quits, she and Fran can finally enjoy each other’s company without being professionally or romantically pitted against each other. Sure, she’s not magically cured of flaws in this moment, but we do get glimpses of a more warm, patient C.C.
When the two women meet for sushi, she resists mocking Fran for not understanding the cuisine’s etiquette, instead taking the time to educate her. Likewise, when Fran’s French fiancé makes a pass at C.C., she intervenes to stop Fran ending up in an unfaithful marriage — sure, her motivations might have been self-serving, but the net result was good.
She Had Serious Style
“The flashy girl from Flushing’s” tight and bright sequin numbers were a hallmark of the series (and the subject of truly delightful Instagram account @whatfranwore), but C.C. Babcock was a woman who understood the power of sharp tailoring, a sleek bob, and a statement earring.
Replete with shoulder pads, silk shirts, and trans-seasonal polo neck sweaters in a classic palette of camel, burgundy and black, C.C.’s look somehow defied the gaudy fashion vortex of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Sure, some questionable styling choices were made when trying to hide her pregnancy in the show’s later seasons, but many of her looks wouldn’t look out of place in a 2020 fashion spread.
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And that’s the thing about C.C. Babcock: like the Miranda Hobbeses and Meredith Blakes of the world, she gets better with time. She may have been robbed of the credit she deserved in the ‘90s, but her legacy is strong in 2020. And for that, we simply have no choice but to stan.
The Nanny is available to stream on Stan.