Doing Woman Different: Kristy McNichol

Kristy McNichol (b. 1962) was predominantly a child star/teen idol on both television and film. McNichol was one of the first successful tomboy actors both on screen and off.
In fact Kristy's tomboy nature was one of her most endearing charms in an age when doing girl different might not have been the norm, but tomboy was acceptable and in Kristy's case marketable.

Many saw Kristy grow up on the popular TV series Family, playing  Letitia Lawrence, better known simply as Buddy.
Kristy went on from Family to become a HUGE teen idol, known as much for starring in popular teen coming of age films as her natural abilities in sports and even a brief singing career with her brother.

After her success as a child/teen Kristy went on to star in numerous films, guest tv appearences and several successful tv shows such as Empty Nest, where she played a cop. In more recent years Kristy finally came out of the Hollywood closet, not that she really need to (wink wink)!

Kristy will always be remembered best as one of the few TV stars who was a successful tomboy on screen and off.
Kristy McNichol did girl different in one the briefest times in history (2nd wave feminism) when tomboys werent pathologised, medicalised or confined, and she was/did tomboy beautifully!
Through characters Kristy portrayed, and through how Kristy carried herself off screen, she showed millions of girls/teen girls that there were different ways to do girl and that those differences (great at sports, sporting boys clothes/nicknames, cute rather than beautiful) were as unique as they were normal. Kristy McNichol put a face on tomboy where one rarely existed before and sadly where one has seldom existed after.


  1. OK, this is neither here nor there. But there was a time for me, when I was about 8-10 years old, when I bore a striking resemblance to Kristy McNichol. She's a few years older than I, but because of TV re-runs and such, it was like we were exactly contemporaries. Same hairstyle, facial expression, skinny/gangly body, etc.

    Once, while on holiday in California, I was playing in a swimming pool full of lots of other children. Some kid shouted: "Look! It's Kristy McNichol!" They gathered around me, but, after a while they realized I was only a reasonable look-alike. Disappointing for them, I guess! Heh.

    Anyway, I had forgotten all about that for a long, long time, so it was fun to read your post, Dirt. I always enjoy your "Doing Woman Different" posts.

    Yes, Kristy was special, wasn't she? I don't recall that there's been another "tom-boy" like her to become a child star or teen idol. Really, I don't think there has been another since.

    We are living in very conservative times when it comes to sex roles, and who and who can't be seen on TV -- even, or especially, for young people. Sad.

    -- Morag

  2. At that time I took Karate and wore a purple Karate headband at all times. I would make my own nanchucks out of sections of broomsticks, other sticks, etc, and scraps of chain or rope. These were repeatededly confiscated by my Mom, in an ongoing saga.

    I remember watching Buddy on Family and digging epic holes in the backyard with my friend Janine, also a Tomboy.

    And many more Tomboy memories.

    Thanks Dirt, for this.

  3. Thank you. As a tomboy growing up in the 70s she was my idol too. I feel lucky to not have my jersey wearing skateboard riding life turned into pathology requiring medical intervention. Never expected we would go so far backward.

  4. Wow! She looks great. In Europe, I never saw her TV shows, so never got the chance to idolize her. (Just as well, really, at my age it would have been creepy.)
    I had Hayley Mills, in some of her movies, and Supergirl from the cartoon mags. Don't laugh (too loud). You might be surprised to know how important those tomboy or "baby-butch" characters were for proto-faggots like me, too.

  5. I just found an episode of "Family" on Youtube which opens with McNichol's character, Buddy, reading a Carson McCullers novel. Which is just too perfect.

    Spolier alert: her English teacher is a lesbian.


  6. Ok,, i found out how to post anonymously,,,ah that was easy,duh Ang. ok enuf self criticism. I definitely grew up a tomboy and do remember buddy. But i believe i was heavily smoking pot and hanging out with my friends. So I don't remember connecting the "dots" that Buddy might be lesbian. I definitely remember wanting to somehow get my neighbors penis somehow when we were maybe 7? i wish i could be more precise with my age. Also one other thing, i could post it probably but will on the next post. But yes I suffer from gender dysphoria. But never a thought to take t or any kind of transition. Never. Would like to get a hair cut,, but i'm not that confident..I'm glad to have met you. Unfortunately thru Leelah suicide,, real name Jason? That was the day transgender was all over twitter and it definitely caught my eye. I love you Dirt.

  7. A haircut is always helpful when you're feeling down. If they do it well, you feel good and enjoy looking at yourself, and if they do it badly, you have something real to get mad about.
    That was meant to be supportive. I'm not good at this stuff, am I? Must be why they fired me from the helpline.


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