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Jessica Walter: The Woman Behind One of the Internet’s Favorite Archetypes

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Jessica Walter, the Emmy award winning actress best known for her roles as the matriarch in ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘Archer’ passed away in her home on March 24th. She was 80 years old.

Walter has had a six-decade long acting career, acting in over a hundred films, television appearances, and theater roles. While her breakout role may have been in 1971, when she was cast as a lead in Clint Eastwood’s drama Play Misty For Me, she will likely be remembered for the comedic performances that shaped the later part of her career.

Jessica Walter acting alongside Clint Eastwood in his 1971 drama Play Misty For Me. Photo sourced through itsjustawesome.com.

In the early 2000’s Jessica Walter found a new audience after being cast as Lucille, the wealthy, terrifyingly-cold matriarch of the Bluth family in the cult sitcom “Arrested Development.” The show, which premiered in 2003, came just in time for it to become a pillar of the Internet’s short-form language— the meme. The show, which was filled with brilliant and memorable lines, quickly became embedded into early Internet culture. With Walter’s perfect comedic timing, and her deadpan expressions, she swiftly became a staple of Internet GIFs, making the rounds on sites such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

It is telling of Walter’s immense talent that she was able to memorialize even the most trivial two-second, off-handed remarks. Indeed, she seemed to have perfectly mastered the deadpan unawareness of privilege, turning her entire character into more of a caricature of the rich— one that continues to remain poignant and timeless. With lines such as “It’s one banana, Michael. What could it cost, ten dollars?” She was able to perfectly capture the disconnect of the wealthy, just in time for the 2008 recession, a time when the wealthy felt more disconnected from the rest of us than ever before.

Jessica Walter’s portrayal of Lucille Bluth seemed to permanently be armed with a Martini and a disparaging remark. Photo thanks to Decider.

Indeed, it seemed as though Walter was able to embody a caricature of the wealthy, disconnected, baby boomer during a time when the younger generations were more than ready to make fun of them. Her characters were representative not just of privilege, but of the obliviousness that comes with privilege. In the world of Lucille Bluth, bananas are ten dollars, problems can be solved by seeing a ‘Star War,’ and a vodka on the rocks is perfectly fine for breakfast— as long as you pair it with a piece of toast.

So while Walter’s career may have spanned over 60 years, she will likely be remembered for the two-second lines, split-second expressions, and subtle eye-rolls that transformed her into one of the Internet’s favorite archetypes. With Walter’s passing, Lucille Bluth continues to live on, permanently embedded in the Internet’s subconscious—- brandishing a Martini and a sly remark.

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