The Golden Girls, A Golden Era
Picture it: 1985, Miami. 4 middle aged women sit and talk about their lives. One is from St Olaf, Minnesota – a little dim, but so incredibly sweet. The second is from the south, and there is no shortage of suitors for her; most conversations revolve around her surprisingly active sex life. The third is from New York, but her roots originate in Italy. She is the most down to earth person in this group, and a master of sarcasm. The fourth and last is her mother and the creator of “Picture It” stories.
I introduce to you Rose Nylland, Blanche Deverue, Dorothy Zbornak and Sophia Petrillo: The Golden Girls.
1985. It was a different time and an arguably less complicated one. The alte 80s and early 90s seem to be the peak of American TV – perhaps attributable to to the fact that everyone had a television in their homes, but not everyone had the internet. The internet became popular, even essential, only in 1999. With the internet came awareness and connectivity and the means for users to voice their opinions, as with this article I’m writing.
It was a chance encounter using the internet, ironically, that made me aware of The Golden Girls – Buzzfeed posted a list of “Burns only The Golden Girls could get away with” and it was hilariously spectacular. I’ve written about Dr. Ken and Friends before, but even though the three shows all come under the genre of comedy, The Golden Girls were in a league of their own. You can tell that the actresses knew the dialogue was amazingly done – they each had their own ways of trying not to laugh, and you will be able to tell once you get to know each of the characters.
The Golden Girls was filmed at a simpler time – a time where people weren’t so bothered about political correctness; a time where viewers purely watched for entertainment, and were not actively seeking out mistakes that the show may have made, which is what happens a lot now, especially on platforms like Tumblr, where the fans can comment on particular scenes that displease them (think Sansa Stark’s rape scene on Game of Thrones).
One huge example is that The Golden Girls was filmed at a time where there was still a clear divide between races. There was an episode where Dorothy’s son wanted to marry a black woman twice his age. Dorothy didn’t mind that the girl was black, but that she was twice her son’s age. This marriage was faced with objections from the girl’s family as well when her mother stormed into the room and said she would not allow her daughter to marry a “skinny white boy”.
If aired in 2016, an episode like this would be subject to an outcry over inequality and racism.
As a result, I’m so glad that The Golden Girls aired when it did. Watching the show (unfortunately during exam period because the Buzzfeed article came up literally two days before my exams – damn Facebook!) brings me to a simpler time, with simpler people.
I think a reason why this show was such a pleasure to watch was because its storyline and sets were straightforward.. There were literally two main sets: the living room and the kitchen. It was brilliant how, for at least the first ten episodes, the cast never went beyond the two main sets (and perhaps sometimes the garden).
I don’t quite think the show would have been so incredibly successful if the actresses were young women sitting around talking about sex. The fact that the girls are middle aged makes for half a lifetime of stories to tell – which I think creates some of my favourite episodes. Flashbacks to the girls’ respective Mother’s Days, their first kisses, and some of their many memorable Valentine’s Days were hilarious as well as heart-warming.
But, if I really had to choose, I think my favourite character would have to be Rose. It was a hard choice between Rose and Sophia, and I’ll explain why. I love Sophia, because she’s the one who comes up with witty comebacks(the “burns” that Buzzfeed was talking about). Wise for her age, she always has a Picture It story for every situation, from teaching Dorothy life lessons, to shutting Rose up. I love Sophia so, so much – but not as much as I love Rose.
Rose is portrayed as a slightly (okay maybe not so slightly) dim-witted but sweet old lady, who, most of the time, misses the points of Sophia’s stories and Blanche’s questions. The nature of her character creates about half the comedy in Golden Girls.
But at the same time, she’s so incredibly sweet. Since she is so simple minded, you know she genuinely cares for her friends and would do anything for them. She moved into the house because her husband passed away, and for the first 3 seasons, you can tell she never really got over him. For her birthday, she made herself a cake and celebrated it as if Charlie, her husband, was still alive. I think of all the comedy this show has brought, that was the one episode that made me cry.
In a way, perhaps I love her because she reminded me of my grandmother, who has been a widow for about twenty-five years. Rose’s devotion to her deceased husband reminds me of my grandmother’s devotion to my grandfather – not to mention, on a lighter note, that both Rose and my grandmother have a knack for long, drawn out stories that don’t get to the point until the last two minutes of a forty-five-minute monologue.
Perhaps the one thing I regretted doing, though, was googling the actresses and their careers before I finished the series – because I found out that of the Golden Girls, only Rose is still alive and the rest of the actresses have passed away. Maybe they would be ecstatic to know that 30 years on, girls like me, 50 years their junior, laugh at this gem of a television series they created, and that the legacy of The Golden Girls lives on.