On “The Golden Girls”

Hello, there. If you don’t know me or are coming by this blog for the first time, there is something you must know about me: My name is Crystal, I am 31 years old, and I am a massive fan of The Golden Girls and absolutely unashamed of it. Those who have known me through the years know that if they come across a meme of the show, to send it my way. Those who’ve followed me on Tumblr are very familiar with me either reblogging screencaps from the show or posting quotes or even whole conversations (often from an episode I was watching that day). I’ve watched the entire series numerous times since I discovered it. I’ve been known to work random moments from the series into everyday conversations and I’ve even made the occasional reference to it on this very blog!

Today is National Cheesecake Day, and thus it is also Golden Girls Day. (Need I say why?) Today, I’m gonna talk a bit about why I’m such a fan of this show and also talk about some of my favorite moments and episodes from the show. I hope it will help those who know me understand a little better why I relate so much to the show and its characters.

I discovered The Golden Girls a year or two after I had graduated from high school just by randomly coming across it on a channel where it was running in syndication (probably Lifetime). When I made the decision to drop out of college at 19, what I didn’t realize at the time was that it would trigger a period in my life where I was dealing with a lot of self loathing and turmoil. My personal insecurities (shyness, difficulties with talking to certain people, and feeling like I was ugly from a young age, maybe 8 or 9 years old), my difficult relationship with my dad (which I have previously blogged about), and my inability to find or hold down a steady job gave me feelings of depression. I’d cry myself to sleep at night thinking about what I did to make myself (what I thought was) a disappointment in my father’s eye. I constantly felt like I bringing shame on my family because I was so chronically unemployed. I felt ugly, useless, and I felt like I needed to deprive myself of things because I hadn’t earned them. It took a toll on my body, as I gained weight that I am still trying to control to this day. At times, my hair would get so matted that I needed large portions of it cut off (three times, to be precise). There were times where I would go outside on a beautiful, sunny day and I would feel nothing inside; I could see the blue of the sky and the green in the trees, but it was as if my soul could only see black and gray. Thinking about this now still makes me cry. I didn’t have religion to turn to in those times, because I had realized years earlier that faith and prayer had no effect on me or the state of the world and I had decided at 16 to walk away from it entirely. I knew it would provide me no comfort (not to say that it doesn’t provide other people comfort, but I am only speaking for myself here). It was during this time that The Golden Girls would provide me moments of brightness and positivity in what I have otherwise termed “My Lost Decade”. Even though I had memorized so many of the quotes and punchlines, those same jokes would put a smile on my face when I needed it the most. Watching and studying baseball also helped at times, as did knitting. While I’ve never been able to completely proclaim myself happy in that time and while I never ended up seeking professional help for my issues, I’m in a much better place now than I was when I was in my early twenties. My dog looks at me without judgement, and really her coming into my life when she did (in 2010, when I was 23) was one of the best things that could ever happen. I still deal with the insecurity and the low self-esteem at times, but knowing that my dog and (nowadays) my mom both need me at least gives me a little solace.

These days, The Golden Girls is still a morning staple in our house, and even my staunchly conservative father finds a lot of humor in what was then a very progressive show for its time and is still considered quite progressive today. Though it revolved around four older women, the appeal and values that make up The Golden Girls has spanned multiple generations. Its fandom consists of people of all ages, colors, genders, and sexual orientations. Heck, I saw a video on Instagram recently of WWE Superstar Xavier Woods at San Diego Comic-Con where he had found the Golden Girls merchandise section and just listing off how much of the merchandise he “needed”. He explained it by basically saying, “I want to breathe air, I need these Golden Girls shot glasses!” It was a show unafraid of taking on things like HIV/AIDS, marriage equality, and chronic fatigue syndrome when it wasn’t cool to talk about those things. It tackled LGBT issues, sexuality during one’s later years, dating people with disabilities, teenage pregnancy, and even immigration (both of the legal and illegal variety). Its appeal has reached so many people in the three decades since it premiered. Although Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, and Estelle Getty are no longer with us, their jokes and memorable moments still seem so fresh that it’s as though they never left. And Betty White is at this point still a living legend; the day she eventually leaves this planet will be a sad day indeed, but her place here will still stay with us, bringing joy and laughter to so many people in her long and illustrious life.

Before I close, I’d like to pay tribute to some of my favorite episodes and moments from the series:

  • “A Little Romance” is my favorite episode of the entire series; it dealt with a lesbian character (an old friend of Dorothy’s) and the passing of said character’s partner with dignity, and although her crush on the very straight Rose was played for humor (mainly because Rose reminded Jean [Dorothy’s friend] of her late partner…and yes, I’ve been in Rose’s situation before, but both situations, on TV and in real life, turned out with a nice positive ending), it still provided for one of the best scenes in the entire series, which I only need to sum up with three words: “Not Lebanese, Blanche.”
  • “Scared Straight”, where Blanche’s brother Clayton comes out as gay. The scene where Sophia figures out he’s gay after asking just a few questions is hilarious (as well as Dorothy mistaking Rose for saying “Blanche’s brother is a hobo”). For the record, Sophia figured it out because she had heard Clayton singing in the shower and she noticed he was “…the only man who knows all the words to ‘Send in the Clowns’!”
  • “Sophia’s Wedding”. The fact that Dorothy caught Sophia in bed with any man (let alone Sophia’s late husband’s business partner, Max Weinstock), Sophia’s answer to what had happened (“Afterglow!”), their wedding with a whole bunch of Elvis 🕺 impersonators as guests (including, if you look closely enough, a young Quentin Tarantino), their attempt at opening a pizza/knish stand, and the flamboyant wedding planner who responds to his referencing Susan Hayward’s speech in I Want to Live (and Blanche’s criticism of it) with “Well, excuse me for living, Anita Bryant!” (Anita Bryant was a singer who did a lot of commercials for Florida Orange Juice in the ’70s and ended up becoming an anti-gay activist during that time opposing a pro-LGBT ordinance in Miami; her ire with the LGBT community resulted in a protester throwing a pie in her face during a speech she was making.)
  • The episode where Blanche dreams that her late husband George has returned from the dead, while Sonny Bono and Lyle Waggoner are fighting over Dorothy. (“Sonny Bono, get off my lanai!“)
  • The episode where Blanche dates a man in a wheelchair (“He suits me to a ‘G’!”, and that’s not a typo. Ladies will obviously get this joke, men will have a hard time finding it. 🤣). She doesn’t dump him for his disability, but because she realized he was already married.
  • “The Commitments”: Dorothy backs out of a blind date and unloads him onto Blanche so she can go see “BeatleMania” at a dinner theater. Dorothy ends up bringing home the guy who plays George (“And Paul, when Ernie’s sick!”), while Blanche falls head over heels for her date Jerry (played by Ken Howard, of 1776 fame…he played Thomas Jefferson in the movie), who won’t even so much as kiss her (let alone go to bed with her, despite her attempts). Sophia gets pissed at Dorothy for bringing home a guy almost as yutzy as her ex-husband Stan (The Once and Future Yutz), and Dorothy ends up dumping him out of sheer embarrassment when he tries to perform his own material (he started with I’ve Gotta Be Me and ended with Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting, and she left when he started performing “Dot, Dot, what a girl I’ve got…when we shower together we don’t have to turn on Hot.”). As for Blanche, one of her sweetest, most vulnerable moments comes when Jerry tells her that he wanted to take things slow (he and his late wife were virgins on their wedding night) and romance her the old-fashioned way. Blanche later remarked to Rose that she “…felt like a lady.” He gives her one sweet, sensuous kiss before leaving. If there’s one unresolved storyline that I would’ve liked to have seen be resolved, it would be that one, because Blanche ends the series single and the question of her happiness is left unresolved.
  • “The Monkey Show” (Everybody’s got something to hide except for Stan and his Monkey.)
  • And finally…”My Brother, My Father”. When Sophia’s brother Angelo reveals why he backed out on becoming a priest, I end up in laughter every time. (“Lucious lips, a full bosom, and a behind so firm, so round, you gotta fall down on your knees and cry out at its magnificent, regal beauty! I’m a butt man.”)
  • Wherever you are, whoever you are, I hope your Golden Girls Day is filled with lots of love, laughter, and cheesecake.