Since I can remember, The Golden Girls has been a great source of joy for me. My love affair with these four brassy women started years ago when, as a precocious kid, I would watch reruns with my grandma. I would sit captivated while she knitted and laughed.
Looking back, imagining my grandma watching The Golden Girls is strange because she was conservative and religious, and Dorothy, Sophia, Rose and Blanche are definitely the opposite. But she still undoubtedly loved the show and watched back-to-back episodes every night at 9:00 pm. I think that speaks volumes about the show’s mass, long-lasting appeal.
Thirty years ago today, The Golden Girls premiered and quickly became a runaway hit and who would’ve thought that would happen? Show creator and amazing TV lady Susan Harris had a vision. She knew before the rest of us that we all needed a show about four older women living together and talking about their sex lives. And she made it damn funny. In fact, it is arguably one of the funniest shows of all time. Seven seasons and dozens of awards later, The Golden Girls left a mark on television history that is still felt today.
Even watching it in 2015, The Golden Girls feels incredibly progressive. They tackled topics that shows today wouldn’t touch. And remember, this was network! This was NBC! It was out in the open for everybody to watch! Maybe it was okay because old ladies can get away with talking about anything, or maybe because the writing and performances were always uproariously funny. Whatever the reason, it worked. This is also part of the reason the show has aged so well.
Here are just a few of the topics they tackled over the years: immigration, death, assisted suicide, HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, motherhood, gay marriage, elder abuse, ageism, sexual harassment, and homelessness. And of course the show was forever discussing female sexuality in positive and thoughtful ways. Thirty years later and these are still hot-button topics, so it always feels relevant.
While I’m at it, let’s give a shout out to the four fabulous women who fronted this beautiful gift from the TV gods: Bea Arthur, Betty White, Estelle Getty and Rue McClanahan. WHAT CAN I EVEN SAY? They are all comedy legends. Just bow down.
On paper, these women could’ve easily been caricatures of real people with their one defined characteristic (the promiscuous one, the smart one, the dumb one and the old one). But when you bring in four heavyweight actors, you get depth, emotion and hilarity. I dare you not to laugh when Bea Arthur’s Dorothy reacts to just about anyone’s antics. And because of Rue McClanahan’s pure devotion and affection towards Blanche (a women who is quite flawed), she is one of my all-time favourite television characters.
Speaking of Blanche’s flaws, being “a slut” is never featured as one. She’s selfish, self-absorbed, immature and vain, sure. But when Blanche is in trouble, it isn’t because of her sexuality. (She is the OG Samantha Jones, so RESPECT.) A lot of people criticize the show for its frequent use of the term slut, but I find it empowering. They take the word back. They embrace it. Blanche often cheekily refers to herself as a slut. Most importantly, though, Dorothy, Sophia and Rose support and love her unconditionally without judgement. And she often finds herself in loving relationships despite her sexual history because she’s still worth it. If that’s not groundbreaking television, both for women and women of a certain age, I don’t know what is.
Without The Golden Girls, we probably wouldn’t have Sex and the City, Girls, Hot in Cleveland or Grace and Frankie. And with a youth-obsessed culture, I worry that a show featuring four grandmothers couldn’t be successful today. There are so few shows with even one female lead, let alone four. So in that sense, The Golden Girls was truly revolutionary. And let’s be honest, it’s STILL revolutionary.
Watching Dorothy, Sophia, Blanche and Rose never fails to be a breath of fresh air. These are four best friends supporting and loving each other, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. The Golden Girls will forever remain one of the funniest and one of the most feminist television shows to ever air, so I’ll just say what we’re all thinking: thank you for being a friend, Golden Girls!