Thank you for being a friend

80s sitcom continues success with new generations

Picture it. Bryan, Texas 2015, and seven-year-old me is mindlessly flipping through cable channels on a Saturday night, hoping for any glimpse of an okay show that could help me pass the time. After not going too far from my usual channels, I catch a glimpse of a show that quickly piques my interest.

For many kids, a show about four women in their 50s, and older living together doesn’t immediately sound transcending, but for me, that is exactly what it was.

Golden Girls has four main characters: the fiercely, sarcastic, New York-raised Dorothy, who works as a substitute teacher; the sweet, naive Rose, who hails from St. Olaf, Minnesota; the outgoing, spunky Southerner Blanche; and Dorothy’s mother, Sophia, the traditional loud-mouthed Italian.

With all of the main characters hailing from different places, you might wonder where this show takes place. The answer is Miami, Florida. If the show had picked a more stereotypical retirement city, I might have dropped dead. 

When I first watched the show, I didn’t understand some of the jokes the characters made. Still, even given that, each character never failed to make me fall into a fit of giggles.

What makes this show individual and unique from other ‘80s, comedies which became unbearably outdated is how it introduces episodes that display serious topics that were controversial in the ’80s and ’90s, and, at times, even now.

Some of the episodes that I love the most are how they approach topics humorously like the Season Two episode “Isn’t it romantic?” which starts with the arrival of Dorothy’s college roommate, Jean, who is mourning the loss of her partner Pat.

 Sophia soon acknowledges the fact that Jean is a lesbian, which surprises Dorothy, and she ultimately decides not to tell the other girls.

 Well, soon Jean starts hanging out with Rose frequently, which leads to a crush. Dorothy reveals Jean’s crush on Rose to Blanche, who isn’t shocked but is mortified that Jean would be more attracted to Rose than her.

In a moment of vulnerability, Jean reveals to Rose her crush while Rose is “asleep,” but it is made clear that she’s not asleep when her eyes nearly leave their sockets.

Rose tells Jean that she doesn’t reciprocate the romantic feelings, but would still love to continue to be friends to which Jean agrees. 

At first, this episode doesn’t seem revolutionary, but I need to remind you that this episode was aired in 1986.

 Ultimately, I love this episode for the realistic portrayal of people in the LGBTQ+ community and how they’re ordinary people too. It’s very different from other disrespectful representations during this time. I also love how Blanche confuses lesbian with Lebanese.

A more serious episode in the series is in the season five episode “72 hours” where Rose is informed of the possibility that she was infected with HIV during a tainted transfusion. The girls throw their support and comfort at Rose during this difficult time before it is later learned that Rose doesn’t have HIV. 

The reality that a straight, elderly woman had a scare with HIV, challenges the assumptions made about the virus, especially in the ‘80s.

Though the show primarily revolves around women of older age, the way the show makes all of them lead normal lives with activities usually associated with younger people is what really makes it stand out with romantic relationships, active social lives, arguing, and gossiping. When I first started watching the show, I was a bit shocked, but it has shaped the way I see aging and how it can be something positive, which coming from me, is impressive since I am terrified of getting older and having new responsibilities and dangers.

A perfect episode that introduces aging is the Season Five Episode “Sick and Tired,” where Dorothy is obviously ill and has been for several months, which worries the girls and convinces her to go to the doctor, even though she had already gone and the doctors said nothing was wrong with her. 

The new doctor again finds nothing wrong with her, suggesting that she might be depressed from being single (something that is made fun of frequently throughout the show). The doctor suggests she see Specialist Dr. Budd and after further tests, the specialist says that Dorothy might simply be old and she should live a different lifestyle.

 Dorothy convinced nothing is wrong with her, meets with her doctor friend that recommends her to yet another specialist, Dr. Chang, who, when meeting with him, finally diagnoses her with a syndrome that is new to the medical world but doesn’t seem deadly. 

After celebrating with the girls after finally being diagnosed, she spots Dr. Budd and goes off on him, which perfectly ends the episode.

The way that each character has a very distinct personality is something that I continue to enjoy about the series. I constantly wonder who my favorite character is since Dorothy’s sarcastic tone is something that never gets old, including Sophia’s brazen remarks that feel like a personal attack at times. The way that Blanche is so free with herself while still being so poised is portrayed in an amazing way, but I believe that my overall favorite character all the way through is Rose, since at times, being the butt of the joke, still has amazing timing. Despite being naive, she proves to everybody that she is smart and capable. 

With that being said about Rose, I absolutely love her actress Betty White who perfectly encapsulates her character in every episode. If you’re wondering if I was upset about her recent death, that is just an understatement, but yes I was.

This show about four older women living in Miami has my heart because, despite all their challenges with getting older, they still show that they are human beings that are capable of being strong and independent that can lead self-satisfying adventurous lives.