You remember The Golden Girls, a show with four strong single ladies living together in a home in Miami: Blanche the man-eating sex-craved vixen, Dorothy the tame, responsible but dry witted high school teacher, Sophia, Dorothy’s mother, a stroke sufferer whose sense of propriety is gone, saying whatever comes into her head, and Rose, the sensitive and incredibly naive grief counsellor.
It seems like an odd combination – four single women, 3 widows and 1 divorcee, experiencing the twilight of their lives with a Sex And The City grasp of love, sex and 80s fashion. The Golden Girls have proved to be a hit amongst the gays since their first episode, establishing a large gay fanbase. Set primarily in Blanche’s house, where the four women live together, the show follows their adventures through love and loss, all the while never straying far from the kitchen and the living room of their house.
So what is it about this show that enthrals the gays generation after generation? I remember watching the show as a child with my parents and have seen people commenting about it on Facebook and twitter who are in their teens now. Is it that the characters are a good reflection of our own friendship circles? Come-on, every group of friends has the Blanche and Rose characters – I know who they are among my friends. We see these women talking openly about love and sex (especially the sex) and we see a reflection of our own friends and we love ’em! Of course, shows like this have been re-made in the likes of Sex And The City. There have been more than a few undeniable comparisons between the two, especially as the Sex girls got a little older towards the end of its run, but The Golden Girls seems to always be the ‘original’, the most camp, and the best.
Is it that we grew up on Betty White being the star of The Golden Girls and have since loved her in everything else we’ve ever seen her in? Incidentally, Betty was asked in an interview with The Actor’s Studio why she thought she was seeing such a revival in her career in her older years, to which she replied that she has not been unemployed since her first role as a man-eating sex-crazed vixen character on a variety show in her early 20’s. Betty has played the role so often that when The Golden Girls’ producers approached her for the show, she was originally slated to play Blanche. The team thought it would be better to swap the two characters over, as Rue McClanahan had also always played the slow and naive characters.
Personally, I think the kind of friendship that the women on this show have is the kind that everyone hopes to have for themselves. The show is a beacon, showing the perfect friendship between three women. The ladies go through it all. From the very first episode when Blanche is about to get married, dating younger men, cheating boyfriends, affairs and death – and that’s just the first season! The frank openness of the show, even during the late 80s was a breath of fresh air compared to other family shows at the time.
The well-crafted script that gave you just enough information to let you know what they were talking about, without having to say anything explicitly still titillates. They’re like the girlfriends we wish we ‘d had, just older, with the world wearied “fuck you” attitude to any of society’s prudish expectations of feminine sexual behaviour, that the SATC girls can be seen to foster later on. Their first episode features a gay cook/live-in home help, I’m not sure it’s ever clear exactly what his role in the house is – he’s gone by episode two – but it lends to creating these women as the TV world’s biggest fag-nets. The fact that they are older ladies in their twilight years dealing with the same kind of issues that those of us who are in the not-so-twilight-years are facing, makes it all the more familiar and relatable.
Whatever the reason is for you, gay men for generations to come are sure to discover and fall in love with these women – as long as there are DVDs, Blue Ray sets and TV reruns. If you haven’t had the chance, check them out now. It will be days well spent.