Why The Golden Girls Have (And Will) Stand the Test of Time
With all of the recent talk about the “Golden Age of Television” (I’m looking at you, The Atlantic), I wanted to spend some time with my loves from the Original Golden Age: Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia, the quirky, fun-loving group of middle-aged girlfriends from NBC’s classic The Golden Girls. While many women of my generation spend time fantasizing about whether they’re a Carrie or a Miranda, I have spent many a cold, wintery night wondering if I was too snarky to be considered a Dorothy, or if I possessed too much tact to be labeled a Sophia.
For me, The Golden Girls represent a kind of freedom for young women whose ultimate goal is not marriage, but contentment. Together, the Girls consist of three widows and one divorcee whose lives did not end with the dissolution of their respective marriages. Instead, they lived together, supported each other, swapped sex stories, and yes, ate cheesecake at 2am in one of THOUSANDS of nightgown ensembles. And despite the fact that most episodes focused on the Girls’ relationships with men, the thesis statement of the show remained the same: you can always depend on your girlfriends.
Even though Hollywood still loves to depict female friendships as catty, jealousy-ridden, competitive, or just plain superficial, The Golden Girls never seemed to stray from their central message. Sure, the Girls frequently got angry, jealous, and downright cruel with one another, but they never forgot that their friendship mattered more than their own pride. They were able to call each other on their bullshit, but love one another almost unconditionally, always giving their friends the benefit of the doubt. And, if they ever offended, they apologized by the end of the episode.
I originally discovered The Golden Girls as a 19 year-old dealing with my first broken heart. I was lying on my mother’s couch wearing powder blue sweatpants, stuffing my face with Doritos, and just feeling sorry for myself. Bored with Seinfeld re-runs, I decided to watch a show my best friend had recommended to me, the one about the sexual old ladies.
I was instantly obsessed. I felt comforted by the familiar sitcom format, geometric jewel-toned ensembles, and consistently funny one-liners that even the Dowager Countess would be jealous of. I was also surprised by how much I had in common with middle-aged women. The Golden Girls made me unafraid to age, as I knew that no matter what the future held in terms of love, family, and career, I could always live in Miami with my girlfriends. A life built around floral pastel patterns, metallic sheath dresses, and random one-episode hobbies sounds like a pretty rockin’ middle age to me.
Despite my personal connection, I’m obviously not the first person to recognize the genius of The Golden Girls. While it was still on the air, the show won several awards. They managed to incorporate several taboo topics into their episodes, most notably gay marriage, HIV/AIDS, cross-dressing, homelessness, and spousal abuse – subjects that most comedies avoid to this day. Not to mention that each one of the Girls won an Emmy for her own individual performance and, this is my favorite piece of trivia, Mitchell Hurwitz (of Arrested Development fame) wrote several episodes for the show.
Thanks to The Golden Girls, I am now a 49 year-old woman trapped in a 26 year-old’s body. I have a cat named Bea Arthur. My two best friends and I have the chemical element for gold tattooed on our ribs. I dressed up as Sophia Petrillo for a gold-themed party and my friends continue to buy me Golden Girls-themed birthday and holiday cards. Not to mention that my ideal Friday night is sitting in my ugly powder blue sweatpants, eating shrimp tacos, and re-watching some of the golden oldies.
As we try to define what characteristics a show must possess to fit under this new Golden Age of Television, let’s remember that some television is great because of cinematography, dramatic acting, and surprising twists…but others are just good at telling jokes and making 19 year-olds feel like they’re going through menopause.
Kristina Felske is a writer, actor and improviser. She improvises with Denver (iO) and CAVES, and performs sketch with Triplets Bogtrotter. Kristina’s written work has been featured on the Other Otter, the Second City Network, RedEye Chicago, the Steamroller, and the Reductress. Her original musical, Penny, the F*ckable Dolphin: A Love Story is playing at the Annoyance Theater on Wednesday’s at 8 p.m. until February 17th. You can follow her on Twitter @kristinafelske or read more about her on kristinafelske.com.