Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new column, TV Rewind. As the pandemic continues to halt television production for new and returning shows, the Paste writers are diving into the streaming catalogue to discuss some of our favorite classic series as well as great shows we’re watching for the first time. Come relive your TV past with us, or discover what should be your next binge watch below:
Does old equal boring? That might be the stereotype, but The Golden Girls pushes back on that expectation.
I was once told that the average time a woman would spend as a widow is 17 years. It was certainly true for both of my own Grandmas, and it is something I think about sometimes: What will I do when I’m in my 60s, 70s, and 80s if I’m single?
While it is easy to mentally picture an old lady sitting at home yelling “get off my lawn,” The Golden Girls gave a fictional view into what could be, and their view was infinitely better. (Even if Sophia would definitely yell at someone to get off of her lawn.) These four women are in their golden years yet living a vibrant life that isn’t shut down by age. The show is honest about the trials of aging, but they are still living full lives.
These women have moved past the phase of life where they were devoting all their time to their careers and families. They’ve moved on to a new phase; instead of worrying all the time about what is gone, they move forward into the possible, and where else? In Florida!
Still, they are very much involved with their family. Dorothy (Beatrice Arthur) and her Ma, Sophia (Estelle Getty), are dealing with their changed relationship where Sophia is still very much the mother, but Dorothy has taken on the responsibility of caring for her. And while she can’t do anything about her mom’s behavior, she does threaten her with a permanent time out at the Shady Pines retirement home.
Imagine that change of roles: Telling your mom you are going to ship her off. Hard to imagine, but this show goes there.
Yet, while Sophia endures the perpetual threat of Shady Pines, she grounds the show, with her straight talk to the younger women. Older is wiser, and while she seems hardcore, she is deeply loving.
Blanche (Rue McClanahan) has the hardest time with the transition into her golden years and still wants to live in the past. She has the hardest time with aging, and as I get older I totally understand that feeling. Getting older is hard, but she is gorgeous and is enjoying her freedom of flaunting her sexuality to men. You just feel the truth of her struggle. But if I have a favorite character it’s Rose (Betty White). She is sweet, and silly, and yet, so wise. When I rewatched the first season, I found her comforting, although that is maybe not what her roommates initially feel for her. Dorothy especially finds it irritating, but she loves her, and who can resist her stories of St. Olaf?
The first episode follows Blanche as she falls in love with a new man, and he asks her to marry her the very next week! I know as you get older you can feel a tight time deadline, but one week is pretty quick. The friends try to be supportive, even though Blanche owns the house where all the women live together. The day of the wedding, Rose has one of her hunches, and wants to tell Blanche the truth, that she doesn’t think Blanche should get married. Dorothy doesn’t want to interfere with the wedding, even though Rose is really wanting to tell her the truth about her feelings because she is a real friend. Dorothy literally strong arms her into silence.
Ultimately, though, the wedding at her house is a half hour late. But instead of a tardy groom, a cop shows up at the front door with a note explaining that the man she was to marry was a hustler who has 6 wives already.
So, Rose’s hunch was correct.
It is a fantastic pilot that solidly locks in the characters personalities right from the start. With so many shows, a pilot can feel a bit like a throwaway, but this one is as solid as the rest of the series.
In the first season, we also see Dorothy deal not only with her aging mother, but (unlike her roommates) she has a very much alive, ex-husband: Stan. She has to deal with that relationship even though she is older and they have moved on—to a point. She still has kids with him, but she and her mother still hate him.
The other thing that is interesting about re-watching the show is that you can remember what life was like before the internet. Some things are better, but it’s also hard to imagine a time where a mother would meet her adult child’s significant other without having done a full social media check-up on the guy in question. It’s amazing to watch that play out. It makes me miss the mystery of keeping part of my life a secret from my parents, but as a mom, I must admit, I like knowing what is going on.
What I loved about The Golden Girls as a girl and what I love about it now as a grown woman has not really changed. The corny humor, the love stories, the sweet moments with a no-nonsense grandma, and the friendships. As women age, the relationships they have with girlfriends should remain just as important.
What has changed for me is that as I’ve gotten older is that I see the relationships differently. I know what it is to be a mother and how that relationship for the mom doesn’t really change—it evolves over time, but it’s still one of the strongest bonds there is. The child grows and (hopefully) moves on to live a productive life, but the mom always sees that child as, a child. Sophia never stops loving Dorothy the same way she did when she was little, and while Dorothy is an adult with kids of her own, when there is a real problem, her mom steps into that role naturally and immediately.
All I can say is that when I watched this show again, it made me thankful for my girlfriends, and I hope even when I’m older, I’m still having as much fun as The Golden Girls.
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Keri is a professional chatterbox who loves watching TV & movies, reading about pop culture, and gawking at any craziness on the internet. You can follow Keri on Twitter.
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