I was a budding feminist from a very early age. I identified with Lisa Simpson not just for her adolescent belief in civic duty, but also for her strength and wisdom well beyond her years. I grew up playing with all of the neighborhood boys not as "one of the boys," but simply as a young woman who didn't see any reason why video games, scraped knees, and skateboards weren't meant for me. I also spent my sick days at home tuning into The Golden Girls — a show whose four female leads were fiercely independent, full of sharp humor, and beautifully feminine in their own ways. I didn't know it then, but The Golden Girls' progressive writing and portrayal of issues surrounding women, age, race, health, and politics would come to shape my discerning young mind.
The Golden Girls was a show that was truly ahead of its time thanks to its genius creator Susan Harris. It's rare today to find a show about four women who aren't young, thin, and whose lives revolve around their relationship to men, let alone in 1985. The Golden Girls has just turned 30 and it is just as relevant now as it was when it first debuted. It was a special kind of television series — the writing was game-changing, the actors were revelations, and it was in fearless in so many ways. The Golden Girls turned expectations about women, especially women of a certain age, on their heads and we're all better for it.
Looking back at The Golden Girls, I am even more in awe of just how many boundaries it pushes. Let's take a look at how The Golden Girls defied stereotypes and addressed subjects most "safe" sitcoms wouldn't dare touch:
1. The Writers Were Very Conscious About Their Portrayal Of The LGBT Community
In the episode "Isn't It Romantic?" Dorothy invites her friend Jean to stay with her in Miami. Jean happens to be a lesbian and Dorothy doesn't tell her roommates about it before she arrives. However, all of the women are welcoming, accepting, and not at all ruffled by Jean's orientation. The episode won an emmy.
2. They Also Handled An HIV/AIDS Scare Brilliantly
When Rose undergoes a blood transfusion, she finds out from her doctors that she may have contracted the virus. She has to wait 72 hours to find out if she's clear and during that time she panics and thinks God is judging her for her wrongdoings. Blanche tells her point-blank, "AIDS is not a bad person's disease Rose. It is not God punishing people for their sins." At the time, the AIDS crisis and homophobic agenda surrounding the issue was still raging, so Blanche's words really meant a lot in pop culture. It is especially poignant considering Blanche's Southern Belle persona — she stomped on the close-minded Southerner stereotype.
3. The Girls Were Very Open About Their Sex Lives
The Golden Girls defied expectations by not just having older women having sex, but it was how they had sex and how they talked about it. Blanche was open and honest about her sexual appetite while even Rose, the "sweet one" of the group, surprised the gang from time to time with her frankness on the subject. Because these women were older (and wiser), they didn't have sex for validation. They had sex because they wanted it — and that's sexy as hell.
4. Marriage Was Not Their End-All-Be-All
All of the women in The Golden Girls were either widowed or divorced. Unlike so many narratives about a group of women, they weren't marriage or baby crazy. They were past that... way, way past that. Their lives didn't revolve around men. Instead they focused on themselves and the ways they took care of each other. This show is 30 years old and there's still nothing else out there that's quite like it in this regard.
5. The Fashion Was Fierce
They might be old, but they're not old-fashioned. Everything Dorothy wore is now what's hanging in the racks of your favorite store. We're all a bunch of Golden Girls knock-offs these days and I doubt anyone saw that coming 30 years ago.
6. The Show Had No Time For Domestic Abuse
The subject of domestic abuse and violence came up a few times throughout the series and the message was always loud and clear: it's never OK. Before terms like "victim blaming" were prt of our cultural vocabulary, the characters on this show reiterated that it's not the victim's fault, which for the mid '80s was pretty powerful stuff.
7. They Loved Themselves
It's an act of rebellion for women to embrace their bodies. The girls would joke about their appearances on occasion, but it was never at the core of their self-worth. These women sat around the kitchen table, eating, laughing, and soaking in each other's humor. How very rare.
I salute you, Rose, Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia. And I thank you for being a friend.
Images: NBC (2), Rebloggy, Giphy(5)