Cheese Cake, Condoms, And Best Friends: It’s Not Too Late To Watch ‘The Golden Girls’
Long before 'Sex and the City', 'The Golden Girls' was exploring age and its relationship to female sexuality in a gloriously positive way.
It’s been nearly 34 years since The Golden Girls first aired, but for a whole generation (and then some), the sitcom holds a special place.
Across 180 episodes and seven years, the show became the kind of enduring story that has lived on long past its end date — and long after its main stars have passed away (with the exception of one — and here’s hoping Betty White is immortal because who amongst us could cope with her death???).
If you’ve never watched The Golden Girls — or it’s just been a really, really long time since you have — it’s not too late to get on board.
Because unlike a lot of other comedies from the same era (and even later — sorry Friends, I’m side-eying you hard), it’s held up pretty damn well.
It’s not without its faults, of course: it’s not great on race, and has a lot of dire instances of fatphobia and ableism. But in other ways it was very much ahead of its time, and still feels revelatory today.
Picture it: Miami, 1985…
The Golden Girls is about two widows, a divorcée, and the divorcée’s mother living together as roommates.
The four characters are all totally different: there’s sexually voracious Southern belle Blanche Deveraux (Rue McClanahan), sweet and naïve Rose Nylund (Betty White), sarcastic and impatient Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur), and witty and filter-less Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty).
A lot of the drama and comedy comes from the contrasting personalities of the women. They get annoyed with each other, fight, toss around insults — but, crucially, they love each other. There’s a warmth and a cosiness running through the whole series, and its best moments come from the “girls” sitting around the kitchen table with a cheesecake and talking late into the night.
They’re best friends — and they’re a family.
As a viewer, you feel a part of that family, right down to the empty space at the table. Sure, it’s there purely for practical camera-related reasons, but it feels like they’re actually leaving room for you to join them.
Slipping into the nostalgic pastel-coloured world of 1980s Miami as presented in The Golden Girls is a very specific and very lovely kind of comfort viewing.
“Condoms, Rose, Condoms, Condoms, Condoms!”
One of my favourite aspects of The Golden Girls is its almost total lack of male characters (Stan notwithstanding).
Men are very much accessories to the lives of the four central women. Not essential (not even to thirsty queen Blanche), but a fun distraction. They’re bit players, disposable — good for a night or even an engagement or two but unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
These women have had their great loves and are in a whole new phase of their lives, where they’re defined not by who they’re married to but by who they are.
That being said, it’s still a joy to behold these older women dating and (gasp!) having sex.
Long before Sex and the City, The Golden Girls was exploring age and its relationship to female sexuality in a gloriously positive way. It’s still all too common in pop culture for women of a certain age to be portrayed as sexless — simply mothers or grandmothers without lives of their own. The Golden Girls challenges this assumption in every single episode in big and small ways.
It feels like The Golden Girls was way ahead of its time in the way it centralises the narrative of four older women, allowing them to be fully realised characters with hopes and dreams and desires and rich lives. Because life isn’t over at 50, and the stories of these women are still very much worth telling.
Golden Lines, Golden Times
Even if you’ve never actually seen The Golden Girls, chances are you’ve seen GIFs of it.
Because the show is absolutely full of hilarious one-liners. The four leads play their parts to perfection and have incredible comic timing. Their chemistry is off the charts, and they play off each other so beautifully.
While Sophia gets all the best lines, Blanche totally owns her vanity and horniness, Dorothy says everything she needs to say with one single look, and Rose tells completely clueless stories with an irresistible enthusiasm.
The show is endlessly quotable, but it’s also fun for the completely absurd situations the girls sometimes find themselves in.
Whether it’s a competitive bowling league, a Chicken Little stage show, or being thrown in jail on more than one occasion, the cast launch themselves wholeheartedly into the physical comedy. They’re women who rose up through the heyday of variety shows, and The Golden Girls takes advantage of the full spectrum of their talents every chance it gets.
Where To Start Watching?
The Golden Girls is one of those old school shows which was very much episodic, telling self-contained stories before moving on to the next thing.
Don’t try to track the continuity, because it will drive you up the wall in its non-existence. Instead, enjoy dipping in and out of the series at will. You don’t need to start at the beginning or watch it in any particular order (and I say this as someone who obsessively watches things in order).
Its structure means you don’t have to invest a lot of mental energy into viewing. It’s the perfect background show, but it’s equally worth sitting down to focus on, purely for the little moments you’d miss otherwise.
This scene of Blanche sifting through the journals containing logs of every date she's ever been on contains one of the top five best Golden Girls exchanges ever pic.twitter.com/Mr0GlgRkId
— bobby finger (@bobbyfinger) April 3, 2019
Where You Can Watch The Golden Girls
Seasons 1-7 of The Golden Girls are on Stan.
Jenna Guillaume is a Sydney-based writer who loves all things TV and pop culture. She tweets @JennaGuillaume, and her new book, ‘What I Like About Me’ is available now.