It literally just hit me, Bea Arthur is dead. I have known since Saturday and I felt sad but at the time I didn’t allow myself to think about it. Today I read a tribute to the husky voiced maven and I finally allowed myself to process the information. Bea Arthur is no longer with us. To me, it is like losing my grandmother. I have watched The Golden Girls since I was a child. I still watch the reruns on Lifetime quite a bit; they never get old to me. And some of their episodes still bring tears to my eyes.
I do not consider myself a feminist. I am all for women’s rights. I am also pro-choice. And Bea Arthur was a woman ahead of her time. Her character on Maude made the decision to have an abortion. This came right before the Roe vs Wade decision. On The Golden Girls she was one of many women who fought the prejudices against seniors. She still had sex; although not as much as her friend Blanche, and she carried on with her life as if she had a hundred more years to go.
I learned a lot from that show, and from Bea Arthur’s character. Most importantly: life doesn’t end at 30. I am still afraid of growing old but now I see that being old doesn’t mean sitting in a rocking chair on your front porch whittling a stick. There is still a lot of life to be lived. And in some ways you have even more freedom: no children, no job, no worry about getting pregnant ;), and a carefree attitude.
In college I wrote an essay about The Golden Girls as an F U to my teacher. The assignment was to write about something in pop culture that you love. Music, TV, Movies, Books. She limited it to 2000+. I told her after class, “I am more interested in things from the 90’s. Can I write about that?” “No, just 2000’s.” So, I trudged home clueless. Then I came across the DVD release of The Golden Girls. The show was older, but the DVD was new. I wrote the most sarcastic essay of my college career, even though most of the feelings expressed were true, I just played them up. I did focus on my favorite characters, Rose and Sophia, but I wanted to post it anyways. In honor of Bea Arthur (and Estelle Getty who passed over a year ago) I am posting it here. This is for you Pussy-cat, Dorothy, Maude and most importantly, Bea….”Picture it…. Sicily…… 2005…… I was a college Freshman trying to write a 5 page paper about a one paragraph subject…”
15 April 2005
The Golden Girls: Underestimated Genius
In the year of our Lord 2004 a miracle happened- The Golden Girls DVD 1st season was released, and it was good. Luckily Aaron Wallace agreed with me on the greatness of the pioneering television show and wrote a glowing review. Like me, he finds this was just what the doctor ordered for Americans. Today, he says that our sitcoms are youth driven, but not this classic. The sitcom is relatable to everyone, though using older characters it touches on controversial issues. The women as he puts it, are “independent, and sexual…” As far as the characters go he believes that Dorothy and Blanche are main characters. These women are focused on a great deal, but we’ll come to that later. Rose and Sophia are understood as secondary in his opinion. Aaron has a great grasp that the sitcom starts with an amazing first season, insofar as ratings and the content itself. The lack of bonus features is disappointing to him however, one of his only negative comments on the entire first season DVD release.
Aaron is an employee of Disney. The website I received this review from is a Disney website. Obviously there is going to be some bias here. I understand that more than likely, he loves this show as any human being should, but when in the context of a site that is affiliated with the show I sense autiriour motives. Giving him the benefit of the doubt on that point I will say that he is probably older than I. This show was started in 1985, the year I was born. If he is older, he was able to watch the show in its heyday and probably understands the pop culture references so famously made and the now lost in obscurity guest stars. When viewing this show as a first timer in the 21st century most of the funniest moments fall on deaf ears, and some of the most controversial. Knowing these things he truly appreciates a portion of this show I will never get to experience, and for that I am jealous.
Here is where we separate. As you can see I agree with the things he says, the show is phenomenal. The comedy, genius. The characters, loveable. The issues, compelling. But Aaron fails to recognize that this show quite possibly changed the world. Reaching far into the conscience of Americans it taught more than a moral lesson, (it’s deeper than the obligatory one sentence moral mantra spouted out at the end of every Full House) it had a resounding global impact. Aaron says that it reached out to people of all ages and genders. Oh, no, it is far beyond. Waves of honesty, love, friendship, compassion, and most importantly that old people can still have sex, are gently rolling into peoples homes and consciences thanks to this DVD and the good people at Lifetime who pump those girls into our televisions seven times a day. Imagine if everyone could see this show, there would be no crime. Blanche didn’t keep the more expensive bed she was sent by accident. No, she gave it back, as tempting as that bed was.
Another point where out mutual love for all things “old ladies” splits is our opinion of who really, is the main character. Aaron is quoted as saying that, “Dorothy…more central character than Sophia and Rose…” This is where I see his point but tend to take the opposite approach. He is right in the sense that Dorothy, as well as Blanche, received more face time than Rose, the dimwit, or Sophia, the Sicilian granny. The heart of the show lies in their characters though. The words are focused on Blanche’s sexcapades and Dorothy’s lack thereof. The lessons center on Rose, and the lighthearted banter is always coming from Sophia. When you ask any fan who the favorite is, or the star, most will say Sophia. Quite possibly, she is the funniest 80+-year-old woman on the planet. I would even venture to say that she is the funniest woman over 50: quite an accomplishment. Aaron writes her off as a sideline character, and I see how he could, but she truly ties the show together. In the case of Rose, sweet, sweet Rose, her fumbling ways shed light on the deepest meanings exposed on the show. Most often she shows that simple mindedness, having the mind of a child, leads you closer to morality and honesty. Her candor is mostly from not knowing any better, and she points out faults with her friends without even noticing. In a truly heart wrenching episode Rose is informed that she may have contracted Aids through a blood transfusion. At this time in America and the world AIDS was a new epidemic. Poor Rose was shocked and lost faith in God that she, a good citizen, a non-homosexual, non-drug user, would get the virus. Before she finds out the results she learns her lesson that life is short, live to the fullest. And that there is no rhyme or reason to life sometimes, it’s not a punishment when bad things happen. Her friends find that she spent her day doing things that she wanted to before she died. Luckily she did not contract the virus, but the girls learned about life, as did we all. I’m sure that Aaron would agree with me on that one.
I don’t disagree with Aaron’s point of view of the show much at all as a whole, other than the fact that we don’t believe in the same people as being stars. Where we do agree is the impact this one show has had on the world, then and now. Maybe because he isn’t looking deeply enough he doesn’t see why I think humanity is a better place thanks to those silly women from Miami. If only he would think deeper, into the heart and soul of The Golden Girls, he would live a richer life. Maybe, just maybe he would walk down the street and see a 5-dollar bill lying on the street in Disney World and think, “What would Rose do?” And if everyone would just remember WWRD, the whole world would be a better place. Just remember… WWRD?
In conclusion, I’ll leave you with what just may be the greatest song in history: The Golden Girls theme song.
“Thank you for being a friend,
Travel down the road and back again,
Your heart is true,
You’re a pal and a confidant!
And if you threw a party,
Invited everyone you knew!
You would see,
The biggest gift would be from me,
And the card attached would say,
“Thank you for being a friend.”