Women's Hx Month Kick-Off
It's Women's Hx Month, ya'll! That means all the more reason to honor our favorite Girls and the role (see what I did there??) they played in bringing about important social topics to mainstream TV through their talent and channeling of these amazing characters. And for the 80s and early 90s, that was a big deal.
Blanche's brother, Clayton, comes out to Blanche in Scared Straight, as a gay man. Blanche has some trouble adjusting to the idea, especially when she assumed her brother was straight for their entire relationship. By the end of the episode, Blanche warms up to the idea but then regresses when Clayton introduces her to his fiance, Doug, later in the series (Sister of the Bride.) As she tries to come to terms with this, Sophia gives an extraordinarily progressive viewpoint for a women in her 80s during this time:
Everyone wants someone to grow old with,
and shouldn't everyone have that chance?
Sexual Assault and/or Harassment
During a time in our nation's history when more victims of sexual harassment are feeling less afraid and empowered to come forward and name their abusers, we know it had to start someone. While it's no secret that the Golden Girls certainly were not the first women to take the bull by the horns throughout history (MUCH respect for the late Recy Taylor - rest in power, lady, and THANK YOU! Also, what up, Tarana Burke?!) the fact that these situations were brought into the light of television was very important.
In the episode Adult Education, Blanche is harassed by her night school teacher when she has trouble passing his class. He gives her the option to take the final exam on her own, or sleep with him and pass with flying colors. Blanche reports him and as too often the case, the authority figure who listens to her story questions her credibility and is more concerned with the perpetrator's reputation than he is in preserving her dignity and safety (some SERIOUS BS but that's not uncommon, unfortunately.)
Rose is sexually assaulted by her dentist, someone she believes is a good friend, while she's heavily drugged during a procedure in Feelings. She talks to the Girls about it and gets overwhelmed by the prospect that maybe she misinterpreted the situation because she'd been drugged. As Blanche so beautifully puts it:
People like your dentist count on their victims to back down. Honey, you have to have courage.
In the end, Rose confronts her dentist, his true colors come out and she reports him to the state dental board.
Rose Fights Back in Season 5, when she is rejected from being considered for a job because of her age (twice! Once by a sh*tty pet store employer and once by the guy, Enrique Mas, who is a consumer reporter and supposed to advocate for people in Rose's specific situation!) She takes a test for Enrique in applying for a job working for him and passes with flying colors, proving that wisdom, experience and age are all resourceful and positive qualities to have as an employee.
It pains me to say this, but there are a few things I wish were different about the series:
- Representation of Trans/GNC folks - Dorothy's younger brother, Phil, likely fell somewhere under the transgender umbrella (though we don't know exactly where. We just know that he preferred to wear women's clothing.) It's unfortunate that most references to him and his identity are used as the punchline, however what I appreciated about how his death was handled was his wife stating, 'What he was, Sophia, was a good man." (I.e. It doesn't matter what he wore or how he identified; he was awesome.)
- Race - the "microagressions" slipped into the script, at times, were a little disappointing. One example would be in Mixed Blessings when Michael, Dorothy's son, brings his fiance to Miami to meet Dorothy and it happens that she is black. At one point, the two mothers of the kids meet as well as some family and the rest of the Girls, and it is quickly unveiled that Blanche has been with a black man, but covers that up as quickly as she releases that information. And the uproar of laughter from the audience makes it clear that the notion is somehow taboo. There are other slips in that episode as well in episodes like The Housekeeper and as much as I absolutely LOVE this show, I wish that could have been handled different.
While the show does deliver some exceptional one-liners and sometimes zany plot lines, there were so many substantial topics that were covered (more than I wrote here) and looking back at it all as a cohesive show, it's not surprise that someone as socially liberal as myself absolutely loves this show. And it's no surprise that this show is still extremely relevant today.
In friendship and cheesecake,
Image credits power-animals.com, cloudfront.net, sharetv.com