6 Times the Golden Girls was Real
Updated: Apr 10
Golden Girls has become one of my favourite television series over the past year. I first managed to watch the entire series online and fell in love with Rose, Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia. They were 4 very different women who loved each other and experienced their lives as single women in their 50s and 80s. It was a hilarious show that also covered a lot of real and serious topics.
Many of these topics were far ahead of the time of the show which aired in the late '80s and early '90s. There are 6 particular episodes that had moments that stood out and spoke the most to me.
1) Season 1 Episode 19 Adult Education; Blanche is sexually harassed by her teacher
Undoubtedly, Blanche is known as the "slut" of the group, a joke made often by Dorothy and Sophia mostly. Even Blanche made reference throughout the series to having many men visit her and her bed. In season 1, Blanche is trying to get her college degree in order to get a promotion at the art museum she works for. She is struggling in the class and asks her professor for help. He then makes an advance, offering to pass her if she sleeps with him. She does consider it, but the girls, especially Dorothy, convince her not to. Blanche goes to the school's authority to report the incident, but the man tells her it would be just another he-said-she-said without any concrete proof beyond the words. With this, the girls motivate Blanche to study a lot and pass on her own merits. Now, the #metoo movement has had the world talking and sharing, but in the episode, Blanche experiences not being believed, something that certainly still happens. In the end, Blanche took the experience to motivate her own studies and is victorious in the end proving her professor wrong.
2) Season 3 Episode 1 Old Friend; Sophia's new friend with Alzheimer's
Sophia is the eldest of the ladies, she is, after all, Dorothy's mother. She often jokes about the condition of her friends at the senior centre. One day, she goes for a walk to the boardwalk and meets a man named Alvin. They develop a wonderful friendship as they hang out daily. After some time, Alvin's behaviour suddenly becomes erratic. Dorothy, starting to worry about her mother, sits and watches Sophia and Alvin. One day, Dorothy meets Alvin's daughter. She tells Dorothy that her father has Alzheimer's and will eventually be moving to NYC to be taken care of by his nephew who is a doctor. This was a real episode for me because Sophia is hit with a dose of reality when it comes to ageing. She's always aware of her age, but once in a while, she really sees what can happen to another person her age.
3) Season 5 Episode 19 72 Hours; Rose has an AIDS scare
In this intense episode of the series, Rose is given the news that she may have AIDS. Years earlier, she had been given a blood transfusion during a surgery that may have been tainted. After going to the hospital to have her blood tested, Rose is told she has to wait 72 hours to find out the results. Rose is understandably filled with mixed emotions of frustration, anxiety, and panic that she is now in this situation. The other girls try to help her pass the time, but nothing soothes her worry. Blanche later reveals that she had gone through the testing process years earlier and knew that Rose was experiencing. In the end, Rose does not have the illness, but the subject I’m sure rocked many when it aired in 1990. Those with AIDS were shunned and seen as lepers. Freddie Mercury had not yet revealed he had the illness and Princess Diana was radicalizing the world’s view on those with the illness when she shook the bare hand of a man with the illness, dispelling the idea that you could catch the illness with human contact. Today, AIDS is better understood as an illness that is passed by bodily fluid. The thought that it could be passed by touch is evident when Sophia begins to mark various mugs around the house with “R” to indicate ones that Rose had used. Dorothy is upset by this and explains to her mother that she cannot catch the illness by touch. Eventually, Sophia changes her tune and drinks out of any cup in the house again, but it shows how even loved ones have looked upon those with the illness.
4) Season 6 Episode 6 Feelings; Rose believes she is molested by her dentist
This episode had a similar tone to when Blanche was harassed by her professor. Rose comes home distraught because she thinks her dentist molested her. She doubts herself because she was under anesthesia for her treatment. The ladies encourage her to confront the dentist and report him for the conduct. When she does confront him, he convinces her that she was confused and that it didn’t happen. She apologizes and sits down for another appointment. This time, he does it again, but she knows she isn’t wrong. She tells him she’s going to report him much to his begging her not to. Just like the Blanche episode, this one deals with assault victims not being believed or not even coming forward because they don’t think anyone will believe them and make them feel like they were wrong. The support of the girls helped Rose to feel strong enough to confront her assaulter and report his actions to prevent it from happening to anyone else.
5) Season 6 Episode 12 Ebbtide's Revenge; Sophia loses a son and Dorothy a brother
This episode hit home for me. As someone who has witnessed their parent lose a sibling and grandparents lose a child, I know how heartbreaking this episode really was. Much of the episode consists of Dorothy dealing with her grief, but Sophia not really acknowledging it. Sophia’s attention and anger are directed at her daughter-in-law. Throughout the series, Phil is mentioned as Dorothy’s younger brother who often cross-dressed. This had never bothered Dorothy and until now, didn’t seem to bother Sophia either. Sophia does reveal that her anger towards Phil’s wife was not over the dowry that wasn’t paid when they got married (as she had been saying it was) but over the fact that she had no issue with his cross-dressing. Phil’s wife, Angela, reveals that it made him happy so why would she stop that. After Sophia is able to see that he was happy in his marriage, she finally breaks down and deals with the grief of having to bury her son. She had been so tied up in anger towards Angela, that she is finally able to let go and grieve her son properly. Losing a child is something no parent wants to deal with, but sadly, it does happen. It is a subject I haven’t seen happen in another show recently, especially parents having to deal with the loss of a grown child and adults dealing with the loss of their younger sibling.
6) Season 7 Episode 24 Home Again, Rose: Part 2; Rose has a triple bypass
It seems like Rose has encountered a few medical issues throughout the series. As one of the final episodes in the series, Rose puts off going to a doctor when she doesn’t feel well. After passing out when the girls crash a high school reunion in part 1, Rose has to receive the intense triple bypass surgery. The girls however are not able to see her before the surgery as they are not family members. After Rose’s daughter, Kirsten, comes to the hospital, the girls hope they can see Rose, but Kirsten shuts them down saying they are just her friends and roommates, not understanding how deep the relationship between the girls is. After Rose asks for the girls before surgery (calling them “her girls”), Kirsten understands how much they love each other and has a doctor allow the visit. This was a real moment for me because it not only dealt with a scary surgery for a beloved character to have but acknowledging the idea that family is not restricted to blood. Many of us out there consider friends more like family.
What were some of your stand-out moments or episodes in this iconic series?