Sometimes, there’s a particularly appropriate time to watch a specific show for the first time (or re-watch), but with The Golden Girls, it’s always the right time of year. Spending every day of the year with Betty White’s Rose Nylund, Bea Arthur’s Dorothy Zbornak, Rue McClanahan’s Blanche Devereaux, and Estelle Getty’s Sophia Petrillo makes hard days a little easier, especially if you’ve got some cheesecake too.
The brilliant thing about The Golden Girls is that even if you’ve never seen a single episode, you know just what it’s about, and you can likely sing along to the catchy theme song, “Thank You For Being a Friend,” performed by Cindy Fee. It’s the kind of comfort show you can put on, mid-way, not know a single thing, and you’ll find your mood has quickly improved.
That was always the case for me before I sat down to watch from beginning to end as an adult. The Golden Girls was (and still is) the type of show that’s often on TV, and I’d find myself wanting to know more. For a series released in the 80s, while it’s understandably imperfect, most of the episodes still hold up to today’s standards with storylines that feel inclusive and thoughtful. The show and the cast remain iconic for a reason, and it’s utterly thrilling that we could still say that in 2022.
While certain jokes sometimes take it too far, because the women adore one another so fervently, the intentions aren’t out of ill-will. This isn’t a matter of women pitted against each other for the sake of drama, but rather, it’s four incredibly different women learning how to navigate as roommates and as best friends.
And one of the standout aspects of The Golden Girls will always be how believable their friendship is despite their differences.
The show works because it allows the women to be their authentic selves while still exhibiting that people consistently have plenty to learn and grow from. No one is too young or old to stop making mistakes, and no one is too young or too old to enjoy their lives the way they want to.
While feminism wasn’t a foreign concept in the 80s, it also wasn’t something we were discussing at great length as we are today. No one was talking about how to honor a woman’s agency, and that was especially the case for women in fiction and how they were written, primarily by male writers. Thus, the inclusion of honoring a woman’s agency is a fascinating part of The Golden Girls.
But by some extraordinary outcome, the writers always did a riveting job of cementing the importance of a woman’s choice as a thread throughout the series’ run. If one of them wanted to eat, they’d eat. If they wanted to change their career, they could. If they wanted to sleep with a man, whom they’d choose was up to them. If they wanted to tell a story, they could do that too. In exercising their agency, they not only inspired one another but also inspired viewers, reminding us that life can always be exciting so long as you have friends by your side who have your back.
Even their home acts as a comforting setting with a variety of warm colors that could match whatever vibe you’re in. And somehow, they’ll even make you want to dress better. (Their styles remain notable even today, and if I could dress half as good as they do when I’m older, I’ll have made it.)
It’s not often that a sitcom with a live audience could have the same effect years after it’s aired, but female friendships at the heart of the series make The Golden Girls a glorious exception. And surely, some other classics stand on high ranks as well, but the series’ means of addressing essential topics while getting to the root of the issue and showing us just how much these women contribute to making their circles a better place is where they’ve always stood out.
When the world of television fails us with catty drama, we could turn Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia to remember that lasting friendships are possible and women should always be each other’s greatest cheerleaders. They could call each other out when necessary, and they often advocated for things that mattered. Even where mockery was concerned or a fight had occurred, you never once doubted how much the women loved each other, and that same love continues to be a beacon of hope even today.
Whether it’s the Sicily or St. Olaf stories, Blanche’s many adventures, Dorothy’s unparalleled expressions of exhaustion, the Shady Pines threats, and all the late-night conversations with cheesecake, The Golden Girls will always be a comfort to us all.