The Golden Girls Are My Religion

In fact, after Bea Arthur died, I had her face tattooed on my arm with the words, Thank You For Being A Friend.
Publish date:
December 23, 2011
TV, bea arthur, rue mclanahan, the golden girls

I grew up watching "The Golden Girls," but it wasn’t like I was obsessed with them. Like so many others, watching was a lovely ritual I shared with my grandma, Blanche (yes, her real name).It wasn’t until the beginning of college that I began to re-examine my love for the show and understand that it ran much deeper than I’d thought. Not only was watching reruns a lovely way to cherish the moments I spent with my beloved grandma, but it was an opportunity to do so all the time, because "The Golden Girls" is on TV all. The. Time. ALL THE TIME. In fact, I even wrote a paper in college that examined the feminist tropes explored by Bea Arthur on television, from her domineering, game-changing Maude Findlay in Norman Lear’s "All In The Family" universe to the groundbreaking Dorothy Zbornak on, well, the best show ever.

That paper was selected as one of the NYU Cinema Studies department’s best of the year or something? I don’t remember exactly what happened, except that some girl was putting all of us to sleep with silent footage of 19th-century Russian ballet before I took the stage and played this clip from "The Golden Girls," and suddenly I was Willy Wonka and we were on a tour of my delicious factory! (P.S. Do yourself a favor and go to a state school.)

In fact, after Bea Arthur died, I had her face tattooed on my arm with the words, Thank You For Being A Friend.

A lot of people think it’s a fittingly ironic, goofy tattoo that fits with my persona because I wear glasses, live in Brooklyn, and am a comedian. And I can’t blame them for thinking it, but it just ain’t true. I truly, absolutely, without equivocation, worship "The Golden Girls" in a way that is completely sincere and without a hint of irony.Despite having a job that requires me to be fully abreast on all things pop culture, I remain quite hesitant, as I think most of pop culture is toxic garbage that threatens psychological damage upon the innocent psyche (i.e., Andy Cohen should be sent into outer space on a very slow rocketship filled with every girl who has watched any iteration of "The Real Housewives" and thought that calling someone else a "bitch" wasn’t a big deal).

In fact, my DVR tends to be filled with a rotating crop of a very small number of shows: "House Hunters," "House Hunters International," "Happy Endings," "30 Rock" and "The Golden Girls." And when you boil the numbers down in terms of recorded hours (I LOVE that I just wrote “boil the numbers” in reference to "The Golden Girls"), you’re probably looking at 90 percent Golden Girls, 10 percent everything else.So, yeah, I’m a superfan. I can name the season of an episode by its opening scene. I can point out every character who, at some point, played another character on the same show (they did that often). I can feed you the lines before they escape Rue, Estelle, Betty or Bea’s mouth. My boyfriend LOVES that. (JK! He doesn’t!).But, most importantly, I can see the inherent value in the show.

Besides being hilarious, the idea of seeing four over-the-hill women -- in a sitcom, no less -- was unheard of. And, on top of that, they covered relevant issues, made intelligent, topical references, and -- AND! -- imbued drama with comedy. It was revolutionary! These were four independently-minded adult women who needn’t rely on men, money or anyone but themselves to remain relevant, strong-willed and confident.I don’t like it when people compare "The Golden Girls" to "Sex And The City," because the latter was, in my opinion, a fluffy, fantastical, disposable soap opera about four women who had, like, ALL THE MONEY, and who, more often than not, shaped their conversations almost exclusively around men.

And I really don’t like when people compare it to "Designing Women." because, as good as that show was (and it was!), it’s hard to think of Delta Burke or Annie Potts (and I LOVE me some Annie Potts) in the same [dare I say magical? [yes, I dare!] light as Bea Arthur in the brilliant, evocatively funny manner with which she turned every cruel hardball lobbied at her by the writers about her height, voice, and demeanor into comic GOLD.

Or the way Rue McClanahan’s could-be-cartoonish portrayal of a hypersexual goddess was imbued with just the right amount of sincerity, knowledge, and a glimmer of doubtful innocence. Or the way Betty White’s bobble-headed, Midwestern daughter of a dairy farmer with a heart of gold flashed her secretly self-serving, masochistic horns every now and then. Or the impeccable, flawless comic timing that made Estelle Getty a true, shining TV star in a way that reminds you of the other few actors who can grab hold of the medium itself and make it beg for mercy (see: Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke, and James Gandolfini).Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go the gym and get on the treadmill just in time for my favorite show’s reruns to play. See? Bea Arthur’s even helped me lose weight, too! Oh, and of course, I’ll be sure to go sleeveless.