Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thank You For Being A Golden Girl By: Karen Pilarski

Decades are often defined by a cultural statements. The 1960's were depicted as suburban life and fallen heroes. The groovy 1970's were about revolt, free love and peace.

 The 1980's was an era of standing out and being unique. Normal didn't include cookie cutter appearances. Music was louder and provocative. Music videos were a visual for audiences to connect to the sounds.

Television was a source of comfort in trying times.

The beloved characters on television shows became family to audiences.

Television shows changed with the times and thus the neat and tidy images were shattered. Notably with shows such as "Full House", "Dynasty", "Cheers", "Alf"and the "Simpsons".

A family show didn't necessarily involve parents and a son and daughter. The setting could be at a bar or a spaceship. Many beloved series were about friendships and the evolving dynamics of interactions.

One show that was ground breaking with "The Golden Girls".

Who could have fathomed a show about four older feisty women would have struck gold?

Shoulder pads, high teased hair, glitter and bangle bracelets were the fads of youth.

However, in this sitcom the popular fads were showcased as well. There was bookish teacher Dorothy (Bea Arthur) with her shoulder pads, her sassy Sicilian ma Sophia (Estelle Getty), dimwitted and easily duped Rose (Betty White) who loved fuzzy and colorful sweaters and puffed out hair. Lets not forget sultry and seductive Blanche (Rue McClanahan) who wore spiked heels and shimmery and flashy attire.

The besties were roommates in hot and vibrant Miami, FL. The theme song "Thank You For Being a Friend" was a poignant symbol of the trails and tribulations faced by the characters.

The show touched on issues that all ages could connect with and comprehend. Sure there were jokes about pensions, depends, dementia and menopause. Intertwined were a mixture of issues that any age range could be exposed to.

Rose experienced pill addiction, threat of HIV through blood transfusions, inferiority of intelligence and sexual harassment by a randy dentist.

Blanche dealt with her daughter's artificial insemination, an abusive beau, a gay brother and conflicted feelings over donating her kidney to a sibling.

Dorothy dealt with a philandering ex husband, an undiagnosed illness, unemployment, caring for an elderly parent and self esteem issues.

The 'matriarch' of the household, Sophia's issues were a son who was a transvestite and eventually died.
Other topics Sophia episodes highlighted were suicide, remarriage, heart alignments and funny get rich quick scams. Remember "Grab That Dough?"

Sophia was also striving to win independence against her age. That  issue alone hit home to the young at heart and adolescents who yearned for control over their own lives.

The 80's and 90's certainly had an abundance of shows that dealt with friendships ("Friends", "Perfect Strangers" and "Will and Grace"). Today there are similar formulas with "New Girl", "How I Met Your Mother" and "Big Bang Theory."

However, "Golden Girls" is still unique in a new era were trends are redundant and cookie cutter again. Social media, new technological gadgets and pushing the envelope reality shows have shifted the focus away from being different in an inspiring way.

The current decade is about having the best and fastest way of communication. Days of sitting around a table at 3am oinking out on cheesecake and commiserating have fallen by the wayside.  In its place are texts, Facebook pokes and Twitter streams.

In "Golden Girls" era, it was not considered bullying to pick on each other and trade insults. The funniest episodes were when they would tease each other. It seemed like such an innocent time in a time frame were loud and being 'out there' was the cool thing.

The one element that hasn't changed is the need for wonderful friends who support and back us up if need be.

Viewers are constantly searching for characters to identify with and be the 'friend' they are in need of at that time.