The Gen X Files
Why Gay Men Love the Golden Girls
By Jeff Fuller
Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, I didn’t fit in really well with the other boys at school, so I often spent my Saturday nights at home watching television. One of the shows I always enjoyed watching was The Golden Girls, a sitcom on the air from 1985 to 1992 that centered on four older women living in South Florida. It seems strange to think how this show connected with me. Years later, I would find out that this TV show was also a favorite among other gay men of my generation. And even today, a younger gay generation has been enjoying the show in syndication.
The show’s main characters consisted of Dorothy, intelligent, plain and tough, always quick with a cutting remark; Blanche, the vivacious, promiscuous and often salacious southern belle; Rose, kind, innocent and sometimes naïve, who shared stories from growing up in rural Minnesota; and Sophia, Dorothy’s elderly wise-cracking mother, whose stories of growing up in Sicily often imparted nuggets of wisdom.
The presence of gay writers and producers on The Golden Girls probably had something to do with its appeal, even to someone like me who had not yet connected to a gay community of any kind. Initially, the show even had a gay character, a houseboy named Coco, who appeared in the pilot but was dropped in later episodes. Significantly, in the relatively conservative late 80s and early 90s, the show often discussed gay issues. In one of the episodes, Blanche has to come to terms with accepting that her younger brother Clayton is gay. The show also featured a same-sex marriage long before such a thing was legal in any part of the country. Another episode brought up HIV/AIDS, a somewhat taboo topic for television sitcoms in those times. The Golden Girls also had a lot of raunchy humor, although a lot of the jokes went over my head when I was younger.
In an interview, Rue McClanahan, the actress who portrayed Blanche, was asked why gay men seemed to love the show. She said that the reason was her character Blanche and that most gay men wanted to be her. The character of Blanche was confident, proud of her sexual prowess, and always seemed to have a different man in every episode. It was actually somewhat groundbreaking at the time to have a woman over 50 asserting her sexuality.
The Golden Girls was ultimately about how friends can come together and form bonds as strong as a family. Appropriately, the show’s theme song is “Thank You for Being a Friend.” Gay men and women, sometimes rejected by their own biological families, often create their own family of choice through strong friendships. Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia, even with all of their jokes at one another’s expense, also formed an endearing and supportive family of choice, often meeting together late at night to eat cheesecake to discuss their problems with men.
In gay men’s lives, friendships are often the most enduring bonds we have. As much as we may make fun of each other, our friends are often the people in our lives that we know we can always count on.
Apart from being a Gay Generation-Xer, Jeff Fuller is an attorney, writer, travel blogger, historian, and military spouse. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Jeff went to college, graduate school and law school in the Southeast. He has called Atlanta home for the last decade but recently moved to DC to follow his husband on his military career. He occasionally blogs at journeyingjeff.com.