The 1980's and 1990's saw the rise to popularity of an American television situational comedy called The Golden Girls. Many things about this show upon release were unprecedented and original, and this proved to be the heart of the show's strength and popularity. For example, it featured a number of elder women, who were not only comfortable with the topic of sex, but they actively spoke of sex and engaged in plenty of sexual activity in spite of their age. This is something that is common in real life, but was never approached in an American situational program before. This essay looks at the four older characters present in the sitcom, and how the characters developed over the 8 year lifespan of the show.
All the characters are interesting and lead dynamic lives. Dorothy, or Pussycat as the nickname given by her mother, had a younger brother Phillip who liked to cross dress and another younger sibling Gloria. Upon moving to Miami in later years, she continues her job as a supply teacher. In her past, Dorothy was in a common situation in high school at the time - she got pregnant and married the father Stan so that things could be done properly. They were married for a long 38 years, but his unfaithfulness caused them to divorce. Despite their situation, Stan makes many appearances on the program, due to him always fleeing to her whenever things in his life do not turn out the way he wants. Stan sees Dorothy as the rock of his life, and a comforting and reliable person, despite the fact he did wrong by her. It is good to see that the divorce makes Dorothy a stronger person, while Stan after the divorce seems to constantly fall further into immaturity.
Rose Nylund is another central character in the show, and she is your typical and lovable country girl, who comes from St. Olaf in Minnesota. She is famous for the anecdotes she gives relating to her former life where she grew up in a community of American Norwegians. She was the daughter of a monk and his mistress, though her mother died in childbirth and Rose does not know who her mother is until one of final series in show. After her birth she was adopted by the massive Lindstrom family and raised as one of their own, which included the amicable and free spirited Alma, who was her adoptive mother. She gets married later on in her life, and when her husband Charlie dies in 1970, she continued to abide in St. Olaf on her own, followed by her moving to Miami and finding employment as a grief counsellor. Once the pension of Charlie stops, Rose finds that she cannot afford to live on her wage as a counsellor, and so she takes up a job consumer reporting, as the assistant of Enrique Mas' at a nearby television station. Rose is a very ethical person, and over the course of the series, and volunteers at the local hospital and for a number of charities.
Blanch Deveraux is a complicated character, a beacon of the south, and the pride of her father. Her family situation is controversial - she swing between love and hate between herself and her sisters, and Blanch also has trouble accepting the homosexuality of her brother Clayton, and the mental illness of her other brother Ted. Blanche has six children with her former husband George who dies before the series, and a number of grandchildren. The largest trouble that Blanch has to deal with in the show is the arrival of David, who is apparently the son of George but to another mother. Dealing with this illegitimate child is a focus of the series. She is portrayed as the most intense character in the show, and the most man hungry with plenty of male interests and followers, and many details of sexual happenings. She does not contribute to society as much as the other characters, and she certainly comes across as the most vain and selfish of the group.
The final character of the foursome is the mother of Dorothy - Sophia Petrillo - and she enters the series when she comes to live with the other characters after her nursing home burns down after a fire. She was moved to this nursing home after she suffered a major stoke which rid her of her previous independence with brain damage, causing speech problems. This however allowed her to say the things she wanted to say without reprisal. Sophia alludes to the common American perception of nursing homes, and that they are not the best of places. She frequently complains about her time at the home, and the poor quality of staffing and the poor way the staff treated her.
While on the surface the show is good at being a typical and non-profound show, underneath it approaches many theories of development. A prominent theory which the show addresses is The Social Learning Theory of Bandura, which focuses on the critical nature of observing and modelling people through their attitude, behaviour and emotions, and the relationships and reactions to other people. We can see in this show this theory, with the constant ongoing interaction between the four main characters, with each character's personality influencing the personalities, thoughts, emotions and actions of the others.
Wikipedia, 2006: The Golden Girls [online]