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Culture

“The Golden Girls” Shows Women Aging Gracefully In A Society Obsessed with Youth

By S.G. Cheah·· 7 min read
the golden girls NBC
NBC

How did a show about four elderly ladies living together in Miami manage to win the heart of audiences across generations? “The Golden Girls” is still as watchable today as it was back when it premiered in the ‘80s.

Considering how likely we all are to be infected with the COVID-19 virus, part of my mental preparation is accepting the high probability that I will be infected by the virus. Far from belittling or taking this health crisis lightly (I haven't left the house in two weeks), there is a psychological benefit to recognizing the likely probability of being infected. Accepting that we might get sick will help ease the fear and anxiety about how to plan and deal with life if things took a turn for the worst.

But in order to reach that point of serenity  —  whereby you know that you're prepared for the worst — we must first strengthen our minds and improve our mood so we can brace ourselves for whatever hardship that may come our way. Borrowing a concept from computer science called "garbage in, garbage out (GIGO)", the entertainment you consume will determine your outlook on life.

The Healing Power of Holding Long Term Expectations

Like most people, I turn to comfort TV to help alleviate the stress of these tumultuous times. There is a certain charm to formulaic sitcoms. They appeal to viewers because they remind us how, ultimately, things will be okay and life will return to normal. Chances are, almost everyone has a favorite sitcom they go to in times of difficulty to help them deal with life.

Oftentimes, I've noticed how older television shows tend to have a more positive vibe (compared to the lethargic and darker, grittier shows that are mostly produced today). The bright positivity helps keep these older shows evergreen. We can still laugh and binge on feel-good sitcoms like Frasier, Friends, and Everybody Loves Raymond.

And it's during these tough times that we need all the positive vibe we can get. I'm a sucker for sitcoms, and one of my favorites is The Golden Girls.

The Golden Girls Reminds Us That Life Is Good  — and That Life Is Long

When The Golden Girls first premiered, it became a hit with just about every demographic you could think of. Males and females, young and old, blue-collar and professionals, it resonated with audiences everywhere, even those around the globe. What was it about The Golden Girls that bonded everyone across the board?

One of the ways we can best build our mental resilience is by reminding ourselves that life is long and life is good.

Apart from the great writing, I believe the reason it has an everlasting appeal to the human psyche is because the show reminds us that life is long and life is well worth living. Most people are afraid of growing older (I'm no exception), but if we change our perspective about aging, we will see that it’s really a privilege to be able to live a full and long life.

Aging Gracefully in a Society Obsessed with Youth

Have you heard people say "Betty White is older than sliced bread" before? Not only is she older than sliced bread, but she is still as relevant and well-loved today as she was more than half a century ago. While we may not attain her level of stratospheric fame and success, we can still aim to be as well-loved and relevant to our own circle of loved ones. We can achieve that by being a loving soul and someone who's worth looking up to.

Aging is an integral part of life. Rather than evading that fact, it’s psychologically healthier to focus on how we can incorporate growing older with living the best life we can. The Golden Girls reminds us that life still goes on even when you're old.

Preserving the Passion for Life

One of the main things I love about the show is how the women still remained hopelessly romantic despite going through the many painful experiences life threw at them. Not even bitter divorces (Dorothy) or losing the love of their lives (the other three women) destroyed The Girls' passion for life.

The Golden Girls portrayed love and dating in a positive light. We get to see handsome, distinguished, older men who are level-headed, intelligent and successful enjoying their love lives with the Girls. In today's cynical dating scene, where we see aging men trying to nab themselves women younger than their own children, it’s comforting to watch rational, age-appropriate dating on-screen.

It’s healthy to want to date people who have gone through the same life experiences as we have. In fact, one of the main points of the show demonstrates how the Stanley Zbornak character (Dorothy's ex-husband) was rather pathetic for trying to chase his long-gone youth by dating women who were substantially younger than him.

The Golden Girls Love Living Life

The tragedy of youth is how it sometimes presents itself with the awful years of feeling awkward, rejected, and unloved. But with maturity comes wisdom, for the older we get, the more life we experience. Wisdom shows us that life is precious and should be cherished.

As actress Rue McClanahan said about her character , “Blanche Devereaux is in love with life and she loves men.” Betty White's character Rose Nylund has a sense of child-like wonder that never falters, no matter how often she is mocked by others for it. Dorothy's spirit never falters even when her life doesn't pan out as she had planned. Sophia doesn't live in fear of death.

Being Older Doesn't Have To Suck

The Girls rarely, if ever, whined about getting old. Instead, they were more preoccupied with living the best and most vibrant life they could. This zeal for life is a great guide on how to be happy. Being older isn't a bad thing if you retain your joy for life.

Being older isn't a bad thing if you retain your joy for life.

Speaking of Sophia Petrillo, her character was 86 years old by the time The Golden Girls ended. Yet if you were to watch the show, you'll notice how Sophia never really made a fuss about aging, but instead wore her age like a badge of honor. Cynical people will claim that it’s an unrealistic portrayal of older folks. They're wrong.

My husband's grandmother is 91, and she's still full of life. The last time we met over the Thanksgiving holidays, we talked about how awesome The Outlander series was. Once we did away with the small talk, she then asked us if we could help her acquire some medical marijuana to help mitigate her back pain. There's a lot of truth to the Sophia character.

Closing Thoughts

The current global pandemic is collectively a difficult time for everyone. Nevertheless, looking at the world as a whole, it’s during these uncertain times that we are the most likely to discover how resilient we really are. One of the ways we can best build our mental resilience is by reminding ourselves that life is long and life is good.

Once this pandemic is over (and trust me, as someone who was in Asia during the SARS and the bird flu crisis, things are going to return to normal pretty soon), our future self will look back 50 years to tell our grandkids how we persevered in this global pandemic. Because, like the lives of the women on The Golden Girls, you can take comfort in knowing that for those of us who are young and healthy, life will be long and life will be good.

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