Saturday, May 23, 2009

Not Lebanese, Blanche!

In April when I read that Bea Arthur had died I felt very sad. There are some TV stars that people hold in high esteem and Bea Arthur was really one of those people for me. The Golden Girls is still a TV series that I watch and get a laugh out of every time. In popular culture I think The Golden Girls was an important TV show because it featured that perfect mix of humour and drama. Topical and sometimes moral issues were used as a storyline but each time the writing was wonderful. The reason the show was great was because of Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan and Betty White. We believed they were friends. They were like real people who had all sorts of dramas happen to them and we cared. Rarely did they even have to leave their home for a situation to happen and then be resolved. Most of the dramas and laughs were played out around the kitchen table, the sitting room or the good old back yard. Potential love interests came and went but at the end of the day they had each other. I think a show like Sex & The City worked so well years later was because the universal concepts of friendship, loyalty and falling out and making up that began in a show like The Golden Girls were repeated for the next generation. We all love our families but as we make our own way in the world we make our own surrogate family. No one knows this better than gay men. In Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia we think we see ourselves, our partners or our friends. But also our own mothers, a grandmother, an aunt or another relation. There are many, many shows that I love. There is one episode that stood out for me the most. It was called Isn't It Romantic and was about Dorothy's friend Jean coming to stay. Jean's female partner Pat had died. Dorothy and Sophia know that Jean is gay but Rose and Blanche do not. Jean develops an attraction to Rose and the scenes that followed are some of the best in the show's history. Jean was played by Lois Nettleton and her protrayal is just beautiful, acted with charm, lightness and sensitivity. Her performance was nomination for an Emmy as Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. The episode was first broadcast in 1986. There were gay and lesbian characters in TV shows at the time but in comedy these characters were often stereotypes, Jean was a different type of protrayal. The entire episode is available in four parts on Youtube. Below is a clip from the episode that features Lois as Jean and also a long scene that is let play out wonderfully where Dorothy asks Sophia how would she react if her child was gay. Sophia's answer was; "If one of my kids was gay, I wouldn't love him one bit less. I would wish him all the happiness in the world". I loved the way those words are said. Estelle Getty as Sophia must have given a lot of people hope in their hearts when they heard her say those words. Those words remind me of my own mother who really is the best. When Blanche joins the discussion it gets funnier by the moment. There is so much in that scene, it's brilliant. Lois Nettleton died in January of 2008. Estelle Getty died in July 2008. Bea, Lois and Estelle were great women and actresses and we are thankful for their brilliance.
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