The Golden Girls are the perfect model for a gay clique. There’s the bitter voice of reason (Dorothy), the air-headed sweetheart (Rose), the unapologetic nymphomaniac (Blanche) and the talker who’s a little off, or alternately, the weird one everyone kind of just tolerates (Sophia).
Gay people love watching re-runs of The Golden Girls, which originally aired NBC from 1985 to 1992, for two reasons. First, the girls were single in their 50s, 60s and beyond. A young gay man’s biggest fear is getting really old alone, and the Golden Girls remind them to STFU because it’s not that bad. Second, in the sexually-awkward 1980s, the sweet old ladies in The Golden Girls were a sneaky cover to get vulgar sexual conversations on daytime TV. Gay people, like all human beings who aren’t repressed, love vulgar sexual content.
The other thing that makes The Golden Girls so popular with gay people is that Dorothy was played by Bea Arthur, their favorite. Bea Arthur reminded all gay men of that one gay man they know – and all of them know one – who is secretly not a gay man but a lesbian. This particular gay man does things like listen to Ani Difranco, eat hummus, learn French, wear thick-rimmed glasses and go to a liberal arts college, and who is, sporadically, a vegetarian. Bea Arthur didn’t do many of those things, but if she were in her 20s she presumably would have.
Until her death in 2009 Bea Arthur was the oldest American gay icon; sher was born one month before Judy Garland, who everybody thought was the oldest American gay icon. She joins the likes of Tina Fey and Lady GaGa as bona-fide ladies-you’d-rather-have-a-cocktail-with, except in Bea Arthur’s case the drink is probably fortified with vermouth and accompanied by oyster crackers.
A little-known fact about the program is that during the pilot episode the Golden Girls had a gay Latin houseboy named Coco, which, no, isn’t a stereotype at all. Coco was sacked then to bring in Sophia, because, lets face it, despite all the sexual honesty that the girls talked about, “America wasn’t ready” in the 1980s for a network TV show about three 60-something fag hags. Gays aren’t angry about being ditched because Sofia turned out to be pretty funny. And Dorothy turned out to be kind of a fag hag anyway. But that number-one factor in turning a homphobe into an ally is having them know a gay person. Coco left his mark. And now Golden Girls remain to this day something that gay people really, really love.