Betty White | Film and TV | Gay Iconography | Television

Gay Iconography: Thank You, 'Golden Girls,' For Being A Friend


If your little gay heart skipped a beat while two characters watched The Golden Girls during Sunday's finale of Looking, you're not alone. Earlier this week Louis Peitzman wrote a lovely piece for Buzzfeed, titled, "Why Gay Men Still Love The Golden Girls.'" In it he shares a bunch of reasons why the show's popularity has endured with gay audiences nearly 30 years after its original premiere, including this particularly poignant hypothesis: "… the transgressive power of The Golden Girls is that it’s a show about the construction of a chosen family rather than a biological family, a very queer conceit."

Others have posited that shows like The Golden Girls (and Designing Women) gave gay men confident, sassy figures from whom they could draw strength to battle the discrimination they faced. Or maybe it was the show's portrayal of LGBT characters, including the gay chef, Coco, and Blanche's brother Clayton.

Part of what makes The Golden Girls so iconic is not just the content of the episodes, but the four actresses that starred in the series. Not only were they hilarious, but they were strong supporters of the LGBT community. After losing a friend and her nephew to AIDS, Estelle Getty became a vocal AIDS activist. In 2009, Rue McClanahan was part of the Defying Inequality concert, which benefitted several LGBT organizations. Betty White issued her support for gay marriage to Parade Magazine in 2010: "If a couple has been together all that time—and there are gay relationships that are more solid than some heterosexual ones—I think it’s fine if they want to get married. I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.” Bea Arthur was so deeply embedded in the LGBT community, she told the New York Press, "Sometimes, I feel like Judy!" And those are only a few examples.

Because we can't get enough of Blanche, Rose, Sophia and Dorothy, let's let loose a little with some of our favorite gay moments from The Golden Girls, AFTER THE JUMP


It was more than 20 years before the Supreme Court weighed in on DOMA and Prop. 8 when The Golden Girls offered up this perfect case for marriage equality in the 1991 episode titled, "Sister of the Bride."



Later in that episode, Blanche's brother Clayton tells the women that he and and his partner Doug would "bend over backwards" for one another. It's a set-up just begging for one of the ladies' signature zingers.



When Rose puts together a talk show about women who live together, she invites Blanche and Dorothy to be guests. The only problem is that Rose didn't realize the producers were looking for lesbians.



While being mistaken for lesbians was sort of the butt of the joke in the last clip, in this video, Blanche is jealous that Dorothy's female friend has a crush on Rose and not her.



Considering the LGBT community is constantly evolving its own terminology to accommodate different identities, there's something almost elegant about Sophia's understanding of the terms "gay" and "queer" when referring to her cross-dressing son.

What were your favorite The Golden Girls moments? Tell us in the comments!

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  1. Boy, does the "Golden Girls" bring back a special memory (kinda' erotic too).

    It was Gay Pride Weekend 1999. I met this beautiful guy at the Starlight Lounge in Brooklyn. We walked home to his apartment. I had a wonderful time. He had the most round juicy butt...well. We watched "Golden Girl" episodes in between sex.

    Anyway, he was part of the NYC Municipal Employees Brigrade in the Pride Parade that last Sunday morning in June.

    I had a good time, and he let me take a shower at his apartment. That was necessary because as usual that Pride Sunday turned incredibly hot and humid early in the day.

    Anyway, I had a good time.

    His birthday was less than a week later. I called to give birthday greetings and mailed a card--hoping there was a chance we would see each other again. When I called he could barely remember who I was. LOL

    But I had good time early that morning with him and "Golden Girls."

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Mar 14, 2014 6:14:12 PM

  2. You forgot Dorothy's lesbian (not Lebanese, Blanche) friend who fell in love with Rose. This show was the best, but ultimately, it was about the comedy. For once I agree with your choice. Yes, the Golden Girls ARE gay icons.

    Posted by: graphicjack | Mar 14, 2014 6:17:55 PM

  3. No one remembers CoCo the gay personal chef. He was only on the pilot episode.

    Posted by: NotSafeForWork | Mar 14, 2014 6:19:42 PM

  4. Yeah, the Coco character never made any sense. These women were supposedly living together because they couldn't afford to live on their own. How could they afford a "house boy"?

    Posted by: anon | Mar 14, 2014 6:28:07 PM

  5. Love this show! My partner and I watch it all the time..there are back to back episodes broadcast on the Hallmark Chanel late at night. I really liked the episode when Blanche's brother Clayton brings his partner with him to stay w/ the girls. Poignant and real.

    Posted by: rebarb | Mar 14, 2014 6:28:34 PM

  6. Thanks for reminding me ,REBARB. The reason we were watching old at 5:00am in morning of "Golden Girls" episodes was because there was a marathon of the episodes on the Hallmark Network.

    I bet he got fat. I don't care.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Mar 14, 2014 6:35:42 PM

  7. They really need to digitally remaster the episodes. They look so fuzzy on HDTV, LOL.

    Posted by: Qj201 | Mar 14, 2014 6:39:00 PM

  8. Can't say I ever watched a single episode. Not my cup of tea.

    Posted by: Jay | Mar 14, 2014 6:50:36 PM

  9. Not too terribly long after 9/11 The Onion had a faux TV listing on their site. ABC, NBC, CBS, etc all had listings for shows like "Remembering", "What Really Happened", "The Survivors" and what not (You know, just like the real shows we watched for 2 months) and then under Lifetime Network, all across the grid - Golden Girls ... Golden Girls ... Golden Girls ... Golden Girls ... Golden Girls ... Golden Girls ...

    Peed my pants.

    Posted by: Stephen in Laguna | Mar 14, 2014 6:52:56 PM

  10. " a very queer conceit" what the hell does that even mean?

    Posted by: Xander | Mar 14, 2014 7:03:09 PM

  11. Some people memories should be kept to themselves. (NOT erotic AT ALL!

    Posted by: Trick in Brooklyn | Mar 14, 2014 7:03:15 PM

  12. I think it's generational. I was born in the 80s, and although I remember my mom watching Golden Girls it was never a show I followed closely.

    Posted by: Brian W. | Mar 14, 2014 7:11:46 PM

  13. The Golden Girls are on television every night at our house. We know the dialogue by heart. It never gets old. There will never be another show that can measure up to The Golden Girls.

    Posted by: PapaBear | Mar 14, 2014 7:22:45 PM

  14. Great story @Derrick from Philly, Keep them coming. I love it when you mix in comedy and sex nostalgia!

    The Golden Girls were a lot more than just older women getting together under strenuous circumstances, it was about strong women who even when left penniless by their cheating husbands, fought hard to make their way on their own, are in charge of their sexuality, and thrive to treat all God's creatures with love and acceptance.

    The Golden Girls were Feminist as well. They made fun of Blanche's slattern ways but at the same time fought for her right to be free and inhibited in her sexuality. They were accepting and most of all, they showed what true Christianity was about, which was showing empathy and helping those most in need, like that teenage girl who got pregnant and her father kicked her out of the house. So many examples where women pulled for one another, and how you can create your own family where it holds true whatever the circumstances: Supporting you loving you no matter what you do, and no matter what happens to you.

    Posted by: Mags | Mar 14, 2014 7:43:07 PM

  15. This series has really blurred the lines. I don't know WHAT a gay icon is anymore. I think it just means "favorite" -- entertainers a majority of gay men like in any era. That means Judy is an icon, Barbra is an icon, Donna Summer is, Madonna is, Lady Gaga will be. Kathy Griffin. Megan Mullally (Karen on W&G) and Beyonce and Miley Cyrus will be in 15 years. Of course Barack Obama will become one to future gays.

    Posted by: will | Mar 14, 2014 7:54:20 PM

  16. ^^^ Oh, and Michael Sam will become one, too. Not to jump the gun.

    Posted by: will | Mar 14, 2014 7:58:05 PM

  17. When Golden Girls first started on t.v. I wasn't interested in even trying to watch the show. Now if I have the chance, everything else stops, and I sit down to watch. The thing that upset me the most, was the Oscars the year that Bea Arthur died. They can't do it over but I was royally pissed when they "didn't mention her name for the In Memorium". She had been such a groundbreaker while in "All in The Family" "Maude" when they broached the subject of birth control, homosexuality and abortion. What fantastic women, all 4 of them.

    Posted by: Frances Birnie | Mar 14, 2014 8:04:48 PM

  18. I remember making fun of my sister for watching golden girls for years! Finally when i was 17 and she was moved out on her own she forced me to watch when I went to her apartment, I remember being shocked by how many laugh out loud moments there were. I became addicted from then on! Cut to a few months later, I went to the bookstore to secretly check out the gay section, imagine my surprise when I looked at the section signs and saw that a picture of the golden below a rainbow was the gay and lesbian section lol. I remember feeling like I finally found my place in the world! That was when I found out the Golden Girls was part of the gay iconography. From then on I have been a die hard fan, i still laugh out loud even though i know all the lines. such a special memory... especially as I'm about to turn 30 BOOOO. Oh and graphicjack, "Rose find out Danny Thomas is a lesbian it will break her heart!" Ha one of my fave scenes!!!

    Posted by: cdubois | Mar 14, 2014 8:06:11 PM

  19. It's all on YouTube.

    The Golden Girls HD Full Episodes

    Posted by: bcarter3 | Mar 14, 2014 8:14:11 PM

  20. I watched the Golden Girls entire run the first time around, and while I loved the show, I just don't get its particular appeal for some gay men.

    Posted by: Barnes | Mar 14, 2014 8:20:29 PM

  21. I can recite most jokes of this show as I watch them. Some people here claim to be "above" the show, but I can't imagine anyone watching the show (the first 5 season, mainly) and not laughing, at least occasionally. I don't think gays love this show for any reason other than it is funny (FUNNY!) The fact that it has strong females, a marginalized minority (single, elderly women) and an occasional propensity for gay humor (that really started season 4-ish) is just icing on the cake. The fact that the humor is mostly sarcastic helps, too.

    Posted by: macguffin54 | Mar 14, 2014 8:31:23 PM

  22. SO MUCH YES. "Golden Girls" was a godsend for a young gay kid growing up in the 80s. Getting four great, funny ladies together on one fantastic show was like catching lightning in a bottle. I'm sorry that Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, and Estelle Getty are no longer with us, but I'm thankful we still have the amazing Betty White. The world is a sadder and less funny place without them. "Sex And The City" and "Girls" owe a debt to them - without "Golden Girls", they would have never existed.

    Posted by: FuryOfFirestorm | Mar 14, 2014 9:05:48 PM

  23. Sure, some of the episodes are a little corny... but I always feel lucky & stop what I'm doing to watch'em. :)

    Their constructed family & the love & support definitely resonates with this 50+ yr old gay. At the time it originally aired I even thought they were older... now, not so much. ;)

    Posted by: pete n sfo | Mar 14, 2014 9:10:17 PM

  24. Derrick From Philly - I feel sorta sad for you. It's not just that you spent your life having sex with people who don't love you, don't care about you and who don't even remember you a week later, it's the fact that you think so little of yourself that you tell stories about these encounters as if they are something to be proud of. Sort of like how a retarded kid might wipe poop on himself and then wait for applause.

    Don't know how old you are now but I'm thinking that you are less in demand at the Starlight lounge these days. Your old tricks used you as a friction device. Since you are now saggy and old, they won't be coming around. Well, at least you have shallow memories and a retroviral infection to keep you company.

    Posted by: Tyler | Mar 14, 2014 9:45:53 PM

  25. I was sooooo happy when these old crones started dying off. . . I guess we have just one more to go. I have the champagne on ice!

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Mar 14, 2014 10:05:48 PM

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