Why I Traded Game of Thrones for The Golden Girls

Ahhh….that theme song.  You know it, I’m sure of it.  The HBO masterpiece which manages to project out of nearly every TV set each Sunday night throughout the summer?  Those few chords strike out, and the whole world sits down and gleefully watches dragons and bloodshed and twisted politics and war.  Invariably, the rest of the week is spent recounting the episode, predicting who will die next, and dissecting the intricate cast of characters in the wild world of Westeros.    

For many years, I could have been considered a junior conductor on the Game of Thrones train.  I was along for the ride, analyzing and discussing with the rest of America, restless while waiting for the next installment.  My favorite part of the show was watching each character develop and evolve season by season—personal growth and character traits forged out of necessity by the fires of war, deceit, and power. The questions that would arise as a result of the actions of each character on the show provided fodder for my philosophical quandaries week after week.   But this year, in 2017, I haven’t been able to tune in once.  I hold no judgment for those who do, and maybe one day I’ll go back and finish the series and see who sits on the Iron Throne for myself. But until then, I’ve traded my Game of Thrones viewing parties for something far more soul-soothing but just as thought-provoking: The Golden Girls.

Why? Well, it’s a well-accepted fact that America is not great again.  American politics are not even pretty good.  No, not at all.  As a result of this, the last thing I’ve wanted to shower upon my ever gentle and impressionable psyche is more turmoil.  I honestly don’t think my body could handle having any more upheavals, deaths, and uncertain times tossed upon it, even if it was purely fictitious. That explains why I didn’t buy my ticket for the GOT train this season, sure…but why The Golden Girls?  Why are these women, a few decades my senior, the replacement I chose for my favorite characters in the seven kingdoms?

Since 1985, four outstanding actresses have been offering up their own individual strengths to create a communal narrative of women living together, building each other up, and navigating the unique challenges of taking on the world in your “golden years.” Each woman possesses a great strength of character, and much like my beloved characters in Westeros, each woman’s strength can also be interpreted as her fatal flaw. Though The Golden Girls is a sitcom with laughs abound, each character has provided me with the questions about the nature of humankind I crave from my television entertainment, and that I previously sought out from Tyrion, Arya, Daenerys, and Jon Snow.

Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) is sharp-witted and hardworking. Dorthy is a logical thinker, and she frequently reminds us of how brilliant she is whilst delivering zinger after zinger to the other women she lives with in the house.  This type of robustness can also come with an element of alienation, however.  As one continues to exercise and wield their mind and strength against those around them, the world can become a very lonely place. How do you balance your rightful power with the loss of support you’re bound to experience if you can’t rein it in? Is there a point where you’ve honed your thoughts to the extent that they’re injurious to those around you instead of enlightening?

Dorothy’s mother, Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty) is steadfast and insightful. The familial relationship between Sophia and Dorothy is obvious in their mannerisms, but it is also worth noting that Sophia has learned many lessons in her extra years on earth, which she offers to the other three girls freely in the form of anecdotes and stories.  While Sophia can dish out advice for days on end, you begin to wonder—who then, will teach the teacher?  Who can provide her support, if and when she needs it? When your advice is unsolicited, should you still be giving it to the group, or is it more beneficial to allow each individual their own time to uncover their true purpose? Could your advice be manipulating the outcome of situations?

Rose Nyland (Betty White) is a delight; she is genuinely kind and compassionate.  She exhibits unparalleled earnestness and enthusiasm for every part of life, however mundane.  Her optimism and positivity are covetable.  But, with such zeal for living also comes the inevitable ridicule of others.  Adults seem to be uncomfortable when the threshold of joy and excitement crosses a certain limit, and Rose’s roommates are no exception.  We frequently see her happy spirit met with ridicule and sarcasm from her roommates.  Should Rose be expected to tone down her true personality to be taken more seriously? Or, should the rest of the girls reflect on why Rose’s happiness makes them so defensive?

Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) is a celebration of unbridled sensuality, but her character also speaks to the importance of embracing who we are, damning what other people think in the process. Blache so thoroughly loves every bit of herself that she has created a level of self-esteem largely impenetrable by the outside world.  Feeling confident and in control of your life is paramount, but what happens when that confidence shuts out every last bit of feedback and assistance the world is trying to give you? If you are remaining stagnant in your character due to pride, aren’t you essentially traveling backwards through life, because you aren’t evolving as a person?

Even though there are no dragons or Kings of the North, during my “Golden Half Hour,” I am immersed in a very similar character study as I used to partake in every summer Sunday. I laugh, I cry, and sure, I groan at some of the dated jokes, but most importantly, I learn about humanity and receive new lenses to view myself and my relationships around me.  All the while, the situations I’m exposed to on the television exhibit the spirit of friendship, family, and love, instead of distrust, war and power. That’s the kind of entertainment my spirit has been craving these last few months, and The Golden Girls delivers.

Now, when those first few notes plunk on the piano, and Cynthia Fee sings out, “Thank you for being a friend,” I smile and ease into a half hour with women who, despite their flaws, want to build each other up and create a community in which they are all valued in their Miami home. Though I’ve jumped on this new train, and I have taken it full-steam ahead, I urge everyone, regardless of what shows you choose to digest, to reflect.  Is the media you are consuming truly making your soul happy?  Are you learning from it?  If you can answer yes to both of those questions, it doesn't matter if you are seated on the Iron Throne or on Blanche’s lanai—you are doing it right.