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The Golden Girls

Kate Browne

Television Studies, Media Studies, Popular Culture, Gender, Women's Studies

TV Milestones Series

Published: May 2020
ISBN: 9780814345641
Pages: 256 Size: 5 x 7
Illustrations: 15 b&w illus.
Published: May 2020
ISBN: 9780814345658

The Golden Girls made its prime-time debut in 1985 on NBC, and the critically acclaimed show has been a constant television companion through cable reruns and streaming media services ever since. Most people know that The Golden Girls is a sitcom about four feisty, older women living together in Miami who love to eat cheesecake, but Kate Browne argues that The Golden Girls is about so much more. Drawing on feminist literary studies and television studies, Browne makes a case for The Golden Girls as a TV milestone not only because it remains one of the most popular sitcoms in television history but also because its characters reflect shifting complexities of gender, age, and economic status for women in the late twentieth century and beyond.

Each chapter is dedicated to exploring what makes these remarkable characters defy expectations of how older women should look, act, and love. Chapter 1 focuses on Dorothy Zbornak’s intriguing gender performance and shifting desirability. Chapter 2 digs into Blanche Devereux’s difficult relationship with motherhood and aging. Chapter 3 highlights how Rose Nylund made all the "right" choices in life but consistently finds herself disenfranchised by the same social and economic institutions that promised to protect her at midlife. Chapter 4 centers on how Sophia Petrillo drives the action of the show as a trickster—bending plots to her own desires and offering moral lessons to the other characters. The book offers an important analysis of a hugely popular sitcom that extends the boundary of what makes TV groundbreaking and worthy of study.

Browne argues that The Golden Girls is a "classic" sitcom in almost every way, which keeps audiences engaged and allows the show to make subversive moves when it matters most. Written with both superfans and scholars in mind, the book invites new, diverse ways of thinking about the show to spark future scholarship and conversation about four of the most beloved characters in sitcom history.

Kate Browne is a culture writer and essayist. She holds a PhD in English studies from Illinois State University and researches pop culture and body-based autobiography.

Invite everyone you know to read this smart, sassy party of a book that situates familiar characters in twenty-first-century ideas about gender performativity, the female grotesque, aging precarity, and storytelling.

– Sally Chivers, author of The Silvering Screen: Old Age and Disability in Cinema

An enjoyable and informative read about the enduring impact of four incredible women and a sitcom that changed television forever. This book explores how The Golden Girls moved beyond hit sitcom status to become a feminist cultural phenomenon.

– Emma Lewis, author of Thank You for Being a Friend: Life According to the Golden Girls and The Essential Fan Guide to the Golden Girls

With close readings of key scenes involving each of the main characters, Browne argues persuasively that the ‘Girls’ function as responses to cultural beliefs about women. This lively study will be of interest to fans and scholars alike.

– Becca Cragin, associate professor of popular culture, Bowling Green State University

Browne’s sympathetic account of
its warm, witty and frank treatment of mature women and their lives gives much
deserved credit to a series which has much of value to say to any woman confronting the
ageing process and which continues to resonate with the concerns of women, over 30
years since it was first broadcast.

– Mary Irwin, Critical Studies in Television: The International Journal of Television Studies