"This book is a much-needed addition to the growing body of scholarship around this beloved sitcom. An essential read for The Golden Girls fans and media studies scholars alike." — Library Journal, Starred Review
Over the course of seven years and 180 episodes, The Golden Girls altered the television landscape. For the first time in history, Americans (and, later, the rest of the world) were watching sexagenarians—and one octogenarian—leading active, vital lives. These were older women who had careers, families, lovers, and adventures, far from the matronly television characters of the past.
In The Golden Girls: A Cultural History, Bernadette Giacomazzo shows why this iconic sitcom is more than just comedy gold. She examines how, between all the laughs and the tales of St. Olaf, these women tackled tough issues of the time—issues that continue to resonate in the twenty-first century. From sexual harassment, ageism, and PTSD to AIDS, inter-racial relationships, and homosexuality, Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia weren’t afraid to take on topics which were once considered taboo.
This first-ever cultural history of The Golden Girls explores how the show forever changed the world’s perception of what it means to grow older, and showed us the healing power of friendship, community, and sisterhood. It gave the voiceless a new voice and unveiled all the possibilities of what “family” can mean—no matter one’s race, religion, creed, or sexual orientation.
Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, and photographer with more than twenty years of bylines in the entertainment industry. Her work has been featured in People, Teen Vogue, Us Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, and many more. Based in New York City, Giacomazzo has also worked on various film and television projects and is the author of the critically acclaimed dystopian fiction books, The Uprising Series.
1 A Brief History of the Girls
2 Grandmas Gone Wild: The Girls Subvert TV’s Matriarchal Depictions
3 Back in St. Olaf: The Folksy Wisdom of Rose Nylund
4 Gypsies, Tramps, and Sluts: Blanche Devereaux, the Sex-Positive
5 Shady Pines, Ma: Adult Mother/Daughter Relationships Redefined
through Dorothy Zbornak and Sophia Petrillo
Interlude: An Ode to “Ebbtide's Revenge”
6 The Tough Stuff: How the Girls Tackled the Dark Side of
7 A Comedic Master Class: The Top Ten Golden Girls Story Lines
8 The End of an Era
9 Friends of Dorothy: The Girls Become Gay Icons
Conclusion: An Incomparable Pop Culture Legacy
About the Author
Giacomazzo takes a rewarding deep dive into the titular 1980s comedy series. Besides tackling taboo social and political issues, the show was the first to depict “sexagenarians—and one feisty octogenarian—leading active, vital lives as complete, full women,” Giacomazzo writes. In doing so, it pushed past reductive TV depictions of women as either young college graduates or homemakers tending to husbands and children. Instead, the four women—Blanche (Rue McClanahan), Rose (Betty White), Dorothy (Beatrice Arthur), and Sophia (Estelle Getty)—lived together in Miami to save money due to skimpy pensions, and forged a new definition of what family could look like. According to the author, the show confronted controversial Reagan administration issues such as poverty, immigration, and homelessness; challenged rhetoric about AIDS patients (in one episode, Blanche takes direct aim at pastor Jerry Falwell’s claim that the disease was a “punishment for the world’s sins”); and featured interracial relationships at a time when they were rarely seen in TV or films. Giacomazzo also devotes sections to each character and their best episodes, and ranks the show’s top 10 story lines. There’s a wealth of fun, up-close celebrity detail to satisfy fans, and it’s well-balanced with Giacomazzo’s careful cultural analysis—much of which touches on issues that are still salient today, from addiction to doctors gaslighting women’s health concerns. Pop culture fans will rejoice.
From 1985 to 1992, The Golden Girls connected with TV audiences of all ages, thanks to its unique blend of humor, friendships, and storylines that were often ahead of the times. It’s a curious phenomenon that the show is more popular than ever today. Editor/writer/photographer Giacomazzo (“In Living Color”: A Cultural History) explores the many reasons why. Other books have often concentrated primarily on the show itself, but this one places The Golden Girls within a broader framework, elaborating on earlier eras and milestones that influenced not only the show’s creation but also its ongoing impact on popular culture. The show’s characters—Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia—each get their own chapter that includes a list of their 10 best episodes, along with a “Comedic Master Class” chapter about the show’s best storylines. Giacomazzo’s approachable writing style works particularly well in chapters that explore the show’s historical background, such as the memorable way it discussed AIDS in the wake of the Reagan administration. This book is a much-needed addition to the growing body of scholarship around this beloved sitcom. An essential read for The Golden Girls fans and media studies scholars alike.
The Golden Girls was very open about relevant topics of the times (and topics that remain relevant today) but it was the comedy and the genuine friendships between the stars that made the show truly golden. The Golden Girls still reigns supreme in reruns and is a thoroughly enjoyable reminder of a time when television sitcoms could be funny without nudity and foul language. The Golden Girls: A Cultural History will refresh your memory and provide a glimpse into what could never be replicated.
The enduring cultural phenomenon that is The Golden Girls lies in the fact that this television sitcom was not just merely popular entertainment, but because it utilized comedy to probe the social mores and constructs of its time. Through laughter, our most trying challenges as a society are often made more palatable. The Golden Girls: A Cultural History by Bernadette Giacomazzo journeys through this barrier-breaking series and unearths how a story about four aging women redefined our understanding of family, friendship, and life after fifty, making us laugh and rethink our preconceived notions along the way.
This fascinating and illuminating analysis of the television classic that never seems to grow old is the creation of author Bernadette Giacomazzo, who gifted the 1980s comedy program "In Living Color" with the same treatment a few months back in early 2023…. Show fans are in for a treat as the book deep dives into each character's personality, their best lines, and most iconic traits. Giacomazzo's cultural consideration of this iconic series is not to be missed.
6/15/23, Library Journal: This title is named to Library Journal’s Shining Stars: The Best Arts & Humanities Books of the Year (So Far)
7/6/23, Choice Reviews: This book was highlighted in the Forthcoming Titles in Performing Arts & Mass Media, 2023 list.
8/31/23, Air Mail: Bernadette Giacomazzo contributes an essay on what she learned while researching the book.
10/10/23, Newsday: Bernadette Giacomazzo is interviewed in this feature article about the book. Link: https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/books/the-golden-girls-giacomazzo-ocjsgyux