I, like many people, am morning the loss of actress/comedian Bea Arthur, who passed this weekend at the age of 86.
I noticed many years ago however, that many of my Black gay friends who were old enough to remember the show when it was originally on their air, had a deep love and appreciation for. I literally know Black gays who watch it on Lifetime everynight before going to bed. Black gay’s who have them all recorded. Black gays who will not leave for to go out to the club until they’ve watched the episode.
Now, there are and were other shows with 4 prominent women characters–Designing Women, Sex in The City, Living Single to name a few. And while one might say that ALL gays love the Golden Girls, but as Colin & Lamarr reminded me last night strolling up Christopher Street, the Black gays don’t share all of the same cultural tastes as the white gays–we’re more Chaka & Patti than we are Cher & Judy. So why do the Black gays love the Golden Girls?
THE THEME SONG
“Thank you for being a friend…” NYC-based Black drag persona Harmonica Sunbeam closes her show with this song nearly every performance she does. I know I loved this song as a kid, and I think it the Black gays love it because it describes the kind of close-as-close can get friendships–family in everything but blood–that many of us have built with each other over the years.
The Original Fab 4.
All of us could see ourselves, and our friends in Blanche (slutty), Sofia (grumpy), Rose (dizzy), and Dorothy (blunt). I think alot of Black gays I know have lived in nontraditional households with friends as the primary caretakers, or have certainly developed those kinds of relationships, whether or not we’re close with our biological families. I think I have friendships like that, and I think it was nice to see that reflected. Many “nontraditional” families or unconventional characters in general in pop culture I think become queer stand-ins for the gays in general (why do we love Samantha so much from Sex in the City–she’s the queer stand-in. Totally sex positive, refuses to bow to social conventions for what a woman “of a certain age” is supposed to do, etc.).
I think the particular style of comedy of the show also made it particularly appealing to Black queer sensibilities. The way the show was able to tackle issues in a way that sit-coms today generally are devoid of, especially complex issues around sex and sexuality. Their brashness and brutal honesty with each other–people who loved each other but who got on each others’ nerves a lot and were quick to read the other girls! And the best thing about Bea was that she didn’t take herself too seriously, on the show and off, she joked about her height, deep voice, and other masculine aspects.
The Fashion–Especially The Shoulder Pads.
The Black gays will miss you, Bea. But we’ll see you tonight on the show.