The Golden Girls is full of pop culture references from its time, but many new fans just discovering the show today might not get all these mentions.
With seven seasons and its iconic four lead actresses, The Golden Girls is one of those rare classic American sitcoms that has mostly aged well over the years. While the show in itself gets referenced in modern pop culture, The Golden Girls had its fair share of references in its run.
From heavily referencing classic British and American literature to touching upon films and shows of the ’80s, some of these references might not be picked up on by more recent fans. In this sense, the NBC classic is also a time capsule of sorts, reflecting the prevalent pop culture of the time.
A season 4 episode titled Sophia’s Choice finds Sophia attempting to remove her friend Lillian from what seems like a particularly notorious assisted living facility. The episode’s title is a wordplay on the 1982 film Sophie’s Choice (which was itself based on a novel of the same name).
Even though Meryl Streep continues to be heavily popular as an actress even today, there are chances that viewers might have missed out on her older classics. Sophie’s Choice stars Streep as the titular heroine, a Holocaust survivor who tries to rebuild her life in America. Out of her 21 Oscar nominations, this role led to her fourth.
Rue McClanahan’s Connection With Another World
Blanche wishes to watch a show on TV, in the episode Flu Attack. This show turns out to be Another World. The soap opera first aired in 1964 and was quite visionary in talking about polarizing topics, like abortion, and it went on to spawn two spin-offs (Somerset and Texas).
What’s interesting is that Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche on The Golden Girls, also had a recurring role as Caroline Johnson in Another World. It was one of her earliest screen credits before she attained future popularity with Maude.
Star Search Winners
Artificial insemination is the running theme in the episode titled The Accurate Conception, as Blanche’s daughter, Becky, plans to undergo the procedure and become a single mother. The decision shocks Blanche and her friends and they have a discussion about it. Rose adds that she heard that the sperm of Nobel Prize winners was preserved for the procedure. She then goes on to doubt herself, suggesting that maybe it was actually Star Search winners.
Running from 1983 to 1995, Star Search was an entertainment reality show in which contestants competed in categories like dance, singing, and comedy. Numerous future stars, like Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, were contestants on the show and it was the forerunner of the many TV talent shows, like America’s Got Talent and The X Factor, that we still enjoy today.
Dorothy Recalls A Line From A Streetcar Named Desire
In the same episode as above, Blanche makes her disappointment with her daughter’s fertility plan evident as she tells her daughter, “You are a Devereaux. A Devereaux has never had to pay for it!” To this, Dorothy turns towards the doctor and says, “She’s always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
This quote, in particular, closely resemble the dialogue, “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” This is a popular line said by the character Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s likely no coincidence that the two characters’ names are very similar, as well.
The Days and Nights of Sophia Petrillo finds Sophia volunteering as a candy-striper in a local hospital. As she engages in verbal brawls with most of the people in her vicinity, one fellow volunteer asks if she watches General Hospital.
Modern-day viewers might have forgotten, but General Hospital wasn’t just a soap opera from the time of The Golden Girls. In fact, the medical drama continues to air to this date, holding the record of America’s longest-running television series, with a whopping 58 seasons.
An Abundance Of Frosts
In the season 6 episode, The Bloom Is Off The Rose, Rose mentions the 117th birth anniversary of legendary American poet, Robert Frost. However, she mistakes Robert Frost as “the guy who interviewed Richard Nixon on TV’ (a clear allusion to the British journalist, David Frost).
After his infamous resignation, US President Richard Nixon hardly made any public appearances until the 1977 interviews with Frost, which came to be known as the Nixon interviews. Released in four parts, these interviews are immortalized today through Peter Morgan’s play and film, Frost/Nixon.
It’s no secret that Donald Trump was a relevant social figure even before his presidency. However, despite his uber-rich status as a businessman, Trump has had a few slumps. This includes his numerous cases of filing for bankruptcy, his tumultuous marriages, and his controversial press image.
So, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that in one of her dreams, Dorothy takes a sarcastic shot at Trump. She dreams of appearing on Jeopardy as a contestant and goes on to meet television host and media mogul, Merv Griffin. She praises Griffin, highlighting his beloved status among Americans, and even goes on to call him “The anti-Trump!”
A Trip To Petticoat Junction
In one of the lead characters’ typical cheesecake-eating kitchen talks, Rose starts a story, only for Blanche to interrupt and say, “Must we take another trip to Petticoat Junction?”
Petticoat Junction was an American sitcom that was broadcasters in the ’60s and in fact, Betty White had a brief role in the show. She appeared as Adelle Colby in a 1969 episode titled The Cannonball Bookmobile.
Raymond Chandler And His Characters
The Case of the Libertine Belle episode is filled with one literary reference after the other, resonant of the trending fiction of that era. In one scene, Dorothy shows off her knowledge of Raymond Chandler’s stories and claims that Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe have become a part of her.
For those unacquainted with Chandler’s body of work, he wrote several novels and short stories in the crime fiction genre. Both Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe are some of his memorable characters, the latter further popularized by Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal in the film adaptation of The Big Sleep.
Don’t Go See Ishtar
Sophia has three pieces of advice that she has picked up from her life. While the first tip is to hold fast to one’s friends and the second includes not believing in anything called “security,” it’s her third pearl of wisdom that’s the most random. “Don’t go see Ishtar,” she advises.
Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty have had stellar careers as actors, but a forgotten misstep was the adventure comedy, Ishtar. The film currently bears a 4.4 rating on IMDb and its Rotten Tomatoes consensus stands at 37%, so, Sophia’s distaste for the film is surely shared by others too.