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Friends of Dorothy: Was 'The Golden Girls' Really As Queer-Friendly As Its Reputation Suggests?

By Jose Gallegos | /Bent July 10, 2014 at 10:29AM

“The Golden Girls” is a seminal queer classic, one that flawlessly incorporated aging women into NBC’s primetime lineup. Since its initial airing, the show has developed quite an immense following from viewers (especially gay men) who enjoy the antics and sexual escapades of Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia. But what I have noticed about some of the more prominent and vocal fans is that they tend to glaze over the show’s problematic depictions of LGBTQ characters, hailing these depictions as brave and flawless.
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THE SEXLESS LESBIAN
Jean (Lois Nettleton) – Appeared in “Isn’t It Romantic?” S02 E05

Dorothy’s friend Jean – who is grieving from the loss of her partner, Pat – decides to stay with the girls for a few days. There is a catch: Jean is a lesbian. Only Dorothy and Sophia know, and they ask Jean to keep it under wraps out of fear of intolerance and naïveté from the other women (Jean obliges when she sees Rose coming out with a tray of ice cream clown sundaes). As the episode progresses, Jean grows closer to Rose, realizing that she may be falling in love with the innocent ditz.

In an episode that begins with the girls watching porn, it is interesting that the prominent lesbian character would be stripped of her sexuality (meaning she is a “lesbian” is name, not action). Much like Coco, Jean is a sugar pill, one that is easily consumed because she doesn’t have any potent effects. Even her confession is tame and used as a sight gag (Rose opens her eyes really wide, then pretends to be snoring). Her sexuality is a catalyst for the plot, and the episode’s third act is meant to be a sentimental moment of “See, lesbians have the same feelings as straight people.”

I do admire Sophia’s views on homosexuality, which seemed to have evolved since the pilot. Sophia has a couple of great lines, my favorite being “…I’d rather live with a lesbian than a cat. Unless a lesbian sheds, that I don’t know.” Yet Jean’s impact on Sophia, Rose, and the other characters is all but forgotten by the next episode.

Watch the full episode:

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