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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.

Rose Nylund in “72 Hours” S05 E19

Rose receives a letter from the hospital, informing her that her blood transfusion may have contained HIV antibodies. She takes an HIV test, only to discover that she has to wait three days in order to receive the results. All four women deal with the possibility of Rose having HIV, including Sophia who is scared to touch anything that Rose has touched.

This is one of the more sobering experiences from the show, revealing that AIDS not only affects heterosexuals, but that it can also be transmitted without having sex. The episode also contains one of Blanche’s best lines: “AIDS is not a bad person’s disease, Rose. It is not God punishing people for their sins.” Yet there is still a part of me that is confused as to why the word “gay” was never mentioned once in the episode. In fact, there is an important moment when Dorothy reads a pamphlet on AIDS/HIV and teenagers, and admonishes parents for not being more open when discussing sex. Yet beyond this admonishment, the episode does little to discuss HIV/AIDS prevention or to even discuss other ways in which the virus can be transmitted (namely through drugs). Again, I applaud the producers and writers for incorporating such an important topic into their show, but the episode is incidental/isolated and its effects do not carry on into future episodes.

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