The Great Golden Girls Marathon: “Rose the Prude”

In the third episode of the first season, the dynamic among the women has already started to settle. It never ceases to amaze me how serendipitous it was that this cast came together in just the right way, so that they complement rather than contradict one another. It’s not just that they are archetypes (though the case could be made that they are), but rather that they are four complex individuals who somehow manage to mesh with one another.

This is on evidence in this episode, as Rose has to struggle with finally moving on from her dead husband and find new romance. Ultimately, after a great deal of struggle (and no small amount of encouragement from her friends), she at last opens herself up to intimacy with another man.

However, the Rose that most people remember hasn’t yet emerged fully-fledged just yet. This Rose is naive, and she does tend to tell stories, but she hasn’t quite gained the consistency that she will in later episodes. I would actually characterize her as more slightly dim and innocent, not quite the good-hearted but incredibly foolish person she will become (I struggle to find a term to quite characterize her lack of intelligence, but haven’t yet found one that’s satisfactory).

At the same time, Rose has already emerged as the most vulnerable of the four women, and the one who has had the most difficulty moving on from her deceased husband. The title, to my mind, is something of a misnomer. It’s not so much that Rose is a prude; it’s that she hasn’t quite adapted to the newer standards of womanhood inhabited by the other characters. In that respect, this is a crucial episode for her development as a character, as she at last rediscovers the sexual side of her personality. She at last recognizes that just because she is a widow does not mean that she can’t enjoy the pleasures of her body.

Of course, this relationship will, like so many others in the series, remain transitory, a brief pit-stop that serves as fodder for the women to analyze and bond over. However, it is worth noting that this series remains exemplary in the way in which it shows older people (men, but especially women) still very much interested in having sex outside of marriage and with no shame. Given that this series emerged during the Backlash era, such an ethos is no small accomplishment.

On a slight side-note, it’s an interesting tidbit that Harold Gould (Arnie), would later appear in the series as Rose’s beloved Miles. As with Edelman and Arthur, there is an undeniable chemistry between Betty White and Gould, one that would only reach its fruition when he returned as Miles.

Next time we will talk about the tense relationship between self-centered Blanche and her nemesis, her sister Virginia.

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