The Great Golden Girls Marathon: “On Golden Girls”

In this episode, we meet yet another member of the women’s family, Blanche’s grandson David, who comes to visit as his parents attempt to work through their marital difficulties. Of course, his deviance does not mesh well, but eventually the four women realize that they can offer David the stability and security that he so clearly lacks in his home life. While he does eventually return home to his mother and father, he knows that he can come back any time.

There’s no doubt that David is one of the most obnoxious of the many progeny that appear in the show, but the episode takes great pains to show that David’s deviance and troubled behavior is as much a product of his parents’ failing marriage as it is his own faults. It is because his parents spend so much time fighting and focused on their own personal interests that he feels he needs to act out, to express his own crisis of identity in the face of their obvious lack of love for him.

This is one of those moments when the series renders visible the tensions and political currents of the period in which it was produced. David clearly stands in for the deviant youth that seem to haunt the 1980s imagination, the product of a broken home and parents. Alienated from his family, he acts out in the only way that he knows how, in a desperate attempt to get attention, even if it is the negative kind he inevitably receives.

What also stands out to me about this episode is that it brings to the surface an issue that will recur many times throughout the series:  Blanche’s vexed relationship with her children. As anyone who has seen the series knows, Blanche is the quintessential narcissist, and while she clearly loves her children, it’s equally clear that she was not the best mother. Indeed, the episode suggests that it is because of her self-centered behavior during her own years of raising young children that has led to their future misbehaviour. It is, perhaps, not the most progressive moment in the show, but it does nevertheless at least attempt to understand the often fraught relationships that occur even within families that love one another.

What also interests me in this episode is the extent to which the primary conflict is not actually between David and Blanche, but between David and the Sophia/Dorothy dyad. These two have a much firmer (which is to say stricter) view of parenting. While Blanche does not agree with this approach, the episode makes it clear that she is in the wrong, and that a firmer, more disciplined hand is exactly what David needs in order to become the appropriate adult he needs to be (according to the series’ logic, anyway).

Of course, given that we’re dealing with a sitcom in its mostly classic form, and given that The Golden Girls especially seems to prefer narrative and ideological closure, the ending isn’t all that surprising. While it’s a little disappointing that David doesn’t make any return appearances on the show, worry not, there are plenty more obnoxious offspring where he came from!

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