The Great “Golden Girls” Marathon: “Family Affair” (S2, Ep. 7)

Sorry for my extended absence. I’ve been pretty swamped with a variety of projects, so I haven’t had as much time to devote to this blog (and this Golden Girls marathon), as I would like. Rest assured, I’m going to really try to publish at least a couple of these episode analyses per week, in the hopes that I can get all the way through the show within the next several months. That’s a tall order, but I do love a challenge.

This episode marks the first appearance of Scott Jacoby as Dorothy’s son Michael (woh would go on to appear in two other episodes as the same character). His visit to the women happens to coincide with a visit from Rose’s daughter Bridget, and while she is a future Oxford student, Michael he is a struggling musician. This doesn’t stop them from having a little afternoon delight, however, leading to a brutal fight between Dorothy and Rose that puts an intense strain on their friendship.

It’s hard to deny that Scott Jacoby is a very cute young man, and he has a fair amount of charm (certainly more than his brother, who played Blanche’s grandson David in an earlier episode). As a character, however, Michael exhibits the same sorts of frustrating behavior that so often bedevil the women’s children. Michael’s essential flaw is that he refuses to take life seriously; unlike his no-nonsense mother, he bounces through life, from job to job, with nary a care in the world. What’s more, he seems to have no sense of common decency, since he has sex with his mother’s best friend’s daughter. Hardly the behavior of an upstanding young man, is it?

The emotional center of the episode, however, is the vicious argument that breaks out between Dorothy and Rose regarding which of their two children was responsible for their liaison. Rose, in a rare show of aggression, declares that Michael is nothing but a loser, while Dorthy responds that Bridget is a tramp. The tension between White and Arthur has been noted (most especially by White herself), and I suspect they might have been channeling some of that into this emotional confrontation, which helps to give it a raw intensity that it might have otherwise lack. In the long annals of fights between and among the women, this one is right up there. It’s hard not to feel uncomfortable watching it, precisely because it feels so real and immediate.

What’s more, it allows the show to explore the often fraught space between one’s friends and one’s family. In this case, neither of the women is comfortable accepting uncomfortable truths about their children and, as a result, they start to take it out on one another. Usually, family strife in The Golden Girls is restricted to one of the women and whichever family member they happen to be feuding with (daughter, son, brother, etc.), so this change is actually quite refreshing.

Ultimately, of course, both Dorothy and Rose overcome their differences fairly easily. It’s not so easy, however, to come to grips with their children’s foibles. On Dorothy’s part, she has to recognize that her son, as much as she loves him, is never going to be the responsible adult that she wants him to be. Rose, on the other hand, in her innocence and naïveté, has to grapple with the reality that her daughter is an adult with sexual desires. Ironically enough, it is Rose who actually has the harder time accepting the reality that her daughter is now an adult.

Next up, we come to one of the more problematic episodes of the second season, in which three of the women take an ill-fated trip to the Caribbean.

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