Reliving a time on the Golden Girls when Rose – and Blanche – have mother trouble…
I deliberated a lot on what to review from Betty White’s filmography of over 70 years to remember her by. And then chose that ditzy, caring character that I knew best, Rose Nylund.
Golden Girls Opening and Closing Credits and Theme Song, Steven Brandt
My Darlin Husband and I were sad and shocked to read a report that the seemingly immortal Betty White had just passed away. And this was all the more poignant as this was just a couple of weeks shy of her 100th Birthday. The tell-all tweet had been sent only a few minutes previously, and reading it I felt it best to wait as it felt unreal, despite her grand age. After this news was confirmed by other reliable sources, it slowly sunk in that everyone’s favourite near centenarian was no longer with us.
I had only recently reviewed her new biography, named Betty White: 100 Remarkable Moments in an Extraordinary Life by Ray Richmond here on this blog. This book – published in December – is a wonderful tribute to this superstar and to her life and career. And as a member of the Women’s Film Critics Circle, we recently tributed her in mid-December with a Lifetime Achievement Award for 2021.
So this morning was bittersweet, as tweets consisted of people wishing their New Years’ greetings and a deluge of Betty White themed posts. And so this morning, I’m writing my tribute after watching an episode of the American The Golden Girls (1985-1992) comedy series. The episode is called Blanche and the Younger Man and is found in Season 1, Episode 9.
This episode was (now weirdly) one that not so long ago my Darlin – younger – Husband had asked me to review and that I had then added to my review list. And this episode is as much about Betty White’s character, Rose who also has a prominent plotline.
This series tells about four mature ladies of a certain age and as I explained HERE,
the “old” ladies were Dorothy, the practical and divorced one, her wee sarcastic widowed mother Sophia, the man-eater widowed one, Blanche and the dippy widowed one, Rose. It told of their lives and loves and clashes as housemates.
Now onto this episode…
The episode has two main storylines for Rose (White) and Blanche (Rue McClanahan) which beautifully illustrate their characters’ traits and attributes. However, Dorothy (Beatrice Arthur) and Sophia (Estelle Getty) also have some fabulous supporting scenes and dialogue to complement these two ladies. The individual main stories will be written about individually…
Blanche’s story has the previously thought middle-aged – now read over 50 – Southern ma’am fall for her much younger aerobics instructor, Dirk (Charles Hill). She claims he is only five years younger so he is just a wee bit younger… But it’s obviously a much bigger age gap and more of a chasm (as Darlin Husband notes). Think more The Graduate (1967) than Harold and Maude (1971) as an age gap. Dorothy naturally and bluntly points this out, querying if her friend is talking about “dog years”.
Blanche thinks she is in love with Dirk and says she feels like a “Vesuvius of passion waiting to erupt!”. After she pops vitamins and starts exercising like crazy, Blanche feels great until that fateful first date with the “youngest man she has ever dated”.
He is superhealthy and fitness-obsessed in every way, think Rob Lowe’s character, Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation (2009-2015) 1980s style. Dirk tells her that he likes her as she reminds him of his mum. So Dirk gets the heave ho… and she orders a meal with a zillion calories (as you do).
Betty White shows her character with Rose seen as an over-attentive daughter who is totally protective of her elderly mother, Alma Lindstrom – Janette Nolan, who played Rock Hudson’s mum in Avalanche (1978) – when she visits for a week. Rose worries about her mother constantly, be it when she goes out with the similarly aged, Sophia or goes to play sport alone (Sophia claims she’s too short at just under 5 feet to play).
Things come to a head when Rose tells her mother off for her behaviour in front of others. Then her mother says she doesn’t want to stay with her daughter anymore because of this intense coddling. After Rose has a daughter to daughter chat with Dorothy, Rose sees how her behaviour is making her mother feel smothered. We learn that Rose is superfrightened about her mother passing away, and that has been a fear since Rose’s father and her husband Charlie passed away. The women make up with a hug.
Through her comedic performance, Rose’s behaviour is exaggerated but her story has a deep message. This message is that we should value our elders as people and let them live a little. Betty has always convinced me as this super caring and often naive Rose who is full of great intentions. In her performance, Betty conveys this message beautifully without sounding preachy.
Rose’s storyline is supported beautifully by the script as seen HERE, where Rose’s behaviour is observed by Sophia…
Rose: Now come on, why don’t you take a nap while I fix you something to eat? Alma Lindstrom: Rosey, I’m not a child. I don’t need a nap. Rose: There’s nothing wrong with taking a nap – Bob Hope takes naps! Sophia Petrillo: Unless he’s in the bedroom now taking one, I think she’d rather stay here with us.
The two stories merge at the end of the episode and Rose tries gallantly to stop over worrying about her mother. Alma tells those Golden Girls of her dalliance with a young farmhand after Rose’s father passed away. She elaborates on this story and says that he moved in with her, saying he was an ex-con who taught her to carve a pistol out of soap and gamble with playing cards. Rose then stumbles for words and then says she is glad this young man made her mother happy.
Finally, although friends have joked about me being like Blanche with her string of toyboys (I’ve only had three until Darlin Husband), I think there is a little bit of all of us in each of the Golden Girls, be it Blanche, Sophia, Dorothy and Rose. And even Rose’s mother…
This I felt strongly after seeing this episode, where Rose’s mother encourages her to enjoy what she has with her in the present day, and not to worry about her dying. And this I believe something that I am sure Betty White would have said in those last few days where she joked with Ryan Reynolds and others. And we should value what we had with this wonderful lady, and this was gleaned from this on-screen encounter with this St Olaf Rose that will now and always resonate.