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Friday, June 10, 2011

TGIF: Blanche Devereaux from the Golden Girls

This is the third edition of the TGIF series, where we take a look at our favourite sitcoms of yore.  The last two sitcoms that were featured in this space had both previously aired sometime in the popular TGIF block of shows that used to air on the ABC network every Friday.

Ah, but not all of these sitcom features aired on Fridays.  I just borrowed the TGIF phrase because it sounded cool.

The sitcom I've decided to feature in this entry originally aired on Saturdays.  But then again, the show is currently in syndication through reruns on Monday through Friday, so you have a one in five chance to see it on a Friday.

That's my explanation, and I'm sticking to it, anyways.

The Golden Girls ran from September 1985 to May 1992, and admittedly, the show was quite an unusual one.  It was one of the few shows to have an all female main cast (if I'm thinking correctly, only 'The Facts Of Life' and 'It's A Living' could make the same claim at the time).  It was also one of the few sitcoms where each member of the main cast was over the age of fifty.  A remarkable feat, considering how youth-oriented Hollywood could be.

Somehow, it worked.  In fact, it didn't just was one of the most brilliant sitcoms that has ever aired over the past thirty years.

Granted, when the show first started airing, I was only four years old.  Back in those days, I only watched Sesame Street, Mr. Dressup, and the occasional movie shown on 'The Wonderful World Of Disney'.  I hardly was at the right frame of mind at the time to sit in front of a television and watch a bunch of old ladies gabbing at a kitchen table while they chomped down on cheesecake.

I certainly didn't hear kids talking about the latest episode of Golden Girls.  There were no Golden Girls lunchboxes.  No Golden Girls pencil cases.  And certainly, nobody handed out these cards on Valentine's Day.

Okay, admittedly the Sophia one is really funny.

This blog entry is not on her though.  Someday though.

The Golden Girls was a successful show for the seven seasons it was on.  Although it spawned a spinoff with 'Empty Nest', as well as a less successful sequel (The Golden Palace), the Golden Girls was arguably one of the most successful sitcoms of the 1980's and 1990's. 

Recently the show started airing reruns on a cable channel here in Canada called TVTropolis, and it wasn't until I re-watched the show through thirty-year old eyes that I realized how witty and well-written the show was.  As a four year old, they didn't really do anything that was out of the ordinary from my grandparents, but as a man, they were quite entertaining to watch.

I wish I could do an entry on each of the four leads.  All of them really had their own distinct personalities, and all of them have qualities that I myself can identify with...even though I'm a male and about thirty years younger than they were.

Because I enjoy a challenge, I went with a character that on the surface was nothing like me.  Beneath though, it's almost eerie how much in common we really did have with each other.

Blanche Devereaux.

Portrayed by the late Rue McClanahan, she was the youngest of the Golden Girls.  Born and bred in the South, Blanche was one of those girls who always seemed to depend on the kindness of strangers.

Preferably the male kind.

One of the biggest running gags of the whole serial revolved around Blanche's promiscuity.  Although she was physically in her fifties, she had the sex drive of a nineteen year old woman.  Blanche would often get ribbing from Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia about her lust for men, but more often than not, Blanche would let their insults roll right off her back.

I'd tell you how Blanche often saw herself in spite of those comments, but I think this music video montage I found on YouTube explains it better.

On the surface, Blanche didn't seem to care about what people thought about her.  She was a real Southern belle.  An independent woman who knew what she wanted and knew how to get it.  She was the woman who looked beautiful at any age, and who thought she could give women half her age a run for their money.

Was she any of those things though?  I'm sure that Blanche really wanted to be.  As you peel back the layers however, she ends up being a scared little girl who just wanted to be loved and accepted for who she was.

That's probably where Blanche and I are kind of the same.  We both wanted to be accepted and loved no matter what.  We also didn't like to be hurt.  In some ways, I think both of us were slightly insecure just based on our experiences.

The difference is, where I closed up and hid from the world, Blanche literally wanted to open up her world to anybody who happened to be passing through.

The thing is, I think the reason we became that was was because of a traumatic event that happened to both of us.  Something so traumatic that it caused us to act somewhat out of character for years.

In my case, I remember when I was a little kid, I would be happy and carefree.  I would start up conversations with random people in the grocery store, or on the streets, and I was a very outgoing child. 

Then I entered school, and kids were mean to me, and somewhere along the way, I got less and less outgoing.  I tried to talk to them and be their friend, but nobody really seemed interested.  As time passed, I talked less and less to the point where the teasing got so unbearable that I tried everything to get them to leave me alone.  I guess my parents were kind of shocked because I never used to be so closed off from everything.  People who lived near us were kind of nosy, and they thought I was weird because I hardly ever left the house other than school, but they didn't know the truth.  It's taken me years to try and heal from it to have some sort of a normal life, but it hasn't been easy.

Blanche was in a similar experience.  After the death of her husband, Blanche's sex drive really went into overdrive.  Part of me wonders if she acted this way because she was worried of being alone after the death of her husband, and this was her way of not feeling as alone.  It's interesting to note that none of Blanche's relationships really seemed to work out, or last longer than a few episodes at a time.  Sometimes the problem was with the men.  Some of them were real jerks.  Some of them were really nice guys that adored Blanche.  Blanche would always seem to find something wrong with them, though.  They didn't have a good job, or they didn't have the stamina in the bedroom...really superficial stuff.

That's what one might initially say about Blanche with that information.  They might have thought that Blanche was a superficial snob and that nobody was good enough for her.

That's only partially right.

I think deep down inside, Blanche had difficulty committing to a new man because she was still in love with the deceased.  Blanche's husband couldn't be replaced, and I think deep down, Blanche knew it.  I could be totally off the mark here, and this could just be an opinion, but my theory is that Blanche kept going after men for the company.  Blanche really did not want to end up alone.  She just wanted companionship so she could fill the void lost by the trauma of losing her husband, even if only temporarily.

A lot of people don't realize that emotional trauma can be just as debilitating as physical trauma.  On the surface, a lot of us appear like nothing is wrong when inside we might be hurting, or unsure of what may be wrong.  It's nothing to be ashamed of. 

Certainly, Blanche has nothing to be ashamed of.  Sure, she may have a reputation, but she never let it define who she was as a person.  She had a successful job at a museum, and managed to live a fairly comfortable life. 

Though sometimes she would have a slip the time she stayed up late to write a novel.

That was kind of a train wreck, wasn't it?

I'll admit to having almost a similar moment as Blanche though.  No, I never stayed up all night to write a book and then ended up a delerious mess of a man.  I did stay up all night during Frosh week, and ended up passing out on a bus.  I was so lucid and tired when I arrived at my stop that the poor bus driver thought I had been drinking, or had done heavy drugs.  It embarrassing situation to say the least.

Sleep was something that was a secondary issue though as far as I was concerned.  Like Blanche was so concerned with getting her manuscript done, I was so concerned with making it through Frosh week.  At the time, my living situation was kind of in limbo, and to try and get my mind off of things, I ended up focusing all my attention into Frosh week and trying to find accommodations for the school year.  All that stress prevented me from taking care of myself, so I would try to take care of others. 

Yeah, that worked well, didn't it?

Everything worked itself out in the end, but it wasn't one of my finer moments.  Much like Blanche.

There's another similarity between Blanche and myself.  We both love our families, but absolutely hate it when we find ourselves unable to get on the same page as them.

I really love my loved ones, but I'll admit that there are times in which I feel like we kind of don't see eye to eye.  Quite a few than I really have space for.

Blanche seemed to have these issues with her family as well, particularly with her children.  When her daughter Rebecca came for a visit, Blanche was shocked to find that the once waif supermodel was now more chunky in appearance.  You could tell that it was something that she disapproved of, but she tried her best to hide it so as not to start a fight. 

I can recall many times where I had to bite my tongue at things where my family is concerned.  Not so much with physical issues as much as it is behaviour issues.  Again, it would take a week of blog entries to get into it here, but maybe one day I'll talk about it.

Blanche would soon realize that her daughter's weight gain was the least of her worries.  Turns out that Rebecca had gotten engaged to a man named Jeremy who basically treated her like dirt.  He made comments about how she was big as a whale, and how unattractive she was, and it made Blanche furious.  In fact, you've got to see this clip to see what I mean.

That clip made me see myself in BOTH those women.

Obviously, I could be considered the male version of Rebecca.  I have been where she is.  When I was at my heaviest weight, I was practically 300 pounds.  I didn't think anyone would want me either.  I took friendship where I could get it, even if they took advantage of me or made me feel worse about myself.  I took the abuse because I didn't think I could do better.

Of course, that way of thinking turned out to be wrong. 

Rebecca saw that Jeremy wasn't the right guy for her, and a lot of it was because Blanche had that heart-to-heart with her.  By listening to Blanche, Rebecca finally decided to make a decision that benefitted her.  I guess in some ways, I can say that about my family.  They didn't always have the right thing to say and sometimes they said the wrong thing (like at the tail end of the above clip), but they at least listened.  I think that's what Blanche did.

And that's how I'm kind of like Blanche too.  I may not have the right answer or even say the right thing, but I will always listen to a friend or a family member.

I may have even been taught a valuable lesson by Blanche as well, which she herself didn't learn until it mattered most.  If something isn't right, SPEAK UP!

You might be surprised by the result.

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