Everyone who knows me in real life and most of those who know me through the interwebs know that I have a Bea Arthur crush. Beatrice Arthur died April 25, 2009 and I did cry that day. They weren’t the tears of a fanatic crazy person or that of someone who knew her in real life. I am neither. I never stalked her shows, wrote on her wiki page, bought/watched everything she’s ever been in during her career. I simply just loved her work and her presence. I loved that she was friggin born.
My infatuation started with Golden Girls and then I stretched it back to Maude (thank you Nick At Nite but also screw you for eventually deciding to shut it down) and of course she was the ONLY reason I watched the disaster that was the remake of “Aunt Mame” titled “Mame”. Really, Lucille Ball the lead in a musical..oh yes, that’s a good idea. Why not hire Fran Drescher to play Mimi in RENT while we’re at it?
I would rush home as a kid on Saturday night to catch Golden Girls. I know how this makes me sound but I am a recovering tv addict and there is nothing a t.v. addict hates more than being forced outside in the daylight when there is perfectly good television in the house. I am more likely to get stung by a bee playing cops and robbers than laughing my butt off Sofia and Dorothy. Whatever. I would rush home and there was the character who would later become my hero: Dorothy Zbornak. She was tall, handsome instead of pretty, deep voiced and a hard core nerd. She wasn’t just a teacher but a substitute teacher which meant she spent her daily life getting no respect. Her husband left her after 38 years of marriage and didn’t even leave a note. He would later come back over the years to try to slide back in. She told wisecracks, she played the perfect straight man to Sofia and Rose and sometimes Blanche. She was slightly recluse, even her mother thought she was a loser to some degree. With all the crappy stuff, however, Dorothy remained confident. Hero.
I connected to this character because I grew up a dork. I read books almost as much as I watched television, if not more. I was a lazy student but I loved to learn. Up until the end of middle school, I felt like the biggest person in the class. Also, I have always been fat for my height and now I tend to look older than I am. I know, you’re getting hot. Stop it. The point is I, like most kids, felt like I didn’t belong or fit in. I was (and sometimes am) filled with a crippling feeling of insecurity that was not helped by society. We won’t go there.
Dorothy wasn’t just my hero because she was nerd, she was my hero because she looked different too. There was no magic moment when she would take off her glasses and suddenly be “Hollywood Hot.” She looked the same. And yes, Bea Arthur had a face lift (there was an episode on’ Maude’ which was entirely ahead of its time) but she still looked like herself, just with higher cheekbones. There were very few shows on the air, that I could watch, with characters who weren’t hot or pretty or skinny. Basically, it makes hard to find yourself if you aren’t skinny, hot or pretty. And if you did find the mousy character who loved to read then you could count on her transforming quickly before the end, all the while making it look effortless.
One of the best moments for me was the finale. Dorothy got the guy. Let’s skip through the ‘she could still be empowered and single and she don’t need no man and stuff.’ I cheered when she fell in love with a man who seemed like he would love her. I cheered when she got married right away and left to start yet another adventure. I tear up each time when I watch re-runs of the wedding and when she has to say good bye to her friends. The thought process is simple, ‘if she can get the guy than maybe so can I.’ No, it isn’t necessarily logical. Golden Girls was fiction. Dorothy isn’t real and I’m not her. I might never ‘get the guy’ and at some point I need to be okay with that. Still… it’s a gut reaction. If you are a fat girl, you vote for the fat girl. If you are a nerd, then you believe that if those guys from the Revenge of the Nerds could last four movies, you can do four years of college. If you are little girl who never fits in and grows up to be the woman who spent too many Friday nights alone reading…you want to believe that you will “get the guy.”
Bea Arthur played this role with grace and depth and for that I love her. My second favorite episode is when she sings in the bar. Talent, people. Talent. She brought the same air to Maude and closed both shows after the seventh season while they were still mildly on top. She knew when to leave. She was not your typical leading lady but you could not deny her. And no, she wasn’t pretty. She wasn’t lilthe. She was however, beautiful and writing this makes me a little sad.
*sings Bosom Buddies to herself*
This is the clip of her singing on Golden Girls
and this is a great post with five things you didn’t know about Bea Arthur:
And now the post is done.