- Anvilicious: Like a lot of shows of the era, it's given something of a pass for its occasional heavy-handedness; since it tackled such hot-button issues for the time, it didn't really have the luxury of being subtle.
- Broken Base: Are Sophia's jibes funny? Or is she just too mean-spirited to be enjoyable? A lot of people get annoyed pretty quickly at her shabby treatment of her roommates, especially her daughter, while using Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior! as a perpetual excuse.
Sophia: It wasn't your kind of crowd, Pussycat.
- Blanche, Rose, and Sophia's poor treatment of Dorothy starts losing its humor as the jabs move from snarky to outright cruel, leading up to the episode where Dorothy is put on trial with Stan for running a slum they inherited from a deceased relative, that Dorothy wanted no part of. Rose (who works as a consumer reporter for a local TV station) runs an exposé on the apartment, and when she finds out that Dorothy is one of the landlords, she only considers how she could have punched the story up to make herself look better. Blanche is easily fooled by the prosecutor into claiming that Dorothy is callous, and Sophia testifies that Dorothy put her in a home (this is treated by the court as a horrific crime). Keep in mind Dorothy could have gone to jail over this. At no point in the episode do Blanche, Rose, or Sophia say anything genuinely helpful or reassuring to Dorothy.
- Earlier, in the episode in which Dorothy's uncle Angelo moves into the slum apartment, Dorothy is incensed when she isn't invited to the housewarming party - to which even Stan was invited.
Dorothy: That's funny. That's the same excuse you used when you didn't invite me to my own sweet sixteen party!
Angelo: Now, that was a party!
- Covered Up: "Thank You For Being a Friend": More people think of the Golden Girls' theme version (sung by Cynthia Fee) than they do the original Andrew Gold version.
- Crossing the Line Twice: Many of Sophia's jokes and other antics. For example:
Dorothy: (to Sophia, while they're visiting a hospital) Where were you?Sophia: I got a little frisky, so I went up to Geriatrics and sang "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better".Dorothy: (outraged) Ma...Sophia: And some crowd they were; they threw Jell-O at me... if you can call that throwing!
- Blanche's sexual nature and self-delusion as well. Granted, this example was a product of Flanderization, but the "Beauty and the Beast" episode where her seven-year-old granddaughter is visiting, the nickname she had the girl calls her while she was parading around sailors was "Sis".
- Ear Worm: Thank you for bein' a friend!
- Ensemble Darkhorse: Each girl has gotten this to varying degrees.
- "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
- The Running Gag where Sophia would talk about how bad her retirement home was and how she was mistreated there was always played for laughs, but in a later episode in which the girls deal with actual elder abuse not played for laughs, Sophia admits that she wasn't all too serious about Shady Pines.
- Jokes about Sophia's forgetfulness felt very different after Estelle Getty's Alzheimer's diagnosis.
- Blanche's constant lying about her age were always played for laughs. Then came an episode where we find out that she is suffering from depression out of fear of growing old, after her mother died of Alzheimer's. Knowing this makes all those jokes about her age seem more sad than funny.
- One episode has Blanche force her young granddaughter into participating in a beauty pageant she had no interest in. Currently there is a Reality TV series by the name of Toddlers & Tiaras, in which this is taken Up to Eleven.
- After Dorothy makes a crack about Rose in "Dateline: Miami", Rose responds by saying "I've never liked her". It turns out Bea Arthur and Betty White were not friends in real life.
- Harsher in Hindsight: At the end of an episode where Sophia rescues a friend from a nursing home, the girls make a pact to take care of each other, and Rose asks, "What happens when there's only one of us left?" Cut to 2011, where Betty White (Rose) actually is the only one of them left. It goes even further: in the show, after that line, Sophia (the oldest character) mentions "Don't worry, I can take care of myself." In real life, Estelle Getty (Sophia), who was younger than both Bea Arthur and Betty White, was the first to go. An even more eerie aspect of that scene is that all four women were sitting in the exact order in which they died (apart from Betty White/Rose, who is still alive), Sophia was sitting on the chair to the left of the couch, and Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose sat from left to right on the couch.
- Blanche's initial rejection of her brother Clayton for being gay might seem explainable considering the era the show takes place in, her age and her southern protestant background. But the possible true reasons for her reaction become evident once you consider the Golden Palace episode "Tad". In this episode , it's found out that Blanche has another brother Tad, who's mentally handicapped. Blanche lets Rose know that her family and herself never spoke of Tad because he was considered an embarassment. With an upbringing such as this, is it any wonder that Blanche would be horrified at her seemingly "normal" brother suddenly coming out as gay after years of heterosexual marriage?
- The first season episode "Break-In" features Rose predicting that one of the girls will get cancer, as she'd read somewhere that one out of every three people will get it. In real life, one of them did get cancer — Bea Arthur, who passed from it in 2009.
- This trope's not even limited to the main cast. "It's a Miserable Life" and "'Til Death Do We Volley" are harder to watch now that Nan Martin and Anne Francis have passed away.
- An In-Universe version is in an earlier episode when Blanche's younger sister/sometimes rival Virginia is coming to town, Rose chides her in disbelief and absolutely refuses to believe that she hates her sister. A few seasons later, we meet Rose's own younger sister Holly, of whom Rose admits, "I feel terrible saying this, but I don't really like her." Holly's terrible treatment of Rose is not Played for Laughs, and she makes Virginia look like a Girl Scout by comparison.
- Another in-universe example. In the pilot, after Blanche's plans to remarry fall apart, Dorothy suggests they make a pact that, even if they all get married, they stick together (complete with Rose commenting how they'll need a bigger house.) The finale involves Dorothy herself getting remarried, and how her moving out is breaking up "the family." It's especially noticeable in syndication, since the two episodes are often shown back-to-back.
- Heartwarming in Hindsight: Of all the girls, Dorothy was the biggest buttmonkey when it came to her eligibility among men, receiving snide comments about her looks, fashion sense, and her personality from all corners of life, including her mother. While it served as a large source of humor in the show, it was clear that Dorothy struggled the most when it came to finding love with another again, especially as she was still coming to terms with her bitter divorce from Stan. Come the series finale, Dorothy is the first of the four to remarry and to permanently resettle into her new life, in spite of all the mockery and putdowns she received in her efforts and with the full blessing of her friends, family and her former husband.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: In a special two-part episode, Rose (Betty White) had a heart attack and had to stay in the hospital and was looped out (moreso than usual) on prescription medication. In a scene with her daughter, Rose yells "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" in her delirium. Fast forward to 2010, where, thanks to publicity from a Facebook petition, Betty White did get to host SNL, becoming the show's oldest host (at age 88 and a half), the first SNL host to be picked via online petitionnote , and the second cast member from The Golden Girls to host SNL. (Bea Arthur was the first, hosting a season five episode in 1979, but this was before The Golden Girls was created.)
Dorothy: "Blanche! Everlast is a brand name, not a nickname!".
- With all the jokes about how masculine Dorothy was, it's funny to hear about Bea Arthur's stint in the Marine Corps.
- This quote from "Fiddler on the Ropes":
- Dorothy and Sophia's musical act as Sonny and Cher provided a double-whammy. Sonny Bono would guest-star in a sixth season episode. Also, Blanche asked them which one was Cheech and which one was Chong. Cheech Marin would later costar on Golden Palace.
- The show's first Christmas Episode, aired in the second season, was titled "'Twas The Nightmare Before Christmas."
- The show Hot in Cleveland is essentially a Spiritual Successor/Setting Update of The Golden Girls. Betty White plays a character who is basically the Sophia of the group, which is amusing to people who mostly know her as Rose.
- All of Sophia and Dorothy's talk of Brooklyn as being such a bad neighborhood are becoming this thanks to Brooklyn undergoing a controversial development/gentrification that is quickly turning into a trendy hipster hot-spot.
- In the episode "The Operation", Dorothy's doctor is played by Robert Picardo. What's more, he's a replacement doctor.
- Hollywood Homely: Dorothy's looks are frequently mocked on the show, with some people even reacting to her like she's downright ugly (when on a boat about to set sail, she mentions how a couple of glasses of champagne will make her kiss any man in sight; the next sound we hear is the splash of a man jumping overboard.) She's actually pretty average-looking.
- Hollywood Pudgy: Blanche and Rose are frequently the target of barbs about their weight even though they look exactly the way two middle-aged women who have had several children would look. In another episode, when Blanche's daughter Becky visits, she is overweight but the others react as though she's morbidly obese. (Of course, her weight issues are later retconned when the actress is replaced.)
- Ironically, Betty White has no children (though she has three stepchildren from her marriage to Allen Ludden), and Rue McClanahan had only one. The trope still rings very true, however.
- Ho Yay: Has its own page.
- Idiot Plot: There have been several, but one memorable one was the episode "Little Sister" with Rose's untrustworthy little sister. Holly comes to town and deliberately excludes Rose from all the plans she makes with Dorothy and Blanche, claiming to be giving Rose the information but keeping it from her so she misses out on everything. Rose notices what's happening and tries to tell the girls; but instead of believing their longtime friend and surrogate sister, they are both quick to dismiss her suspicions, siding with a complete stranger and telling her to leave them out of whatever was going on between her and Holly. Only Sophia believes her.
- Memetic Badass: Sophia. While her Historical Rap Sheet, Noodle Incidents, and Sicilian "connections" could be written off as ramblings of The Munchausen, her Offscreen Moments Of Awesome during the series and her constant (and frequently effective) scheming and manipulation of others suggest there might be at least some truth behind them.
- One-Scene Wonder
Caterer: Whatever the problem is, overlook it! My mother did with my marriage! [Dorothy looks at him] And if you say something smart, I'll slap you silly.
- The woman who showed up at Frieda Claxton's funeral and gave a beautiful eulogy thinking it was for someone else, then kicked the coffin when she learned who it was really for.
- At Sophia's wedding to Max Weinstock, the Camp Gay caterer who tells Dorothy off for holding things up with her disapproval. For once Dorothy had no idea how to respond aside from telling him to butt out. He came back two seasons later for Dorothy and Stan's (failed) re-marriage ceremony.
- Periphery Demographic: This show was — and continues to be — very popular with young people. Betty White, when asked why that might be, gave the simplest (and probably most accurate) explanation: "It's funny!"
- Many younger viewers likely grew up watching the constant reruns of The Golden Girls on Lifetime Network with their own moms and became fans themselves.
- The series also has a huge gay following, but that's probably because the show was very gay-conscious even at a time when it wasn't acceptable. Besides Coco in the pilot, there are entire episodes dealing with AIDS, crossdressing, gay marriage, coming out, accepting gay family members, and one that addressed non-family members trying to see their loved ones in the hospital. On a less serious note, the snarky dialogue and Blanche's proud promiscuity didn't hurt, either.
- All of which gives "Friend of Dorothy" a whole new meaning.
- Retroactive Recognition:
- A very young George Clooney had an appearance in the season two episode "To Catch a Neighbor." At the time, he was a up-and-coming actor.
- Quentin Tarantino played an Elvis Impersonator in the episode "Sophia's Wedding."
- Mario Lopez made an appearance on the show before Saved by the Bell aired.
- A young Paul Rodriguez, at the time just barely hitting the comedy circuit, played a disgruntled bellhop in the S2 episode "Vacation."
- In the episode "Brother, Can You Spare That Jacket?", Sophia donates a jacket that Blanche has placed winning lottery tickets in to the Salvation Army. Michael Jackson happens to pop by the Salvation Army and wears it for his show, and they must find where it is located. Michael himself joked about this show with his friends for years later, and recorded instances can be seen on Youtube.
- Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) played the evil Sunshine Cadet who wouldn't give back Rose's teddy bear.
- Voice actor Scott Menville played Sophia's dickish teenage boss in "Blanche's Little Girl".
- Future Family Feud host Ray Combs and actress Ariana Richards (of Jurassic Park fame) appeared in the episode "And Then There Was One".
- Meshach Taylor (of Designing Women) appeared in the first episode, "The Engagement".
- Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan wrote 24 episodes. Both men are best known as creators and executive producers of The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer.
- Winifred Hervey wrote 15 episodes. Hervey is best known as creator and executive producer of The Steve Harvey Show.
- Tracy Gamble co-wrote 14 episodes. Gamble is best known as creator and executive producer of 8 Simple Rules.
- Christopher Lloyd wrote 11 episodes. Lloyd is best known as co-creator and co-executive producer of Modern Family.
- Marc Cherry co-wrote 11 episodes. Cherry is best known as creator and executive producer of Desperate Housewives and Devious Maids.
- Mitchell Hurwitz wrote seven episodes. Hurwitz is best known as creator and executive producer of Arrested Development, as developer and executive producer of Sit Down, Shut Up, and as co-creator and co-executive producer of Running Wilde and Lady Dynamite.
- Kevin Abbott wrote four episodes. Abbott is best known as developer and executive producer of Malibu Country.
- James Berg and Stan Zimmerman wrote three episodes. Both men are best known as creators and executive producers of Rita Rocks.
- Russell Marcus also wrote three episodes. Marcus is best known as creator and executive producer of Brandy & Mr. Whiskers.
- Eric Cohen wrote two episodes. Cohen is best known as co-creator and executive producer of So Little Time.
- Jeff Abugov wrote an episode. Abugov is best known as creator and executive producer of Fugget About It.
- Don Reo also wrote an episode. Reo is best known as creator and executive producer of Wizards and Warriors, Blossom, and The John Larroquette Show, and as co-creator and executive producer of My Wife and Kids and The Ranch.
- Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Quite a few, as the show often tackled topics like AIDS and homosexuality. One particular episode showed the girls trying to get back a jacket that had accidentally been donated to a charity auction with a winning lottery ticket in the pocket. They end up spending the night in a homeless shelter, and their conversations with the homeless illustrate how anybody can wind up in that situation.
- Special Effects Failure: As a sitcom largely based in reality, it didn't have many special effects moments, but occasionally, this shows up.
- In "One for the Money," the girls reminisce about participating in a dance marathon. Dorothy and Blanche do a solo dance with their partners, and Rose tries a few steps all by herself—namely, cartwheels and splits. However, despite the cameras pulling back and the choreography largely hiding the actress's face from view, the woman doing the dancing is clearly not Betty White: her legs are longer, the wig she's wearing is the wrong color (a fact that becomes obvious when the camera cuts back to White sitting on the floor), and the brief times we do see her face make it obvious that it's a young woman.
- In "Room 7," Sophia climbs to the roof of Blanche's grandmother's old home to jump into a haystack. The "Sophia" who leaps off the roof is plainly a dummy dressed in Estelle Getty's costume. To add insult to injury, its wig gets caught on a tree branch.
- Tastes Like Diabetes:
- Some of Rose's St. Olaf stories were like this. When she told the very sappy story of how her family spent Christmas Eve, Dorothy Lampshaded it by snapping, "Who was your father, Rose, Michael Landon?"
- Rose herself was like this, especially in earlier episodes, to the point where she could sometimes get downright annoying. Dorothy's son's future mother-in-law outright asked if Rose was for real.
- Values Dissonance: For all its progressive approaches to things like AIDS and homosexuality, there are a few things that come across differently nowadays where (perhaps ironically, for a show centering on the lives of women) feminist and women's issues are concerned. It's both in-universe and meta, since the girls would have grown up around the 1940's and 50's.
- The Mother's day story about Rose helping a pensioner sneak past the police to go see her dead daughter's grave in a town neighbouring St-Olaf might have seemed heartwarming back then and maybe to some people now, but Rose EFFECTIVELY kidnapped an old lady and lied to law enforcement who had come to bring her back to her care facility. (Clearly there's a reason she's living in a care facility.)
- Blanche cheerfully mentions several relationships she had as a teenager with older, middle-aged men, including one with the father of one of her fellow cheerleaders, and it's presented as just Blanche being her energetic, oversexed, egocentric self, just younger and sillier. Today, that's considered statutory.
- In one episode, Blanche's younger brother Clayton comes out as gay and leaves to let her take the surprising news in. Blanche initially has a hard time believing it, but comes around to embrace it when she goes to meet Clayton in what she incorrectly assumes to be a gay bar. Although it's Played for Laughs and may be considered a case of Innocently Insensitive, Blanche proclaims she'd be proud to have any one of them date her brother only to have one of them say he'd rather date her, to which she exclaims "I converted one!" Given all the controversy to come out about the psychologically harmful effects of gay conversion therapy, this line may be a tad contentious for some.
- Dorothy describes her first time with Stan a few different ways: being unconscious and waking up to him carving a notch in his dashboard after being drugged (and her mother says she never believed it), or being coerced because Stan said he was being shipped off to Korea and "it would mean so much", and various jokes about Stan being a bad lover in general, but Dorothy always ends up pregnant at 16 from her first time with Stan, in the backseat of his car, and it was terrible for her. In the show, it's played for laughs, but today, we call that date rape.
Rose: Maybe we should sign Mary up for some natural childbirth lessons.
Dorothy: You know, that's not a bad idea! I wish I'd known about them when I was pregnant. I didn't know what to do, except scream at Stan never to touch me again, and call him every name in the book.
Rose: Rough labor?
Dorothy: Rough conception.
- When Rose loses her job at the grief center, she struggles to find a new one, and eventually settles on applying as a hospital administrator with nothing on her resume but a community college degree in home economics and 32 years as a housewife, and with some careful rephrasing, Dorothy declares it fit for submission, and now Rose's biggest hurdle is... ageism. In today's much more competitive and narrow job market, the idea of anyone with Rose's qualifications even managing to get an interview, much less the job, seems much more like a dream than a possibility.
- A big contention in the first act of "Blanche Delivers" is Blanche's daughter Rebecca wanting to have her baby in a birthing center as opposed to a hospital. None of the girls think its a good idea, and the entire place is played off as new-age nonsense run by a moralistic hippie. Becky opts out when she hears a woman screaming while in labor. Nowadays, more women are coming forward about poor treatment and outright abuse by their obstetricians, and the number of women giving birth at centers almost identical to the one Becky goes to is on the rise.
- One episode had Rose telling one of her St. Olaf stories about how some creepy soda jerk in her town used to arrange the scoops of her ice cream sundaes in a sexually suggestive manner. Even though her story took place in the 1940s and while she couldn't tell her father since by the time he got there the evidence would have melted (which begs the question of why not just tell the little bastard's boss), if he were to do that nowadays, he would have been fired and possibly arrested/fined for lewd behaviornote or at the very least labeled a pervert and unlikely to find other employment due to his preceeding reputation.
- Alternatively, it wouldn't be seen as provocative. Rose was a teenager at the time, and the product of a much more conservative time. Today's generation that delights in finding new ways to draw dicks on the whiteboard at school is a lot less likely to be offended the same way, though that kid would catch a world of hell for pulling a stunt like that with an adult.