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Tony-award and Emmy-award winning actress, Bea Arthur, passed away yesterday at age 86.  In addition to her stage and screen work, she was a driving force on two television series about strong women finding their own way.

In the 1970s Maude broke a lot of rules about how a woman, a wife, should behave.  A married woman having an abortion on a television show in 1972?  A mid-life woman getting arrested for protesting pot busts?  Alcoholism, Amphetamines, Face-lifts, Menopause?

You know what other television shows were on the air in 1972?

The Waltons – the “aw shucks, ain’t the Depression a bummer, but at least we’ve got each other” show.

Bridget Loves Bernie – the “aw shucks, ain’t a shame that we’re two different religions, but at least we’ll stand up to our families” show.

The Partridge Family – the “aw shucks, our dad is dead, but at least our cool mom sings with us and we get to wear groovy polyester pantsuits” show.

I kid you not.  Maude?  Wow!  Bea was all like, “Try to keep up, people. ”

In the late 80s and early 90s, The Golden Girls was often a self-deprecating punchline about the lack of an interesting life.  “Saturday? Me? Oh yeah, I had a hot date: some dinner, some wine and The Golden Girls.”

But I gotta tell you, The Golden Girls was more than a joke. Four aging, but not ancient women living together, still fighting for every drop of gusto that life has to offer. “Picture it:” Your mom is 60+ and divorced or widowed…she has a life that is so busy, so fulfilled that she has no time for aches and pains – they’d only slow her down. She dates, she works, she goes out with friends, she laughs, she suffers, she loves.  She has people who love her and live every day with her best interests in mind. Wouldn’t you want your mom to be Dorothy Zbornack or Rose Nyland or Blanche Devereaux or even Sophia Petrillo?

Man, I hope when I’m that age I have some of the energy that exploded through my TV screen each week. They showed America that “mature” doesn’t have to equal “crone.” Bea Arthur was a class act and a role model for women of any age.

RIP, Bea.  Give ‘em hell when you get there.

Thanks to Pop Hangover for this GREAT poster:

Apr 26th, 2009

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