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The Goldenest of the Girls

July 22, 2008 - Wes Burns
Estelle Getty died.

She played Sophia on The Golden Girls. She was also the titular "Mama" from the Sylvester Stallone vehicle "Stop or my Mom Will Shoot!".

In case you didn't remember Sophia was Bea Arthur's mother. Estelle was actually younger than Bea Arthur and, as anybody who has seen an episode of Maude can tell you, finding anyone actually older than Bea Arthur was going to be a problem. Seriously, she played an old woman in Maude and that show was a spin-off from "All in the Family".

Back to my original point: we lost Estelle Getty. I know why people older than myself would be upset by this loss. I understand why passionate Golden Girls fans who work at the Times Republican would be upset. What I want to know is how this registers with younger people.

By a lot of marketing firms I would be considered to be in a younger demographic. I watch a lot of shows geared towards their younger end of the adult spectrum and I see a lot of young-adult targeted ads. What does this have to do with Estelle Getty? Family Guy.

Family Guy is one of the most culturally relevant shows to modern television. That isn't a judgment call on the show itself but the fast, disconnected story lines have quickly been picked up by other shows. Family Guy also spends most of its time making references to other TV shows. More than once I've heard references to Estelle Getty. My question is: do the younger people in the audience even get what's happening?

I've seen my fair share of the Golden Girls (and I was always a big Sophia fan) but somebody born a couple years after me would have missed the entire thing. Also I went through a pretty severe Nick at Nite addictions a few years ago so I understand The Dick Van Dyke Show and Dragnet better than anybody my age should.

So what does the average (read: high school) age person watching Family Guy think when they mention someone like Estelle Getty? If they don't know who it is do they just not laugh?

I think like many people that they would laugh and assume that whatever reference they didn't get was just a piece of absurdism that was never intended to make sense. That's a shame. Sometimes I think that these reference-packed, hyper-active comedy shows are the only way that young kids are going to learn about the wonders that was the pre-cable Television landscape. And I hope they do learn something; Estelle Getty deserves as much.


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