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“Shady Pines, Ma”: Mother-daughter role reversal in the Golden Girls

by Ethan Tussey

by Jessica Lee and Rosanne Carlo for IN MEDIA RES

“Shady Pines, Ma.” Dorothy is apt to repeat this veiled threat to send Sophia to a nursing home when she is about to do something rebellious or if she says something out of line. Sophia is the matriarch of the group, yet she is often patronized by her daughter, Blanche and Rose, and some of the guest characters. Sometimes, she is viewed by them as weak and mentally feeble as a result of a stroke that she experienced prior to the opening of the show. In “Older and Wiser,” Sophia is recovering from the flu. Dorothy, concerned for her mother’s health, develops a plot to get her to go to a senior daycare. Dorothy lies to Sophia, saying she has been given the job of “Activities Director.” Dorothy and the center director anticipate that Sophia will only be responsible for showing residents a daily movie in her new “job.” However, Sophia--being the spry and active person she is--organizes a field trip for the residents without consulting the director. The clip shows Sophia’s reaction to learning about Dorothy’s deception. Dorothy, in the episode, is making decisions for Sophia, without her consent, as a mother would with her young child. In another scene, Blanche, Dorothy, and Rose talk about the need to become a caregiver toward elderly parents. At the climax of the episode, though, the role of caregiver is challenged when Sophia observes: “No one bothered to consult me what was for my own good.” This episode, then, reframes what it means to be a caregiver for an elderly parent, in contrast to taking care of a child. Taking care of the elderly requires an appreciation for the ways in which they understand themselves and their situation. In fact, in the ending of the episode, Dorothy and Sophia come to a moment of reconciliation and agree to consult each other about decisions that are made in the future. In what ways does Sophia and Dorothy’s dynamic redefine what it means to be a caregiver for the elderly? Was Dorothy right in wanting to seek extra care for Sophia? In other words, did Dorothy’s end goal (extra care for Sophia) justify the means (her deception)? In what ways do Dorothy’s actions show a desire to preserve a loved one? Do Dorothy’s restrictions on her mother suppress Sophia’s vitality and spunk?

“Shady Pines, Ma”: Mother-daughter role reversal in the Golden Girls

by Ethan Tussey

by Jessica Lee and Rosanne Carlo for IN MEDIA RES

“Shady Pines, Ma.” Dorothy is apt to repeat this veiled threat to send Sophia to a nursing home when she is about to do something rebellious or if she says something out of line. Sophia is the matriarch of the group, yet she is often patronized by her daughter, Blanche and Rose, and some of the guest characters. Sometimes, she is viewed by them as weak and mentally feeble as a result of a stroke that she experienced prior to the opening of the show. In “Older and Wiser,” Sophia is recovering from the flu. Dorothy, concerned for her mother’s health, develops a plot to get her to go to a senior daycare. Dorothy lies to Sophia, saying she has been given the job of “Activities Director.” Dorothy and the center director anticipate that Sophia will only be responsible for showing residents a daily movie in her new “job.” However, Sophia--being the spry and active person she is--organizes a field trip for the residents without consulting the director. The clip shows Sophia’s reaction to learning about Dorothy’s deception. Dorothy, in the episode, is making decisions for Sophia, without her consent, as a mother would with her young child. In another scene, Blanche, Dorothy, and Rose talk about the need to become a caregiver toward elderly parents. At the climax of the episode, though, the role of caregiver is challenged when Sophia observes: “No one bothered to consult me what was for my own good.” This episode, then, reframes what it means to be a caregiver for an elderly parent, in contrast to taking care of a child. Taking care of the elderly requires an appreciation for the ways in which they understand themselves and their situation. In fact, in the ending of the episode, Dorothy and Sophia come to a moment of reconciliation and agree to consult each other about decisions that are made in the future. In what ways does Sophia and Dorothy’s dynamic redefine what it means to be a caregiver for the elderly? Was Dorothy right in wanting to seek extra care for Sophia? In other words, did Dorothy’s end goal (extra care for Sophia) justify the means (her deception)? In what ways do Dorothy’s actions show a desire to preserve a loved one? Do Dorothy’s restrictions on her mother suppress Sophia’s vitality and spunk?

Golden Girls and Family

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A clip from Golden Girls

from Golden Girls (1985)
Creator: Susan Harris
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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