Bea Arthur

I just learned that Bea Arthur has passed away. Bea starred on the popular sitcoms Maude and the Golden Girls.

You know, this is somewhat of a shock to me, and the reason is that I watch the Golden Girls every now and again on the Hallmark Channel. For many of us, cable tends to immortalize people, when actually time and life continue to go on, as people grow old and die.

As Maude, Bea played the liberal cousin to Edith Bunker, and she often got into fights with Edith’s arch-conservative husband, Archie. When Arch was going to a hotel room and Edith was asking how he’d find entertainment, Maude said, “Oh, don’t worry, Governor Wallace will be on the Tonight Show. Archie will love it!”

As a conservative (loosely speaking), my reaction to Maude was pretty much love-hate. I liked the show because it made fun of bleeding-heart liberals, implying that there was a degree of inauthenticity in their acts of “concern.” On one episode, for example, Maude was hiring a Puerto Rican to be her maid solely because the lady was Puerto Rican. Maude was expressing her white liberal guilt!

At the same time, there was a two-parter in which Maude is pregnant and struggles with whether or not to abort the child. That episode made no attempt whatsoever to give us the pro-life side of the debate. As far as it was concerned, the only consideration was that women have rights, and that’s it! The life of the unborn child was not even considered. The creator of the series, Norman Lear, could be a thoughtful liberal who critiqued his own side, but he was a liberal nonetheless.

But there was one episode in which we got to see some sparks: Maude’s shoot-out with conservative movie star John Wayne! She got to duke it out with the Duke, right before she danced with him.

Something about Maude that spilled into Dorothy Sbornak on the Golden Girls was that she was real. She dealt with emotions that many of us experience: bitterness, disappointment, love, loyalty to friends, insecurity, moral dilemmas, struggles with dating, etc., etc. I can think of many scenes that illustrate these emotions, but there’s one that I want to share. On one episode, the Golden Girls were going to shake hands with the first President Bush when he came to their door, and Dorothy was planning to hit him with all sorts of challenging questions about education. When Bush finally came to their door, she choked up and didn’t say anything. Even when he asked her about her thoughts on education, she was too nervous to speak! I can picture myself doing that!

Both Maude and Dorothy came across as opinionated know-it-alls who had a sharp wit. I think of the episode of the Golden Girls in which Dorothy was about to appear on Jeopardy. In the practice session, Dorothy was really mopping the floor with a professor (I think) and a highly educated physicist, even though she was a lowly substitute English teacher. But she was rejected from appearing on the Jeopardy show because the person in charge didn’t think anyone would root for her!

But weaknesses often overlap with strengths, and both Maude and Dorothy could be described as principled, morally-conscious, and courageous. On an episode I saw recently, Dorothy tried to flunk a popular high school football player, to the consternation of most of the town! At the end, when he was in the hospital on account of a football injury, she came to visit him and read him The Tale of Two Cities. Now that’s a great teacher!

I can’t believe that Bea Arthur is gone, but her work lives on.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Current Events, Deaths, Politics, Television. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bea Arthur

  1. msandrist says:

    For most of us — and certainly for all feminists (like Maude), when what you call the “unborn child” has barely been implanted into the lining of the uterus and still consists of just a small gob of protoplasm, almost undifferentiated, the glob HAS no “rights.”

    Further, if any woman is prevented — by the state!! — from ending a pregnancy she does not want, it means that her entire life and future, her health and her very being, indeed everything about her has been subordinated to that mass of protoplasm. She has been made LESS than that mass of protoplasm, worse than a second class citizen — a slave, a breeder and nothing more. When (and if) she loses HER ability to decide, she loses her agency over her own life and becomes something less than an adult. Some of us are filled with rage at the mere thought. We are tired of your misogyny, you who SO disrespect and hate women as a class that you would deny us agency as a fully functioning adult in a democracy and enslave us to the contents of our uteruses instead. Women still die in childbirth, btw — that means a forced pregnancy also could be a death sentence.

    And for those who insist that “life” begins at conception, great. When science can confirm that the Soul has descended into the body fully and completely and irretrievably, then we’ll talk. Until then, the best advice I can given isn’t new: if you’re against abortion (for religious reasons or any reason), then don’t have one. In the meantime, you have NO RIGHT to impose forced slavery — er, pregnancy — on any woman.


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Believe it or not, your position actually makes more sense to me than other pro-choice ones out there (which doesn’t mean I agree with it–it’s just more understandable to me). A lot of pro-choicers are like, “Well, I personally don’t approve of abortion, but I think women should have a right to choose.” When you press them on why they don’t approve of it, it’s because they think it’s murder. At least you’re consistent, since you don’t think the unborn child is a human being.

    Still, you have to admit that it’s human at some point in the womb, don’t you? I mean, there are babies who are born prematurely. Is their sole claim to life that they’re outside of the womb?


Comments are closed.