‘Golden Girls’: Betty White Revealed Age Group That Sent in the Most Fan Mail

by Suzanne Halliburton

Golden Girls fans know all about Rose and her wacky stories from St. Olaf. But this isn’t one of them.

Back in 2006, Betty White was talking all things Golden Girls at a panel discussion with PaleyFest La. Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche, and other top executives from the series, joined White on the discussion.

And White was preaching about why the Golden Girls has such staying power. Keep in mind, the show aired its last new episode in 1992. Reruns still are on constantly on cable networks and streaming services. That’s a testament to the show’s popularity.

“What nobody realizes to this day, and we were on all over the world,” White said. “To this day, and it was the case when we were on at that time, 70 percent of our (fan) mail comes from people under 25 years old. It’s incredible. I think the bottom line, it’s funny.”

Young Fans Recognize Issues On Golden Girls Still Relevant Today

Yes, Golden Girls is funny and still so timely. The show addressed social issues with humor. Those issues still are around.

In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, White talked of how she no longer was recognized for playing Sue Ann Nevins on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Instead, she’s always Rose. Even little kids, she says, come up to her and call her “Wose.”

“I think most people of a certain age,” said White, referring to fans under 40, “think of me only as Rose. But the older generation, of course, also knows me as Sue Ann from ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ where instead of playing the truly naïve Rose, I was the neighborhood nymphomaniac.”

About the show’s appeal among younger viewers, Betty White said, “It’s fascinating. You try to find all kinds of reasons for it. But, I think that some of it had to do with great big Bea Arthur being bossed around by her mother who was this big.”

Then White showed the difference between the height of Arthur and Estelle Getty. “And they loved to see that relationship,” she said.

White Said Most Fans Are College Age. Did You Know There Are Classes on the Show?

White said that most of the Golden Girls fan mail came from college-age viewers.

Marsha Posner Williams, a co-producer on the series’ first three seasons, told the Associated Press in 2019 that Golden Girls creators weren’t aiming for a specific audience. But the dialogue still feels relevant.

“This was a way of showing that even though you might be of a certain age, you’re not dead,” Williams said. “You’re full of life, full of laughter, full of sarcasm and it can be quite joyful.”

“All the issues are so real that they talk about, even though it was 35 years ago,” Williams said.

Today, there are Golden Girls books, podcasts and cruises. And there are even classes that study the show.

Maria Claver, who taught a Golden Girls class at CSU Long Beach, told the AP that nostalgia still holds true. Her students weren’t born when the show originally aired from 1985-92.

“I think one of the strengths of using a show like Golden Girls,” Claver said, “is that you can address sometimes uncomfortable or difficult topics with humor. I think that makes students comfortable to talk about things like sexuality among older women.”

No matter the age, fans are basically united on this fact — life is better with the Golden Girls on TV.

If you want to check out the rest of the PaleyFest discussion, here it is: