Clockwise from left, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White and...

Clockwise from left, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White and Estelle Getty of the popular sitcom "The Golden Girls." Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

When “The Golden Girls” ended its seven-year run in 1992, fans of the trailblazing NBC sitcom — which obliterated perceptions of how aging women should look and behave, and also tackled taboo topics such as AIDS — went into collective mourning. Thanks to syndication and streaming, a new legion of fans was born, eager to enjoy the exploits of the Girls: Sophia, Dorothy, Blanche and Rose.

Now those who want to know more about their favorite show can thank Bernadette Giacomazzo for being their friend. In “The Golden Girls: A Cultural History” (Rowman & Littlefield, $36), the Baldwin-raised journalist and author of four books delves into the cultural influences that make the show as relevant today as it was nearly four decades ago when it premiered. She also discusses how she related to the characters, in particular, Dorothy and Sophia who share her Sicilian American heritage. Giacomazzo spoke from her home in Atlantic Beach.

There have been many books written about “The Golden Girls.” What’s different about yours?

Many books are written for people like me who remember the times. When I was approached by Rowman and Littlefield to do this book, I was asked to write for the benefit of a younger generation who may be watching the show in reruns. The important thing was to put it into the context of the time so that folks who weren’t alive when the show was in its first run could understand what we went through. Today it’s common to see a gay or an interracial couple on TV, as well as women in their 50s and 60s who are vital and have whole lives outside of their children and husbands. Women, especially older women, played very specific roles then.

In doing your research for this book, what fact was most fascinating?

I had learned prior to my research that Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty were Jewish women portraying Sicilians. As a Sicilian-American, I know my culture and how my people act. They had it down to a T! Also, when I dug into the backgrounds of all the actresses, I learned how closely tied they were in their real lives to the gay community and the specific afflictions of those times. They were aware of the ravages of AIDS. That was very on point because real life translated into reel life.

When did you become a fan?

I was a kid watching “The Golden Girls” and I saw my family in them. That’s how a lot of people came to the show: They each found their own characters they related to. They found their mothers … and they found their aunties, their cousins, their friends.

Which Golden Girl do you identify with the most?

Dorothy! That very hardscrabble, sarcastic, down-to-earth, no nonsense, old-school Brooklyn type is me — yet this is tempered with kindness. Dorothy always had a kindness about her and an honesty that is missing today in a lot of people.

Picture it: Long Island, 2023. “The Golden Girls” takes place here, not in Miami. How would the Girls’ story lines be different?

If they lived on Long Island, they’d obviously have a lot more money! The show would probably focus a lot on the technology that seniors are having difficulty navigating, as well as on cultural things, such as pronouns, political correctness and Roe v. Wade being overturned.

Late-night chats over cheesecake take place in many episodes. Yea or nay to this dessert?

I hate cheesecake! When I was growing up, my dad would never allow me to have candy or sweets, so I never developed a taste for it. My dad used to say, “You’re sweet enough anyway, you don’t have to eat sweets.” I also don’t eat chocolate, ice cream, cake or cookies, and don’t even do birthday cake on my birthday!

What’s your next project?

I would like to do a cultural history of “Law and Order.” I started watching “Law and Order” when I was in college and there were laws then that are not in effect today. As Americans and TV watchers, we deserve to know how our relationship to law enforcement and the law has evolved.

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