On the surface, an ’80s sitcom about four old ladies living in Miami doesn’t seem like it might spur on the kind of fan speculation that more modern shows tend to evoke. But there’s a bevy of The Golden Girls devotees who have more than a few offbeat thoughts about the lives of Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia.
Here are 11 The Golden Girls fan theories you can ponder over a slice of cheesecake on the lanai.
1. The girls were members of an organized crime syndicate.
Arguing that The Golden Girls debuted just one year after Miami Vice—in the middle of the crack cocaine epidemic, no less—writer Michael Harriot believes that the women were members of an organized crime syndicate, specifically pushing “Colombian nose candy.” Harriot cites evidence steeped in the girls’ personalities and strong suits, as well as suspicions about family members like Blanche’s white suit-wearing father, Big Daddy. (“His name was literally ‘Big Daddy!,’" Harriot wrote. "Bruh, that’s a pimp.”)
2. The Golden Girls is a multiverse.
Binge-watching a show that originally aired episodically on network television highlights the fact that many of The Golden Girls's backstories and facts are wildly inconsistent. Why do the number of children Rose and Blanche each have change from episode to episode? Did Rose ever make it to college, or did she not even graduate high school? Why do they keep having reunions and funerals in Miami for people who never lived in Miami? And seriously, when did Sophia’s mother actually die?
Instead of racking your brain for answers, the theory that the show is a multiverse, which was posited on Reddit, encourages you to buy into the fact that the girls are just a part of multiple parallel dimensions that happen to interchange each and every episode. After all, there’s no other way to explain how Rose both never had a cat because she was allergic and got kicked out of her apartment for owning a cat named Mr. Peepers.
3. Rose is a murderer.
Betty White's Rose Nylund would be the last Golden Girl most would suspect of harming even a fly, considering her good-natured spirit and childlike innocence. But with a deeper look, we have evidence that Rose was directly involved in at least three deaths throughout the series. She killed both her husband Charlie and a man she was dating named Al Beatty during sex, and a neighbor named Frieda Claxton during a court hearing. All three supposedly died of heart attacks, but what if Rose really did have a secret homicidal power that she enjoyed flexing? Maybe she’d had enough of Charlie’s mediocre wages, or knew that Al was cheating on his wife—and we all know that Mrs. Claxton's unfriendly spirit wore on Rose’s last nerve. As Another TV Blog's Tiffany Luckey says, never piss off the sweet ones.
4. Dorothy and Stan have a secret third child.
This theory builds off of the multiverse theory, but it helps to more realistically fill in the blanks of the show’s non-adherence to a consistent canon. Dorothy and her ex-husband Stan were married for 38 years prior to the series’s start, after Dorothy became pregnant in high school. However, the only two of their children we see are Kate and Michael, both of whom are presented as being no older than 30. So, what happened to the child who spurred on the shotgun wedding? Were they put up for adoption? Estranged? Died? Sophia makes reference to someone who costs her $10 every Christmas and still calls her Grandma, but she’s not specific about who, exactly, it is. Whatever happened to their third child, hopefully they turned out more like Dorothy than Stan.
5. The theme song is being sung at Sophia’s funeral.
Sophia is the eldest of The Golden Girls, and is no stranger to near-death experiences throughout the series. After all, in her lifetime, she has survived war, disease, and two seasons of Designing Women. But what if, at the beginning of the series, Sophia is already dead? One fan posits that “Thank You For Being a Friend,” the show's upbeat, friendship-affirming theme song, could actually be a song sung at Sophia’s funeral. Specifically, Rose could be the one singing it, as both a close friend and as someone who once had to overcome a fear of public speaking for a relative’s eulogy. This theory certainly plays around with timelines, makes you question the show’s truth, and generally makes you wonder what even is real.
6. The entire series is about women in various states of dementia.
This theory—put forth by scholar Steven Thrasher, author of The Real Mud on The Golden Girls—suggests that all those pesky continuity issues are actually proof that all four of the women are in various states of dementia. This theory would explain a lot about the mis-remembrances of each of the women's pasts (whether that’s Rose getting her parents’s last name wrong, or how exactly Dorothy got knocked up by Stan, or just how many famous men Sophia slept with back in the day). It certainly meshes well with the general theme of the show in focusing on old age, and some of its more tragic ailments.
7. Dorothy is actually a man.
This Reddit theory, which is cited as more “childhood misconception” than official fan theory, is backed up by copious wisecracks and comments by Blanche, Rose, and Sophia about Dorothy’s “mannish” appearance. In fact, part of the speculation of why Bea Arthur decided to leave the show is that she was upset by the many jokes focusing on her appearance, and how it was less-than-feminine. Scholar Kate Browne notes that Dorothy is the character most responsible for the “queering” of the show, in which Dorothy speaks, moves, and dresses in ways that often skew toward more masculine identity. Of course, Dorothy having a more masculine appearance doesn’t mean that she is queer or trans, nor are culturally-constructed gender presentations ever an excuse to belittle your daughter or one of your best friends (or anyone, for that matter).
8. Dorothy's daughter had a miscarriage that no one ever speaks about, which explains her missing grandson.
In the controversial “blackface” episode Mixed Blessings, Dorothy’s 23-year-old son Michael gets engaged to a 44-year-old woman named Lorraine. At the end of the episode, as they’re eloping, Lorraine reveals that she is pregnant, which leads to an argument between the baby's future grandmothers as to whether the child’s name should be “Roger” or “Lamar.” In the later episode, All That Jazz, Michael shows up at Dorothy’s doorstep, informing his mother that his wife kicked him out—but no one mentions little Roger/Lamar. It seems likely, due to Lorraine’s advanced maternal age, that there was an off-screen miscarriage. Otherwise, we’d hope that someone would have asked at least one question about the fate of his tiny tot while trying to score him a saxophone gig at the Hacienda Hut.
9. Rose dated her ex-boyfriend's brother, who also dated Blanche, yet neither one of them noticed.
Much as the math doesn’t add up on Dorothy and Stan’s first child’s age, no one ever mentions that Miles Webber, Rose’s long-term boyfriend beginning in season 5, looks eerily similar to Arnie Peterson, the first guy she slept with after her late husband Charlie’s death, who appears in a single episode in season 1. Of course, we know that they look alike because both Arnie and Miles were played by the same actor, Harold Gould. But there’s another theory as to why Arnie and Miles look so similar.
In the episode "Rose the Prude," Blanche wants to go out with her date Geoffrey, but needs Rose to double with his brother Arnie, who just arrived in town. Rose is reluctant, but ends up having a great time and the two continue dating, while Blanche's date is a dud. When Rose meets “Miles” several seasons later on in the series, the theory goes that he is actually Geoffrey, Blanche's one-time date and Arnie's brother. The reason neither Rose nor Blanche purportedly recognize him is because, well, it's been a few years—and "Miles," as we later learn, was placed into the witness protection program after he gave evidence on his former accounting client, a crime boss known as Mickey "The Cheeseman" Moran. So none of the details Rose learns about him would be familiar.
10. Blanche's deceased husband has some mysterious connection to Sonny Bono.
Entertainer-turned-politician—and ex-husband of Cher—Sonny Bono is a key plot point in two separate The Golden Girls episodes, both of which deal heavily with Blanche’s deceased husband George. First, in "An Illegitimate Concern," Sophia and Dorothy dress up as Sonny and Cher for a talent show, as Blanche finds herself navigating George’s past infidelity in the form of his illegitimate son David.
Later, in "Mrs. George Devereaux," Bono himself appears as a fanatical admirer of Dorothy while Blanche finds herself navigating George having faked his own death. Was George just a huge Sonny Bono fan? Or is there something about the late Mayor of Palm Springs and the love of Blanche’s life that is inseparable? Whatever it may be, it seems Sonny always pops up when George brings the drama—both in reality and in dreams.
11. Friends's Ross and Monica Geller are Sophia's grandkids.
Friends and The Golden Girls have a fair amount in common. The songs “I’ll Be There For You” and “Thank You For Being a Friend” share the thematic element of friendship, and the shows shared the same production designer. John Shaffner designed both Blanche’s tropical bedroom and Monica’s famously purple apartment. In the Friends episode "The One with the Flashback," Monica (Courteney Cox) explains that her massive apartment—which would be considerably unaffordable for a chef—is actually her 87-year-old grandmother’s, since her grandmother moved to Florida. Now, we all know that Sophia is far from the only 80-something New Yorker to move to Florida, and we definitely know that Sophia and Dorothy used to live on Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn. But wouldn’t it be something if Sophia happened to pass a rent-controlled pad to Monica, pre-stroke and pre-Shady Pines?