The first reported case of HIV/AIDS in the United States was in June of 1981. After the first discovery of HIV/AIDS a panic had set into society due to misconceptions and lack of knowledge. There were beliefs among society and medical communities that the disease was spread only through the sexual intercourse between gay men, as this was the only demographic that the disease had been found in. As HIV/AIDS continued to spread the medical field did begin to see the disease was not limited to a single demographic and could be spread through ways other than sex. However, the misconceptions and lack of knowledge still plagued society even after more knowledge was found on the disease and the discussion of the topic of HIV/AIDS was consider taboo. Which makes the episode “72 Hours” of The Golden Girls quite the controversial episode as the main premise of the episode was about HIV/AIDS. The proposed paper will be looking at how The Golden Girls discussed the topic of HIV/AIDS during the height of the AIDS epidemic.
On February 12, 1991, less than a decade after the first reported case of HIV/AIDS The Golden Girls a popular situational comedy, aired an episode that was focused on how one of the main characters, Rose Nyland, might have contracted HIV/AIDS through a blood transfusion and needed to be tested. The Golden Girls was known for not only its humorous plotline but also for its discussion of a wide array of controversial topics. The topic needs to be researched because during the lack of information that society had during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, one of the most popular sitcoms on television at the time discussing and educating this topic could have had a major impact on people’s knowledge of the topic.
The proposed paper will make use of secondary source books such as Richard Andrew McKay’s 2017, Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic and Elliott Currie and Jerome H. Skolnick’s 1997, America’s Problems: Social Issues and Public Policy to gain insight as to how the HIV/AIDS epidemic was seen and handled by the medical fields, politics and society. As well as books like Patricia Mellencamp’s 1992, High Anxiety: Catastrophe, Scandal, Age & Comedy and Lynne Joyrich’s 1996, Re-Viewing Reception: Television, Gender, and Postmodern Culture to look at how more controversial topics were portrayed in television and how they were received. The biggest primary source that the proposed paper will be using is the episode “72 Hours” of The Golden Girls. Other primary sources that the proposed paper will make use of will be interviews with the cast and writers of the show, as well as newspaper and magazine articles published on the show.
Although today where some social groups have become more comfortable discussing topics of gender and sexuality, in 1991 the discussion of these topics were not ones expected to be aired on television. The Golden Girls made great strides in discussing and educating on such topics and had a great impact on popular culture.