The “End of the Curse” episode was the premiere of the second season, and it makes it easy to see why the show became so popular so fast. This one still makes me literally laugh out loud every time I watch it. There are so many great lines, and the comedic timing is just hilarious all around. This episode also features everything from casual sportswear to slinky robes and dresses. So let’s make like a mink and, er, jump right in?
Yes, that’s right, the second season premiere of The Golden Girls starts out with a plan to breed minks. Somehow, though, by the end of the show Susan Harris has managed to make even that plot point relate to aging, which is really what this whole episode is about. And that’s just the first instance of the brilliant ways that Harris’ script defies conventions, but more on that in a bit. Because here we are in the elusive garage of 6151 Richmond Street! And there’s a lot going on in there, the least of which is the minks (which I’m sure were actually ferrets, but anyway). There are so many bicycles. Why?? This is one instance where the set design has gone a little off the rails, although it’s still remarkably detailed. I could unpack all the stuff in this garage for days, but this blog is supposed to be about fashion, right? Your guess is as good as mine as to why Rose is cleaning mink cages in that sweater. But she tells a lot of stories about life on the farm in this scene so maybe that’s why. Dorothy’s wearing a rust colored tunic with a white shirt underneath. This style is pretty much her look for this whole episode, but the colors get better as it goes along. Sophia is in this scene, too, wearing a house dress that appears again in season 5 in “The Accurate Conception” episode!
Blanche appears in the door of the garage after hiding out in her bedroom for an indeterminate amount of days in a depression. She grabs a plate of food from the refrigerator as the Girls rush after her into the living room.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that most people who are experiencing a major episode of depression don’t hang around in glamorous nightgowns and robes complete with feathery mules. But this is Blanche we’re talking about, so I suppose this look is pretty par for the course, especially considering her dramatic announcement that she thinks she’s pregnant! This is where the episode really takes off, though. The moment in this scene when she and Rose discuss the color of the pregnancy test is pure comedy gold:
Rose: Blanche, are you sure?
Blanche: I did a home pregnancy test. It’s right here.
Rose: It looks like a perfume sample.
Dorothy: Put it behind your ears, Rose.
Blanche: See, it starts out red, and if it doesn’t change color, they say you’re not pregnant. If you are, it turns pink or grey.
Rose: I had drapes that color. I think it’s called puce.
Blanche: Is that puce? I always wondered.
Rose: So the decorator told me.
Blanche: It looks lavender to me.
Rose: I hated those drapes.
Blanche: Lavender brings out my eyes.
Rose: Your eyes aren’t lavender!
Dorothy: Girls!! Blanche, who’s the father?
Of course Blanche can’t remember who the father could be. What a silly question, Dorothy! It’s back to the minks and the garage for a bit in the next scene when Blanche storms in from the doctor and back to her bedroom.
While I’m not necessarily a fan of the drapey shapes of this outfit, I was struck by Blanche’s use of red accessories as an accent to the white shirt and skirt. She’s matched her purse to her pumps, and there are even red stones on her earrings. Of course we know that red is one of Blanche’s favorite colors since she wears it throughout the series, sometimes to spectacular and memorable effect.
Dorothy asks Blanche what’s wrong as she slams the door, and Rose responds, “She’s in there!” It’s such an obvious Rose thing to say, but the way Betty White delivers the line really makes me laugh. Dorothy then calls her Columbo which is hilarious, too. I hated when my dad would watch that show when I was a kid, but now I can appreciate it. The two then have a conversation about raising the baby because they think Blanche is still pregnant. Here’s the second of the tunic style shirts that Dorothy wears. This one looks to be chambray and has an accent panel on the bodice with the same fabric at the sleeves. It’s very casual, but I think it looks nice on her. Rose wears an open pink shirt over a white cowl neck shirt. The white shirt seems oddly short, almost cropped, and I think the pants are a darker, more mauve shade. I can’t tell what sort of pattern is on the shirt, either, but I’ll hazard a guess and say that it’s probably animals.
Of course it turns out that Blanche isn’t really pregnant but has instead started menopause; however, where most cis women would welcome this life event, to Blanche it is a crisis of epic proportion! “As far as I’m concerned,” she laments, “this is the end of my life!” Cue a visit to the psychiatrist’s office! We get some great outfits in this scene.
Let’s just go around the waiting room from left to right, shall we? Sophia, for some reason, has gotten all kinds of dressed up in an almost hot pink skirt suit! The open jacket gives it a 1960’s flair, and she completes the look with a double strand of pearls. Dorothy keeps things relaxed in a palette of neutrals with a pop of orange underneath her brown shirt. It’s nice to see her in sandals, too. Blanche is wearing one of her signature jumpsuits with tapered legs and a blazer. I feel like this outfit is very mid-1980’s, yet it still looks contemporary. The blue blazer is a nice contrast to the black jumpsuit which also features a lovely floral pattern of some sort. I could never get a very good close-up photo of it, unfortunately. Finally, Rose’s dress is interesting because it’s a shirtdress style that we see on her pretty frequently, but it has a subtle striped pattern in soft pink and blue that reminds me of Shelton Stroller prints. She tops it off with a blazer as well. Oh, and shoutout to the man wearing the saddle shoes!
Ok, so finally Blanche makes it into the psychiatrist’s office, and I did manage to get a close up of her earrings. It’s a style that she tends to favor, like the pink ones from the “A Little Romance” and “Nice and Easy” episodes of the first season. Now, if you don’t mind, I have a few things to say about this scene because I think it’s an important one not just for The Golden Girls but for television in general. First, I do want to recognize that while the previous scene is funny with Blanche freaking out a little before her appointment and Sophia talking to the man in the saddle shoes, some of the language used and portrayals of mental health are ableist and stereotypical. Nevertheless, Blanche’s interaction with the psychiatrist manages to turn that around. Blanche talks about her family and how nobody in her family had ever seen a psychiatrist “except, of course, when they were institutionalized,” which is a very southern thing to say. I like that this is a very frank portrayal of the therapeutic process and discussion of fears about aging and life changes. That an entire scene takes place in a psychiatrist’s office on a sitcom in the 1980’s AND handles a woman’s feelings without trivializing them is huge. And to top it all off the psychiatrist is a cis man who simply explains to Blanche that menopause is a “biological process” that’s “hard for [her] to accept.” I appreciate that Susan Harris gave viewers this nuanced portrayal of a doctor who treats Blanche with respect while letting her work out her feelings and issues herself. Rue McClanahan went on to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for this episode, and the show itself also won for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1987. Showrunners take note: your show will always be better if you hire writers who have the actual lived experiences that you want to portray!
Ok, back at home Blanche is out of her bedroom, and the Girls have a frank and funny conversation about menopause and their different experiences with it. Blanche tells her hilarious story about thinking she was going to get “the curse” when she was a girl which she confused for getting her first period. I love Blanche’s bright and flowery Devarobe in this scene! It’s a perfect complement to her turn around with her self image. Again, Dorothy is wearing a tunic with a similar neckline, only this time it’s gray and the panel is a sort of printed patchwork design.
They also talk about PMS and eat some chocolate cake, like you do. Note that the tablecloth is pink here. And cardigan count for Sophia! Rose’s outfit here actually coordinates with Blanche, too. I really like the yellow and blue color combo on Rose. There are green grapes, too, which don’t really go very well with chocolate cake, but who am I to judge?
Oh, and remember the minks? Well, a dashing veterinarian has made a house call and announces that they can’t breed because they’re too old. Which becomes Blanche’s cue for hitting on him, of course. Then we wrap things up back in the garage one last time when Blanche comes home from her date with the vet!
She’s wearing a stunning satin teal dress, a long beaded necklace, and metallic sandals. And best of all she gives credit to the other Girls for helping her through her depression. And the minks? Well, the Girls decide to keep them because we’ve gotta close that metaphor loop even though the minks are never heard from again. Two of them start going at it right at the end, but Dorothy notices that they’re both male minks. It’s kind of a strange note to end the episode on, but oh well. Maybe they should’ve named one of the them Coco instead.
“End of the Curse” is a real gem of an episode and, even though everything is wrapped up all neat and tidy in true sitcom 30-minute fashion, I appreciate the incredibly skillful and genuine way that Susan Harris tackled the topics of aging and menopause. This episode is just one of many that shows how progressive The Golden Girls was for its time and why it remains so today. And if we learned anything about fashion in this episode it’s that a blazer never fails to pull any look together. It’s certainly more versatile and economical than a mink coat, anyway.