The Mario Lopez Episode

When I was writing the post about Blanche’s boudoir I tweeted asking if anyone remembered when Joan Crawford was mentioned on The Golden Girls. It turns out that it’s from this episode, “Dorothy’s Prized Pupil,” from season two! This is also the episode with Mario Lopez and one of the first that attempts to tackle a politically sensitive subject that’s still relevant today. Let’s find out what happens when the Girls stop being polite and start getting real.

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In the first scene Sophia is all dressed up to go to the hotel to see the President Reagan’s wife since he’s in town. Odd, but ok. That’s where the Joan Crawford reference comes in because Sophia and Rose have a hilarious exchange when Sophia can’t remember who he’s married to. I like Sophia’s pink floral dress with the bow at the neck, but the cream shawl and gloves give the outfit a matronly look that Sophia doesn’t usually go for. Rose is casual in a cowl neck shirt under an open blue button down. I really like her pocketbook! It looks like it’s woven of wooden beads. Blanche enters the scene in her signature hot date color of red. Rose calls this dress “risque,” but that’s not saying much coming from her, really. I think it’s gorgeous, and the wrap front is right on trend for today. Remove the shoulder pads, and this dress wouldn’t be out of place in many stores today. The necklace is a little larger than we usually see on Blanche. She accuses Rose of losing the earrings she wants to wear to complete the look, which is the start of this episode’s B storyline.

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Dorothy is tutoring Mario in the kitchen in the next scene when Blanche walks in. Yes, that’s right. Mario Lopez’s character’s name in this episode is Mario. It’s not as if this was one of his first roles on TV, either. He’d been acting since 1984. Although, according to his IMDb page, he often appeared on other shows under his own name so I guess there’s not really a big point to be made about that. Anyway, Dorothy is wearing a beautiful and voluminous blue blouse as she reads Mario’s essay about his first night in America. I feel like his look in this scene and the entire episode is quintessential Mario Lopez and one that would carry him throughout his career in the late 80’s and into the 90’s as A.C. Slater on Saved by the Bell. When he leaves to catch his bus the scene loops back around to the B storyline with Rose stating that she’s decided to be Blanche’s “personal viedenfreuden,” or servant, basically, to make up for losing the earrings.

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The next scene starts with Rose, Sophia, and Blanche sunning themselves out on the lanai. Shorts, y’all! Rose is wearing shorts! And they are short shorts at that. Like, wow. Go, Rose! It’s a cute little outfit, really. The yellow shirt is pretty with the bright blue striped shorts and the espadrille-style shoes. Sophia is wearing a quite festive housedress, and the bit of physical comedy in this scene where Rose and Blanche try to help her up but then forget and drop her back on the lounger is hilarious. Blanche is the fanciest of the trio in a pleated white dress with light blue topper, sandals, and a parasol and fan. Blanche does lounging right! The only thing this scene is missing is cocktails. Seems like a wine spritzer kind of afternoon to me, but the Girls never were into day drinking after all.

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I wanted to include one more photo from this scene to catch Dorothy’s outfit. I’m not sure we ever see her wear seafoam green again, and the vest is some sort of botanical pattern. It all looks a little like a very soothing powder room that I would enjoy doing my nightly skincare routine in. Seriously, though, Dorothy looks lovely here, and the soft colors complement her skin and hair beautifully. She also lets the Girls know that Mario’s essay won the contest and says she wants to throw him a surprise party. Blanche says she’ll do it, but when Dorothy leaves she tells Rose to plan the party since she’s still her viedenfreuden. Smooth move, Blanche!


Next Rose is back from planning Mario’s party. She’s wearing a very Rose dress, in many ways, but the way the green pattern is arranged on the bodice and then becomes the stripes of the skirt is very unique. The three-quarter sleeves are also flattering on her. The living room is already decorated for Mario’s party, and Blanche is lounging with a book in beige. She tricked Rose into buying her favorite ice cream at the store, and then makes another Civil War reference. Dorothy comes in with a newspaper article about Mario winning the contest that also has a photo with her in it, and they all agree that she looks “terrible” and that it’s an “ugly” photo. Now, I guess Bea Arthur had a good sense of humor about that kind of stuff, but it seems needlessly cruel to me. Opposite from that, I think the next part where Mario crashes his own party and then offers to come in again is really heartwarming. The pages from Jim Colucci’s Golden Girls Forever book about this episode feature Mario Lopez describing his experience working on the show. He notes that he’d worked with Bea before and how nice all of the Girls were to him. Even though a lot of people like to poke fun at him, to me Mario’s acting in this episode is actually very genuine, and I think it really shows in his character’s interactions with the Girls.

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Dorothy’s outfit here is really unique and, honestly, right on trend again! Natural fiber fabrics and ethnic patterns were actually quite popular at this time, especially with Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Kenzo. Stay tuned for more on this topic because I’m working on a post all about this influence in Dorothy’s fashion.

Then the dude from INS shows up looking for Mario, which I think even in 1986 was illegal. Ostensibly this happens because Dorothy entered his essay in the contest, but I don’t think schools can tell immigration officials if students are undocumented or not. I could be wrong, though, and certainly I guess a teacher or someone else with bad intentions could’ve reported him or his family on their off time. Still, it’s a hasty plot device for sure.

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Later that night the Girls are in the kitchen, and Dorothy is worried about Mario. I think she’s wearing a yellow robe here? I like the contrasting black buttons on her shirt or nightgown. Blanche is wearing the same robe with kimono style sleeves from the “End of the Curse” episode, and Rose is mending trousers for some unknown reason. There’s some interesting conversation that goes on in this scene about how Mario was here illegally and Dorothy shouldn’t blame herself but trust the justice system. To counteract that Blanche tells a funny story about how she once had testify in court after she witnessed a horse theft on her granddaddy’s plantation. I believe this is Old South story number three from her.  I love Dorothy’s retort about only having “one of those reversible hanging cotillion dresses.” She then gets a call from Mario’s uncle that he’s run away, but she knows she’ll find him at the local movie theater.

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Hey, remember the days of freezing cold movie theaters? I guess that’s why Dorothy decided to wear this very warm looking sweater in this scene even though just before everyone was out on the lanai sunning and fanning themselves. I do really like this scene, though, because it shows how far Dorothy would go for someone she really believed in. Even though she’s a substitute teacher she obviously doesn’t think of herself as just being in kids’ lives for a day or two with no impact, and we see this throughout the series. This scene is also another example of how well Bea and Mario worked together. Dorothy talks to Mario in a refreshingly adult way, just as we would expect, yet she also uses Arnold Swarzenegger’s story as an example for him. She also agrees to see the judge with Mario and advocate for him to be able to stay in the country. In the end, Mario comes back and says he’s being deported. So much for the justice system. Well, Blanche’s date brings her earrings back, and Rose discovers Blanche took advantage of her with the whole viedenfreuden thing. No good deed goes unpunished is definitely the motto for much of The Golden Girls. At the very end of the episode Rose gets Blanche back as only she can after the girls share a hug to comfort Dorothy when she tells her to get Dorothy’s hot chocolate.

This episode is often remembered as “the Mario Lopez” episode, which makes sense because even though it attempts to tackle a tough subject it falls short in a number of ways. First, it’s clear that the writers were still working out how to handle political and controversial topics, and this episode doesn’t fare quite as well as others from later in the series such as the “72 Hours” episode. Second, the ending. I mean, Mario just got deported, but it’s Dorothy that’s had the bad day?? I don’t think the writers intended for that scene to come off that way, but it’s still kind of callous. Overall I think the fashion in this episode was as hackneyed as the plot in some ways. There are some nice, and even interesting looks, but nothing super memorable in the long run.

This episode has also been on my mind a lot lately with the recent admission by the Department of Health and Human Services that it had lost track of 1,475 unaccompanied immigrant children. There also continue to be reports of children being forcibly separated from their parents at the US and Mexico border and being housed in what are essentially cages in facilities where it is unclear if they are being adequately cared for. In researching this episode, which is somewhat of an outlier in season 2, I wondered what might have spurred the writers into tackling this topic. Reagan was still president at the time of this episode, and he was even referenced in the opening scene. In November of 1986 Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act which made immigrants who entered the United States before 1982 eligible for amnesty. This NPR piece from 2010 is a little too glowy about Reagan for my taste but it concisely explains some of the history and, honestly, it does provide at least one instance in which he did something good.

While there is a lot of conflicting information about exactly how the children were lost and who should have the authority to keep track of them or not, the one thing I hope that most people can agree on is that unaccompanied and undocumented children and immigrants are some of the most vulnerable and they deserve our help and respect. No human is illegal. If you are financially able, please consider donating to Kids In Need of Defense or The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Jen Hofmann’s special issue of her weekly Americans of Conscience newsletter also provides resources and guidance for contacting government officials and elected representatives in support of protecting children.

On his first night in America, his uncle took him to a movie. He felt more excited than ever in his life, watching that movie, because of the feeling he got, sitting there with those other people, laughing together, getting scared together. He felt like they were his friends. To him, that feeling was the feeling of living in America. In America, you always felt like you were among friends.

This is also the first time I’ve written about one of the political episodes of The Golden Girls. I’ve tried to handle the topic with sensitivity but apologize in advance if I came up short at all. The Girls didn’t shy away from handling tough topics in their own way, and I don’t want to either. I also think episodes like this one help us to see how fashion and television continue to have an impact on our lives.

One thought on “The Mario Lopez Episode

  1. Pingback: Pride and Prejudice: Nancy Reagan’s Decorator – The Golden Girls Fashion Corner

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