10 Female Characters From 80s Sitcoms That Influenced The Gay Man I Am Today


March is Women’s History month – a time specifically set aside to celebrate the superior sex. I think it should be every month, but nobody asked me, so I digress. But ever since childhood, I’ve thought women were funnier, smarter, stronger, and just plain better than men. I always preferred playing with girls versus boys, because girls would watch Sister Act and play dress-up, while boys wanted to make armpit noises in the woods and generally be disgusting. Thus, I have always considered myself a ladies’ man – just not in the way my parents had hoped. And, as an obviously gay child in a small, conservative town, I didn’t have any gay role models at the time. So, I turned to the fabulous women of 80s sitcoms to help hone me into the homosexual I am today. Without further ado, let’s meet the queens –

Julia Sugarbaker, Designing Women

Julia was a sophisticated, whip-smart, and genteel woman, but boy could she verbally annihilate anyone that tried to cross her. Her speeches admonishing bigots, sexist men, or small-minded idiots were a lesson in the gay art of reading. I wrote an article in my high school newspaper about how I was going to be the school’s Julia Sugarbaker, and only one sensitive boy who liked art knew what the hell I was talking about.

Nell Harper, Gimme a Break

Nell was the mother of a house, and one who considered children that weren’t biologically hers, to be her own. She was funny and fabulous, with a big heart and the voice of an angel. She was also “plus-size” before conversations about body positivity, but she never let her that dictate her self-worth. Like Mika sings, “Big Girl, you are beautiful!”

Angela Bower, Who’s the Boss

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Angela was a highly intelligent, ambitious advertising executive, with big shoulder pads and bigger hair, that only depended on a man to do her laundry. She hired a hunky former baseball player to be her live-in housekeeper – who eventually turned into a romantic interest. I don’t know much about sports, but that sure sounds like a home-run to me!

Blanche Devereaux, The Golden Girls

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Anything that I ever learned about flirting or sexuality, I learned from Blanche Devereaux. She showed me that a lot of a person’s sex appeal comes from how they feel about themselves, not the other way around. She also taught me about AIDS awareness. When Rose gets a HIV test, she says it should be Blanche going through the anguish of waiting for test results because of her “active” lifestyle. Blanche admonishes her with, “AIDS is not a bad person’s disease, Rose! It is not God punishing people for their sins!” That has always stayed with me.

Jo Polniaczek, The Facts of Life

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Jo was an unapologetically blunt bad-ass. She was a tomboy that didn’t have to change who she was, or what she was about, to attract cute guys. She couldn’t stomach pretentiousness (sorry, Blair), and had no problem calling it out. Plus, her leather jacket/biker look screamed “Village People”.

Sandra Clark, 227

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Sandra was the neighborhood vamp, a Mae West-like temptress who always had a fabulous new outfit and a hot new boyfriend. She wiggled around in tight dresses and talked up her seductiveness, and actress Jackée Harry played her to Emmy-winning perfection. She gave off definite drag queen vibes and oooh, Mary – she was divine!

Peggy Bundy, Married with Children

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Peggy was trashy, self-indulgent, and preferred buying new clothes instead of washing the ones she had. But who doesn’t? Despite her self-absorbed nature and money-grubbing ways, she loved her family – but she put herself, and her needs, first. And isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Madame, Madame’s Place

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Madame was a glamour-puss Gloria Swanson-esque movie star (puppet), bedecked in diamonds, who spoke in constant double entendres. And she had a sassy sidekick, Wayland Flowers, who was always willing to lend her a hand. Literally. They were basically Jack and Karen mixed with Shari Lewis and Lambchop, and it taught me the importance of befriending funny women that you can banter with.

Punky Brewster, Punky Brewster

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Punky was a spirited, street-smart young lady that marched to the beat of her own drummer. She was deserted by her birth parents, but created her own family consisting of friends, an old man, and a golden retriever. She never allowed anyone to dull her sunshine (despite any adversity she faced) or tell her how to act or what to be. And if anyone could pull off mismatched high tops and a patchwork denim vest, it was this trend-setting gal.

Diane Chambers, Cheers

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Diane was an intellectual, somewhat aloof, ice queen. When we met her, she was a jilted barmaid, but she didn’t let her circumstances, or a man, get in the way of her dreams. By her last appearance on the show, she was a successful television writer for a cable show, which proved that your dreams are possible – if you just keep at it.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart and the top of my bottom, ladies! I’d still be in that one-horse town without your guidance – and I hate horses! Happy Women’s History Month to you, and to all women everywhere! You continue to be an inspiration; thank you for being a friend!