Melissa Carter: ‘Golden Girl’ Bea Arthur lives on in our hearts—and pop culture

There’s a new Bea Arthur video game.

Yes, fans of “Maude” and “The Golden Girls” can now enjoy Bea Arthur once again, in the form of a video game character. Called “Busy Bea,” the game stems from an art project by Mike Denison, called Bea A Day, that puts the icon in with other pop culture references. Denison describes the new game as “FakeBit,” which “crudely emulates old school 8 bit video games.”

Because it’s free in the iTunes store I’ve tried it out, and must admit it is quite odd. That’s because your avatar is Arthur’s HEAD in the very “Flappy Bird”-style play. It’s also hard, since I’ve only been able to achieve a piddly two points so far.

It’s not the only thing honoring Bea Arthur that’s taking place. A bookstore in North Carolina just held a “Spelling Bea” in honor of the late performer. Scores of “Golden Girls” live performances are held at any given time around the world. And you remember last year’s art auction in New York where a topless painting of Arthur sold for $1.9 million.

As we near the fifth anniversary of the actor’s death, why do we still honor her? Is it because of the strong, sometimes brass female characters she played, like Maude Findlay and Dorothy Zbornak? Maybe her stellar (see what I did there) performance as the bartender, Ackmena, in the hard-to-find “Star Wars Christmas Special?” Or is it because she was a true supporter of our community, leaving in her will a donation to New York’s Ali Forney Center, an organization supporting homeless LGBT youth?

For me it is all of the above, plus the part of her life she didn’t let the public see. Did you know she was a real-life Marine?

Now that I have the lesbians’ attention, Arthur entered the military as a private in 1943 and left as a staff sergeant in 1945. This is not by her own admission, since she denied ever serving during interviews. But several years ago the Smoking Gun website obtained records proving her military history, since she was fingerprinted during enlistment. She was assigned at Marine headquarters in Washington, D.C. and at Marine Corps and Navy air stations in Virginia and North Carolina. Badass.

Those records, released in response to the website’s Freedom of Information Act request, include a misconduct report filed while she was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C. Hilariously, it stemmed from Arthur’s contracting of a venereal disease, which left her “incapacitated for duty” for five weeks in late-1944. Semper Fi, Ms. Arthur.

But being a ballsy lady, someone willing to take on non-traditional roles, or even serving our country is not enough for Bea Arthur’s iconic status.

The added ingredient that makes her beloved: despite her harsh truths, she’s going to love you afterwards. My favorite images of Arthur include her longtime bestie Angela Lansbury, who she met on Broadway. From snapshots of the dark-haired divas from the ’60s to the final photos of the gray starlets just a few years ago, the images seem to reflect Arthur’s dedication to someone she loved.

Unlike the forced friendships of stars like Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez or Will Smith and Tom Cruise, every depiction of Arthur and Lansbury showed a connection that didn’t depend on a photographer to exist. We all want someone like Arthur to steer us effectively through our lives, albeit uncomfortably, but who will always have our back along the way.

Uncompromising, enterprising, anything but tranquilizing. No wonder we have a hard time letting her go.