Thursday, September 16, 2010

Betty Band Wagon

Don’t blame Betty White for her over-exposure.  Girl’s gotta do.   old-betty-white-photo-from-when-she-was-a-young-girl-black-and-white

But let’s not act like she materialized like Clara Peller.  Betty White’s been around for years.  Like the vuvuzela.  It’s fine if you just discovered her, but you didn’t invent her.

I suppose each of us has a preferred stage of Betty, and it might be when we met her. For our parents, this is the cocktail chiffon Gameshow Betty, when your evening wit was sponsored by cigarettes and ladies crossed their legs at the ankles. But no one today invites Betty to be on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, where she would most certainly kill.

For me, Betty became visible in her Sue Ann Nivens phase.  She reminded me of our steel magnolia church ladies (many of whom also happened to be our 12th grade Research Methods teachers).  Those dimples are deep enough to hide venom.  See also her turn as Ellen Harper, the older sister who made it out of the house of Mama’s Family.  Only she doesn’t get the kind of feisty matron roles Jane Wyman and Barbara Stanwyk did when they were no longer ingénues.

In the 1980s, when she was only 63, she started down that slippery slope: Ditsy Cotton Top.  I’ll have to save my comparison of The Golden Girls and Livin’ Single for another day.  What I was getting to when I started this essay was that I don’t dislike Betty White.  I dislike this current incarnation of Betty White, where she has combined Dimpled Bitch with Ditsy Cotton Top and her “I was on TV when you could smoke” cache into Dirty Talking Horny Grandma…and I think we can do better than this.


“Betty likes her hot dogs naked!”  We get it.  You said naked.  And it’s like a penis.  And she’s old.  Somebody make a webpage and a t-shirt.  like-like-like.

Is that all we have to say for a woman after a 70 year career, SEVEN Emmy awards, including one for producing – in 1955 – a lifetime dedication to philanthropy, and what about this – she’s a Kentucky Colonel.  I didn’t know what it was either; that’s why I linked it for you.  And you ought to take a look at her resume.  She has never not been working.


When I approach the youth in their hoodies (and entice them to remove their earphones, it appears) and ask them who Betty White is, I don’t want them to say, “that dirty talking little old lady from the SNL census sketch.”  Because that sketch is funny, but you don’t get there by walking off a Snickers commercial set.  If you think about Tina Fey in 50 years reduced to a set-and-comb, a snowflake sweater, and a vibrator joke, well…. it hurts, doesn’t it?

So I say, celebrate your full Betty, like they did in 1977 – before hoodies were appropriate evening wear.

1 comment:

  1. Good point, Ms. Bender. Years ago Betty's slightly trashy mouth was funny because she was respected for her huge body of work - it wasn't the main thing. We should hold her up as what a successful 80 year old woman can do in a very tough league.


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