Dear Betty White: Enough Already!

Mr. wOw wonders: has the last surviving  “Golden Girl” become too omnipresent?

Mr. wOw loved Betty White as man-hunter Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (In fact, her first appearance was so memorable, I immediately called friends, still laughing, to say, “Oh, God — did you see that?!”)

I loved her as ditzy Rose Nyland on “The Golden Girls” (a show which I never tire of — except maybe the first, not-so-hot season)

I love her fierce devotion to animals.

However, over the past six or seven years, and especially the last two, Mr. wOw ain’t lovin’ Betty. Yes, she is vital. Yes, she wants to, and can, work. But as Betty has truly moved into her “golden” years, Hollywood has seen fit to cast her increasingly as a much more mature version of Sue Ann: the old lady with the salty tongue and a sexual innuendo at the ready. This was amusing at first. Then less so. In the past two years, Miss White and her persona have become omnipresent. That omnipresence is crystallized by her presence in a rather ordinary sitcom, “Hot In Cleveland.” It stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick. These sitcom veterans — all of whom are in or around their fabulous 50′s — are fine with the material they are given. (Please note, Mr. wOw is not declaring it is superior material.)

And then there is Betty White, who pops in and out as the old lady with the salty tongue, a sexual innuendo at the ready. Not only have we seen it all before from Betty, but we have seen it in a more energetic form. As remarkable as Miss White is at 89, one watches her with baited breath. Her scenes are obviously choreographed very, very carefully. But … the show is popular.

Miss White, the last surviving “Golden Girl,” has been feted and honored endlessly over the past 24 months. This orgy of acclaim peaked (I hope!) with her win the other night at the SAG Awards. There, she won Best Actress in a TV Comedy. Her competition? Jane Lynch of “Glee,” Sofia Vergera of “Modern Family,” Tina Fey of “30Rock” and Edie Falco in “Nurse Jackie.”  Really? Really? Betty White gave a better performance last season than Edie Falco?

I’m all for sentiment, but if the Screen Actor’s Guild felt so strongly about Betty, they might have honored her lifetime achievements, as they did with 94-year-old Ernest Borgnine. (His acceptance was the elegant and emotional high point of the evening.) To her credit, White seemed genuinely shocked by her win, but that didn’t stop her from being true to recent form and fondling the statue before she left the stage.

I am not not NOT suggesting that Betty White retire. Absolutely not. But I am suggesting she give us a rest from her current characterizations. I am talking about her like I would anybody who has been “typed” to the point of boring the masses (yes, I mean you, Jennifer Aniston.)  Maybe Betty doesn’t want to play Hecuba in “The Trojan Woman” — but something with a bit more meat, even if it is amusing meat, wouldn’t hurt. For heaven’s sake, at the very least the “Hot In Cleveland” writers could do more with this talented woman than getting cheap laughs by having her call one of her co-stars a “hooker” in every episode. In fact, I think it demeans Miss White.

Now, I know this will be a most unpopular post. But before I pressed “send,” I discussed my point of view with two close lady friends of mine, neither of whom will ever see eighty again. Both these women are energetic and have ongoing careers. Both said, in effect: “Love Betty White, but enough already!”

They say same thing whenever I mention Lindsay Lohan, too. (Actually, on Lindsay, they just say “Enough already!”)

55 comments so far.

  1. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    Funny you should ask for something different.  She did just that last night on the Hallmark Channel.  She played a woman who went to a train station to wait for her husband every day after World War II because he said he woud come home.  Didn’t get to see it, just the promos.  Since it was Hallmark, it was probably a bit sappy but at least different from Sue Ann/Rose/Elka.  I agree with you, how about a brief hiatus?

  2. avatar rick gould says:

    Mr wOw!!!
    You’re risking heresy, you know! ;)
    But there is some truth to what you say, for sure.
    Hollywood is really going overboard in the Betty beatification… and yet they totally ignore recently discussed icons like Debbie and Doris.
    It’s all about trendiness…and money!
    So speak it, Mr. wOw!
    PS-but don’t start in on Cher, or I will have to track you down ;)
    Rick

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Rick…Cher.  Uhhhh…

      I guess in this cyber world you probably could track me down.

      I love Cher. 

  3. avatar Claudia Marek says:

    Wow Mr. Wow! (Bet you’ve never heard that one before!) You took the words right out of my thoughts.  As a woman of a certain age I admit I’ve found Betty White funny in earlier times but mostly, now, sorry, just undignified.  I wonder if she needs the money (is that possible?) or is losing it (and can’t see the –well, ickiness of it…) or just surrounded by so many yes people that she thinks everyone else thinks it is hilarious and she might as well cash in. 

    Maybe it’s like the Emperor’s New Clothes–no one wants to say it’s not funny because everyone else loves it…

    As I say to our kids when they are around and I kiss my husband good-bye  ”Gross–old people kissing!”   And too me, this is GROSS, old lady talking about nothing but sex!

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Claudia…it could be funny, if Miss White’s material wasn’t so tired and obvious. 

      I don’t find  her gross, just…a little weary-making now.  BUT…I hope when I am 89 people will say, “Oh, God–when the hell will that idiot  Mr. Wow shut up?!”  (Listen, people already say it.)   And at 89, I hope I’m making the bucks Betty is. 

  4. avatar Claudia Marek says:

    I just wanted to add–that to me it is a female version of a dirty old man–and just not that funny to me over and over.

    Claudia

  5. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    On endless talk shows, I always cringed when Betty said that she was 88 and a half, instead of just 88. Yes, I realize that her comeback has been phenomenal but yes…enough already. And all the sexual innuendos are disconcerting as she is clearly using just a small portion of her talent. On”Hallmarks Hall of Fame”, she played a widow of a World War II soldier and her performance was Emmy worthy. This is the Betty White that we seldom see and the change was quite refreshing. Her talented persona has a dramatic quality to it but gets lost in all of the jokes. I’ve only caught bits of “Hot in Cleveland” as it is on TVLand and hardly ever tune in on that station. With four such television veterans on the show, I wonder why it wasn’t picked up by one of the major networks. As Betty gets older, I hope that she rests. Her schedule would tire a 50 year old. If the “Cleveland” show does prevail, her character must emerge and become a bit more multi-dimensional. If anything, we may see less of her as time goes by. It is my hope that she enjoys these golden years without falling into the television industry machine who only wants more, more and more. 

  6. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    At least we have all acknowledged that big old elephant in the room as kindly and with as much love and grace as possible. Didn’t we??

  7. avatar Linda Myers says:

    Possibly in those alone moments at the end of a day, she might even think enough already and then quickly retract the thought knowing the energy it gives her too keep going. At, 89 I would say to just let her have her moments, it will become memories for us soon enough, for her – what an accomplishment at 89+ years old. Though, I do wish she would change to some more serious work while she is at it.

  8. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    Mr. WOW .   .   .  there are some subjects that we are hesitant to talk about — especially after we have discovered that for the first time in our lives we cannot think of the name of our friend approaching us at the cocktail party that we are going to have to introduce — which brings us rapidly to the subject of “aging”.  I don’t care if it is an inevitability, the words still makes me cringe. 

    How often do we hear the words:  “she has aged so well.  How did she do it?”  But whoever we are talking about doesn’t look 50 still.  They don’t look 60 still.  And they embarrass us especially by appearing on “Dancing with the Stars” with a partner 1/4 their age.  (Well, they do me anyhow!)

    I will make the statement that Betty White looks wonderful “for her age”.
    We’d all like to be so sharp.  But frankly, I am tired of seeing her over and over.  I applaud her .  .  . but enough is enough.  She makes me uncomfortable when she is trying to catch footballs with a team and falling in the mud.  IF I had a choice — which obvious is not going to be — I would like to remember her in her heyday.  Period. 

    I am even more amazed at some women authors who are “older” also and are writing best-selling books . . . but I notice that the pictures on the inside back cover of them picture 30 or 40 years ago.  Fine with me for them to do that.

    Another thing I hate:  waiting for an actor, or director to become near death — or looking near death before giving him an award he could have deserved 20 years before.  I call it “the kiss of death”. 

    As Mr. Wow says — enough already!!!!

  9. avatar Paul Smith says:

    Well, I don’t quite get your meaning: she is representing extreme age very well.  We were amused, but not very.  What’s wrong with retirement?  Most professions insist upon it.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Paul…nothing wrong with retirement, if you want it. At 58, Mr. Wow longs for it.  At 89, Miss White does not. 

      I’d rather have Miss White’s motivation.  And I’d rather Miss White had better writers.

  10. avatar Maggie W says:

    Back in the day at the university, I sometimes went home with a pal for a long weekend. Her family lived on the ocean, and we made many marvelous memories there with her family.  Those family gatherings often included her grandmother who was in good health and very sharp mentally. She also put a damper on the party with her behavior. She tried too hard to be “one of the girls”. When we walked in, luggage in hand, she would say loudly, “Here’s the university dolls! Who are you girls doing now? ” Then she would laugh, act shocked at her “slip of the tongue“, and say apologetically, ‘’Oh sh*t! I mean HOW are you girls doing now?” At the time, it annoyed me as well as my friend, but we would just smile. More than anything, I just felt very sorry for her and found her to be sad.
    That same feeling from long ago returns  when I see Betty White.

  11. avatar Obediah Fults says:

    I’m reminded of — and feel compelled to mention — Mae West (at nearly 80) in Myra Breckenridge.  Not funny, not sexy, not particularly clever, just … icky.  Eeeww!  I’m just sayin’ I’m reminded.  Well said, Mr. wOw.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Obediah (whoa, what a name!)  The Mae West thing was strange.  Because Mae herself totally bought into her own image.  She thought she was the world’s sexiest woman, and never allowed the reality of her short (and then stalled) movie career to get in the way.  She was the happiest of all the stars, I think, because she was delusional right from the get-go.

      Betty has found this niche, and God bless, but…I’d like to see a change.

  12. avatar Lizzie R. says:

    Being 82 myself, I do admire Betty White for still working and looking quite good for her age, perhaps with some help though.  I also admire somebody on the cusp of 90 who still has it all together.However, overexposure with her is about like rolling out your dear old aunt for all to see how “cute” she still is. Sexual comments are usually reserved for the “dirty old men,” then she comes forth with some comments that make you just say ‘OMG – why did she say that?” She’s becoming everybody’s adorable toy poodle. However, I hope I can be as active as she is  when I reach that age.

  13. avatar Rho says:

    I only have a few words.  I like her — always did, think she is doing great.  YOU GO BETTY!!!

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Rho…I agree…you go Betty!  Just go in a different direction. Just a bit.  I hope she’s working at 99.

  14. avatar Andy C says:

    Oh Mr. Wow — I love your honesty and courage.  I always liked Betty White, but lately………..it’s really too much.  It’s wonderful that she’s employed and still employable, but yes, give it a break.  As for her win over Edie Falco or Tina Fey—puleeze.

    Agree as well about your take on Jennifer Aniston.  She’s barely walking through her roles these days.  Low cut, short tight dress, flip the hair, simper and that’s it.

    Keep it up Mr. Wow; dare to say the emperor has no clothes.

    Thank you,

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Andy…ah, Miss Aniston.  Really find her appealing.  But, time to cut her hair, get out of the sun and re-think her career.  She is not without talent.

  15. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Enough. Off with your head!  So what bothers everybody? That an 89 year old woman thinks about *gasp* sex?  She is Sue Ann Nivens. At 89. And what’s wrong with it?  Sue Ann Nivens is part of her persona.   

    So who is Sue Ann Nivens today? She’s just an average 89 year old woman who decided tending to gardens and baking cookies for the grandchildren is not the way she wanted to spend her golden years. She jokes about it and enjoys the jokes, as do other 89 year old women, because there aren’t too many 89 year old men around.  It bothers people to think about but 89 year old men and women do have sex you know.  Get over it. 

    Mae West was Mae West. There was no persona. As for horrid lines by a golden girl, the one about “Ohhhhhhh, let’s forget about the six feet and talk about the seven inches” in Myra Breckenridge was one of film’s truly unbelievable moments. That left everyone roaring.  And almost saved the film.

    But Betty White has another persona that’s more her than persona and that came through last night on the Hallmark Hall of Fame. Here’s to an Emmy.  And a ribald joke when she accepts it.  She never mentions him anymore but I suspect Allen Ludden would love it all. Especially the ribald jokes. 

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Hmmmm…let’s see if I can talk with my head rolling out the door.

      Honey, she could be 100 and talking about sex and I’d laugh, if what she was given to say was  funny.  It’s not, mostly.  Not to mention the fact I’d cheer to the idea being 100 and doing it. More power to that, too.  I’m all for still having sex on the brain even after the first blush, the full bloom and the petals dropping.

      If Miss White’s purely crapola performance hadn’t won a SAG award, I might have held my tongue.  And kept my head.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Well she did win it. For whatever reason. Why criticize her for winning an award? She probably wonders why as well. But still enjoyed the award. 

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear Baby..exactly.  What the hell does the criticism of some jerk named Mr. Wow mean to Miss White?  I hope she had a hell of a time that night.  I’m expressing my opinion as we all do here. 

        And when Natalie Portman wins the Oscar for “Black Swan” I’ll criticize that–two hours of one excruciating facial expression! 

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        She was hired to play a part. Not write the lines. Reality. Beyond the lines, and the part, well, again, she’s Sue Ann Nivens at 89. 
        She was given an award. You don’t believe she deserved it. So criticize the people who voted for her. Not her. 

        What was she supposed to do? Refuse it? 

  16. avatar annee says:

    I thought SNL was enuff.

  17. avatar annee says:

    One if the most gracious things a woman can do if to know when it’s
    enough !
     

  18. avatar Bonnie O says:

    Mr. Wow -

    I do agree with you and I betcha Betty White does too!

    For the last couple of weeks, she made another round on the talk shows to plug the Hallmark movie that aired on the weekend.  Did not watch it …. but did watch part of her interview with the Fox Morning crew …. she kept bringing the conversation back to the reason for her visit (the plug) … I gathered she was getting weary of all the accolades for past successes and her ability to live pass eighty.

    We’ve been watching on DVD the old Ellery Queen mysteries with Jim Hutton.  Darn if Betty White did not appear in one of them!  She is everywhere!

  19. avatar ljetoo says:

    Mr. Wow–Just a little reminder: Betty won the SAG Lifetime Achievement award last year (the one Ernest Borgnine won this year). Both are good selections. And for another side of Betty, check out her 4 or 5 part interview at EmmyTVLegends.org. Warm, gracious, professional. In other words, she wasn’t performing. Or just catch her whenever she shows up on Craig Ferguson’s show. He loves her. He lets her be just naughtly enough. Personally, I will never get tired of Betty. But then again, I don’t get TVLand or I might end up disliking Betty and Valerie Bertinelli both, which would be a loss…           

  20. avatar rick gould says:

    It’s hard for even a great performer to come across well if the material isn’t at least good, especially in comedy, where any shortcomings are even more obvious if the laughs aren’t apparent.
    You’ve got 4 terrific comic actors on “Hot in Cleveland” and the show never gets past “We’ve got four beloved familiar faces…tune in!”
    Just as Ms. Aniston basically makes the same movie over and over again, with diminishing results.
    Good, much less original, material seems might hard to come by in TinselTown these days.
    You told it like it is, Mr. wOw.
    That’s why I enjoy reading you,
    Rick

  21. avatar Chandara Sun says:

    test test – is this mike on?? :::tapping:::  Oh, hooray, I’m in transmission mode – lemme explain.  Since getting my iPad several months ago, 99.2% of my web browsing has been with the pad – but WoW is not iPad friendly as it will not bring up a cursor in the reply box, so I have sat, oppressed, without being able to contribute.  OK, I had enough coffee this morning, so I walked into the actual computer room and logged in on my Macintosh instead :::waving at you all::::
    Betty White had all but disappeared from mainstream anything until a couple of years ago, when Craig Ferguson had her appear a couple of times on his show, doing mock interviews with her, much to the delight of the whole studio audience.  I was immensely proud of him for thinking of bringing on a talent such as Betty when it appeared she had been forgotten along the way.  This led to everything else that we’ve seen of her, and while I do understand Mr. wOw’s misgivings that she is playing the same role over and over again and maybe even being a bit of an embarrassment for those who feel she has been overexposed, I still say, “Go, girl!”  It’s hard for actors, especially women actors, to continue to work in their later years, and she is still talented & sharp enough to pull things off.  More power to her.
    & for the reader who is enjoying Ellery Queen on DVD – hooray!  I was so excited when that show was finally released on DVD – it was done by the producers of Murder, She Wrote – a show ahead of its time in a lot of respects – a full murder mystery with all the clues there for you to find, and the interaction between the late and great Jim Hutton & David Wayne was incredible.
    OK, that’s enough of my blathering at the moment – I was silent for so long that I got carried away ;-)  Cheerios and good morning, everyone!

  22. avatar Kathy says:

    Agree 100 percent.  But I take it beyond that.  I wish celebrities WOULD retire when they are no longer able to manage the basics of the profession.  There is nothing more cringe-worthy than to watch a very old “star” on these award shows.  I remember Elizabeth Taylor, looking lost and feeble, starting to open the envelope before the nominees were announced.  The crowd yelled, “No!” and she whined, ” Whaaaaa?”  Now, everytime my husband or I am about to do something we shouldn’t, we give a helpless, baffled look and cry, “whaaa?”  And that’s no way to remember a star. 

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Kathy…ahhhhhhh…the infamous Golden Globes appearance.  And only days before, she’d chatted lucidly on Larry King.  That was 11 years ago.  Matters have not improved.  Miss Taylor has been ravaged by illnesses.  Now, she can’t even walk.  I doubt we’ll see her on any awards shows ever again.

       Miss White is healthy and mobile, ten years older than La Liz!  In my very humble opinion, Betty simply needs to step back and look at her material.  That’s all.  No need for her to retire.  And let’s all remember, if we are lucky (or not, depending on one’s outlook and circumstances) we too get old.  It’s not for sissies.

  23. avatar HauntedLady says:

    I’ve always liked Betty White and I’m glad to see her still doing what she likes at any age. Though I haven’t seen her current TV show, I have to agree that she needs better writers or something. The dirty old lady, like the dirty old man, has very limited appeal. It’s a damned shame that roles for older people tend to fall back on these and other stereotypes. And, as Baby Snooks pointed out, old people can and do think about sex and partake when they can. Let’s face it – they’re old, not dead.
     
     

  24. avatar Harriet Shoebridge says:

    If a person enters this world with a uterus … well … after a certain age, that person is expected to become a non-sexual being and behave accordingly.  Without a uterus and enough money, well, a person can trade in the missus for a younger model, the younger model perhaps up to and beyond 35-years one’s junion and who’s counting and who’s caring, enough money being what it is.  Stating the obvious.  But.  Something else at play.  Uterus or not, a one trick pony is a one trick pony.  And, with time, that one trick wears thin.  And then the gender-societal limitations kick in.  Or not.  Thinking of a certain rock star who can go to his death bed singing “I can’t get no satisfaction” and still get the nod on the much younger female companion.  As Ms.White plays the “sex” card and is slammed.  Hardly fair.  But.  And there it is.  You want fairness … you’re living on the wrong planet.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Harriet….let me emphasize again.  I don’t object to “old people” talking about or having sex.  I am past my own middle age, and I don’t expect to live to be 100.  Or even Miss White’s 89.  I’m no kid who shudders at a wrinkle or who thinks anybody over 30 is old.  I thought “The Golden Girls” was revolutionary in its handling of three middle-aged and one elderly woman, talking about and having sex.  Forget that wax figure from “Dynasty,” Joan Collins–Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia were the real sex symbols of 1980′s TV.

      I just don’t think what Betty White is doing is funny.  Not because it’s about sex, but because it’s badly written and now rather badly performed–perhaps even Miss White is growing tired of this character. 

      As I said, bringing out the old lady (or old man) to crack a few coarse sex jokes or say dirty words–I think it is demeaning.  I think it is what younger people assume is “cute” because they actually don’t understand that older people really do have sex, or at least still think about it.  These poorly written vaudeville routines make a mockery of late life sex.  IMO as the kids say.

      • avatar Jon Schweizer says:

        Exactly.  Betty White can deliver a racy line like a pro if it’s funny. She’s proven that on both MTM and the GG’s.  But having an 89-year-old woman talking like a horny twenty-year-old (complete with current slang terms) demonstrates little to no imagination on the part of her writers.

  25. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    A message from B:—”The sidewalks are pure ice.  Be careful. By the way, Betty White called.  She says she knows where you live and is coming to kick your ass.”

    Mr. Wow welcomes such a beating.  And then we’ll discuss her writing team.