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 Miss Lee says:

    Didn’t know about the SAG award – didn’t watch.  I watched her new show once; that was enough.  I agree the writing is just not very funny.  But Betty, she will be gone soon enough so she should grab anything and everything she can get.   

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Miss Lee…”she will gone soon enough?”

      Tell that to Ernest Borgnine, age 94.

      • avatar Miss Lee says:

        Don’t know your time frame but anything less than 10 years is soon to me.  Perhaps because I am not young and 10 years ago seems like yesterday to me and 10 years from now will be here far sooner than I would like.  Then I will be older and probably more frail than I want to be.  Betty is my hero.  I can only hope to be in as good of shape at her age as she is but realistically, I’ll be dead or have one foot out the door and the other on a banana peal.  Blessedly, I probably won’t be fully tuned in to reality and won’t really mind too much. My hope is that by that time, they will allow old folks good drugs and I can float away sitting in a warm, sunny spot in a  lazyboy recliner.  That, in my opinion, is a fine way to pass on/over/through – whatever your favorite phrase is.

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear Miss Lee…I am 58, and the years fly by with distressing swiftness. 

        I find it difficult to imagime myself at 89.  Then again, when I was 20, I absolutely couldn’t envision a recognizable version of myself at 58.  But, here I am.  So, maybe there I’ll be.  Like you, however, I doubt I’ll be in the fine fettle of Miss White.

  2. avatar Steve C says:

    She has had a wonderful career and is a television legend.  But I agree with you, as I often do.  I feel she is tarnishing her legend with over exposure and a one note image.  It might be what people remember her for: “the dirty old lady,” and that would be said, because her career has been much mure multi-faceted.  Still, I can understand not wanting to take a hiatus.  When you are hot in Hollywood you have to capitilize on it.  She’s been branded now as the old broad with the salty tongue.  Unfortunately, even today, when you become a brand, it’s when you start getting offered roles and making money.

  3. avatar carol grzonka says:

    ‘lake placid’ was a really bad movie, but betty white, as the eccentric old woman, was perfect. and without the tired sex jokes.  why can’t they give her better lines? she’s a true treasure and she could bring this rather tired role up to exceptional.  anyone remember sofia on ‘golden girls’?  energy, intelligence AND an interest in sex!!!

  4. avatar Alicia Burchett says:

     I absolutely love Betty White, and I was sooooo excited when I saw the ads for “Hot in Cleveland”.  I watched a few episodes (boy were they hard to sit through) and then I deleted the show from my recording queue.  What a shame that a show with so much acting talent has so little of the writing variety.

  5. avatar Merlindbear says:

    I completely agree with Mr. Wow in the opinion that Ms. White is sorely underused talentwise – however, there aren’t very many people of her experience that can do what she’s doing.
    IMHO, I think she’s just taking everything that comes her way without regard to quality simply because it means a paycheck.
    Some actors will do that, y’know.
    But honestly, there’s no one I’d rather sit down with over a bottle of vodka (for priming) and listen to the history she lived.
    Seriously, the woman outed Cary Grant on national TV – you don’t get better than that.   

  6. avatar momis81 says:

    Hmm maybe younger generations enjoy her playing such roles. I know I don’t mind. I have no idea who Sue Ann is as I never saw her playing that role to this day. The only role I’ve seen her play is Rose in The Golden Girls.

    • avatar Merlindbear says:

      Seriously? You never watched “Mary Tyler Moore” (1973 – 1977) ?
      Regardless, Betty’s filmography is available at IMDB.com – she’s been working in film and TV since 1945.

      • avatar momis81 says:

        I have never seen “Mary Tyler Moore” and reading this article was the first time I heard of it. I grew up in another country until I was 14 y/o so there are a lot of shows I’ve seen or heard of even though I’m an adult now. The only role I’ve seen her play in a sitcom is Rose in The Golden Girls and the occasional movie role.
        This reminds me of my boss. He is a total movie buff and every time I go see a movie he recommends that I see the original version because he thinks it is better. I didn’t even know there was an “original” version especially if the movies are from the 50s or older. When I tell him I never saw the original he looks at me like I’m from another planet. I was born in the 80s and these movies he suggest are older than my parents. Well, excuse me for never hearing of it so and so movie from 1945!

  7. avatar SMALL TOWN GIRL says:

    love her ……..and I’ll take her in anything she feels fit to appear in period.

  8. avatar Jon Schweizer says:

    Once again, thank you Mr. Wow!  And I say this as a long time fan of Betty White.  Yes, she is immensely talented and hilarious, and by all accounts a lovely person. But best actress in a comedy?  Not this year, she wasn’t.  ”Hot in Cleveland” has some cute moments, but I find that the show comes to a screaming halt whenever she’s forced to deliver some stupidly racy lines that are thought to be funny simply because they were uttered by Betty White.  ”Gasp!  Betty White is being saucy!  Isn’t that a riot?”  I don’t begrudge her continuing to work.  But respect her enough to give her decent material.

  9. avatar Kristine O'Daly says:

    Let us consider that perhaps Betty White’s unflagging devotion to animal rights accounts for how much work she takes on at the age of 89.  Why shouldn’t she work as much as she feels she is able to?  I’d be willing to bet that she donates a significant portion of her income to animal protection, and I think she is extraordinary.  My 13-year-old daughter agrees with me, and three years ago she’d never even heard of Betty White.