Suffering from Betty White fatigue

I know this will probably offend a few people, but can I say just how tired I am of Betty White?

Don’t get me wrong: she’s a good actress and a funny comedienne – I loved her on Mary Tyler Moore and The Golden Girls, but lately, everywhere I turn – there she is! I’m glad that she’s still successful at her age (in an industry that believes women over 40 are ancient), but she’s severely overexposed – I mean Paris Hilton, Kardashian…

Also, a big part of the love fest for White is pretty condescending – we enjoy seeing old people “be funny.” And nothing’s funnier than seeing an old lady – especially as sweet-looking as White – curse, talk about sex or use salty language.

Also, I wish that White would parlay some of this renewed fame into doing some more challenging work. Instead, she’s starring in a mediocre TV Land sitcom, Hot in Cleveland and something called Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, which is a Candid Camera-like show with senior citizens pulling pranks.

With her clout, White could’ve done some more interesting work. Case in point: Lauren Bacall, who’s never had a quarter of White’s public fame and adoration, turned to Lars von Trier for work in her old age, and showed up in indie dramas. Eternal Hollywood ingenue Debbie Reynolds also gave a spirited and schtick-free performance in her later career as the title character in Albert Brook’s Mother; and White’s arguable a stronger actress than Reynolds or Bacall.

I’m not the only one who is suffering from Betty White fatigue. While our numbers are wee, there are a few folks who roll their eyes and let out an exasperated sigh, whenever we see White’s smiling, genial presence on our television screens, inevitably saying something saucy. Like in a new commercial for Tide, where she impishly asks a shopgirl for a pair of jeggings (oh, how cute! Betty White knows what jeggings are! What next Juicy Courture? Spanx?)

I found an older post on a blog – Womanist Musings – called “Enough of the Betty White Craze.” In it, the author perfectly sums up just how I feel about the smug Betty White love that’s still taking place:

As with anything, when you become saturated with it, the nerves begin to fray I know that it is
very rare that  a woman as old as Betty is in the public eye, much less becomes
a media darling, but can we please, please, please, talk about something other
than Betty White for five minutes?  This fixation is starting to make Lindsay
Lohan’s legal issues look interesting.  I know I am going to get much hateraid
for this, but I am officially on Betty overload and when it reaches the point of
gimmicky products, North America we have gone to far.  Next thing you no, there
will be some late night infomercial promising us that if we just buy their crap,
we can magically channel Betty White.  Didn’t your mama ever tell ya that too
much of a good thing, is bad for you?

And the woman-centered website www.wowowow.com, has an online letter penned by a contributor, Mr. Wow, who shares many of the same sentiments I do – especially, the part about White allowing herself to become a bit of a punchline:
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.

I mean aside from White’s late schtick being a bit tired, she’s also doing this kind of minstrel act of the naughty old lady. White’s still in amazing shape, and is obviously still able to do some of her greatest work. As a funny lady, she could do some much more – something with heft and wit – Woody Allen should give her a call – given how White seems to be automatically nominated for everything she’s doing lately (her Emmy win for her excellent Saturday Night Live hosting was earned; her bags and bags of hardware and nominations for her so-so work in Hot in Cleveland or Off Their Rockers is not), a strong supporting role in an Allen comedy could get White an Oscar nod (at his best the Woodman is a sure-thing for an Oscar nomination – I mean, he was able to get Jennifer Tilly one).

I know this sounds mean-spirited, and I’m sure I’ll get some “she’s a treasure” responses; I’m not a churl. I think White’s great – I just think she should shift her focus of being a media darling and TV phenom and become what she truly is: a great artist.

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Filed under Celeb, Comedy, Sitcom, Television

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