Could Betty White’s Success Help Older Women Onscreen?

by Melissa Silverstein on May 10, 2010

in Ageism,Comedy,TV

Everyone who watched Saturday Night Live this past weekend knew that something special was happening from the moment Betty White took the stage.  She made fun of the Facebook group that pushed for her to host SNL, appeared in every sketch and was so fuckin funny that I actually laughed out loud — something that I haven’t done in a long time watching that show.

The show was ranchier than usual.  Maybe it was because so many of the great female talents were back (honestly SNL get your shit together and hire some funny women. One of the saddest parts of the episode was how inexperienced the current female talent is on the show now — not counting Kristen Wiig.)

Maybe the cast and writers felt freer because they had an older woman on the set, but the sketches were timely and funny and addressed issues that the show usually skirts like female sexuality. It’s funny because movies make fun of women who have sex when they hit 40 and here was a woman double that age way raunchier than anything we ever see on the big screen.

Seriously, how funny was the muffin sketch?  Or the Gingey sketch?  Or the digital short?  I even laughed at the Magruber sketches (the producers of that film should kiss Betty’s ass cause I bet more people will see it now.  Maybe they can edit her in?)

But most of all, for me, what I loved best was the fact that an 88-year-old woman is having a career renaissance (she is also in an upcoming sitcom) and was able to score the highest ratings for the show in 18 months.  Hopefully her success will open up people’s minds for older women onscreen in the future.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Emma May 10, 2010 at 10:54 AM

I don’t know if it will… but it is great/amazing/wonderful/… (take your pick! there are way too many words to describe it!) to get more Betty White. She is simply fantastic.

So hopefully it will help older women to get more calls; and hey! maybe also every woman to get better characters.

E. May 10, 2010 at 4:49 PM

I believe Betty White’s great job on SNL helping other older women onscreen is a non-issue. There is only one Betty White. She is an institution, a national treasure, an icon. Only she could pull this off and she did in spades. Maybe when other “older women onscreen” have reached Betty’s level of onscreen perfection, then we’ll talk.

*carrie* May 10, 2010 at 6:30 PM

I agree this was one of the funniest SNL episodes I’ve seen in probably 2-3 years. And it was filled with women. Betty White was amazing. The other women were awesome as well.

Katie May 12, 2010 at 11:18 PM

SNL has had decades of great women on their show. In fact IMO the women dominated for a few years. They are un a lull now but it was great to see Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler make appearences for this episode.

I happen to agree with E.. Betty is an instituion. I didn’t find the episode particularly well written, but Betty White elevated EVERY THING and EVERY MOMENT she was on the screen. She’s one of a kind so her being a catalyst to other senior actresses, well unless they are the caliber, have the charisma, charm, and talent of an 88 year old Betty White, I don’t see it. But it does show that the career renaissance for older female entertainers continues. Meryl Streep experiencing her best Box Office success over the past 5-6 years in her 50’s and Sandy Bullock’s career renaissance in her middle 40’s, the wonder of a mid 40’s Juliana Marguiles this year. It’s great to see older women get their due and recognition and it’s nice to know talent seems to surpass image and youth for a change.

CParis May 13, 2010 at 5:24 PM

What I saw when I watched Betty White on SNL was a true professional. She’s been at this work for decades – she’d done live TV back in the ’50s and was a standout on many shows throughout the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.
Another poster mentioned several actresses in their 40s+ heading films and TV shows – note that these ladies have talent – they’re not just getting by on hot looks that fade over time (or get reanimated via horrid surgery).

carol hollenbeck May 14, 2010 at 9:29 PM

i haven t watche saturday nite live in years, but i watched that
nite, the nite of betty whites appearance,
it was great fun, carol hollenbeck

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