"A lot of people really find Betty White inspiring — I mean, she's been working as an actor in an industry for more than six decades in a business that doesn't exactly value getting older. There's a lot to admire. Me, I find Betty White annoying. I'm sorry, it's true. Betty, you make me feel bad about myself, you make me feel like a slacker."The grand dame of American TV comedy, Betty Marion White is currently 95 years young and has been at work in the entertainment industry since 1939, when she began her career on the radio. She then got in on the ground floor of the newfangled medium of television, with her first IMDb credit for TV dating to 1949. By 1953, she had her first starring role (the sitcom Life With Elizabeth). First nominated for an Emmy in 1951, she was nominated a further 20 times and so far has won seven times.White is notable for the number of times she has rebuilt her career based on playing against her previous image:
- In her initial phase, lasting from the 1950s until the early 1970s, she became known to the public through her various sitcoms and her appearances on Password (hosted by her third husband, Allen Ludden), Match Game and other game shows. This Betty was a sweet and charming woman, the classic sitcom mother. (One exception to this was her small role as a United States Senator in Advise & Consent.)
- Then she landed the role of Sue Ann Nivens in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a parody of this sort of character to the point that the creators originally wanted to cast a "Betty White type" in the part. Sue Ann pretended to be that sort of nice person on her TV program, but offscreen she was greedy, bitchy, and man-hungry. This set the tenor of her appearances for the next decade or so...
- ...until she was cast on The Golden Girls, which became probably her most iconic role. She was originally suggested for the role of Blanche, a character more in line with Sue Ann and the character she played on Mama's Family, but she ended up as Rose Nylund, The Ditz of the group. White reprised her role for the one-season spinoff The Golden Palace after The Golden Girls ended in 1992.
- White's career since the end of The Golden Palace in 1993 has been playing against her image as Rose. Thus, when she shows up today, expect her to be a Racist Grandma or some other subversion of Rose's affable ditziness.
Tropes associated with Betty White:
- Adam Westing: On her guest appearance on Ugly Betty
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: When she hosted on SNL (which, really, is a trademark gag on SNL nowadays), she mentioned that her first TV show was broadcast live, because they didn't know how to record TV yet. She's not sure what their excuse at SNL isnote The petition to have her host was on Facebook. So of course Betty decided to call Facebook "a huge waste of time."
- Cool Old Lady: They don't come much cooler than Betty!
- Conspiracy Theory: At Betty's 90th birthday celebration, Barack Obama delivered her a recorded message saying he couldn't believe how old she was... so he would have to see her long-form birth certificate.
- The Danza: A number of times.
- The Ditz: As Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls and its spinoff The Golden Palace.
- Game Show Host: Of Just Men!, for which she won her only daytime Emmy despite NBC canning it after 13 weeks. Due to the way the Emmy nomination period worked at the time, she was actually nominated for it a second time. Also, she was married to Password host Allen Ludden until his death.
- Playing Against Type: As discussed, she has done this several times.
- Racist Grandma: She sometimes plays them. In Everwood, among other places, though that specific example was only latently racist.
- Running Gag: On the The Late Late Show, she always needed some cash, as she lost it on (insert name of any incident here).
- Self-Deprecation: She's frequently made jokes at her own expense. When she was on Jimmy Kimmel, he asked her about first moving to Hollywood, and she mentioned that she wasn't sure if California was a state yet at the time.
- Signature Style: Not so much her, just the people around her. Since Hollywood doesn't exactly value age, most writers aren't sure what to do with her, so a few of her appearances have her play a sweet old lady saying crass and bizarre things (such as her appearances on The Late Late Show and Saturday Night Live).