There are some that might credit the attention to Betty White's 90th birthday to the alleged "revitalisation" of her career that came with the famous Snickers commercial that aired during Super Bowl XLIV. And it cannot be denied that since that commercial Miss White has been very active. She hosted Saturday Night Live on 8 May 2010. Since June 2010 she has starred in her own sitcom on TVLand, Hot in Cleveland. She has guest starred in Community, The Middle, and 30 Rock. Her new show (sort of a take on Candid Camera), Off Their Rockers debuted last night. That having been said, I do not think that the attention to Betty White's birthday is due to any so-called "revitalisation" of her career. The simple fact is that in a career spanning seventy years there really never has been a time when Betty White was not active or popular.
The Eighties would see Miss White appear in the sitcom Mama's Family (a spinoff of the "Eunice" skits on The Carol Burnett Show). She played Rose Nylund on the classic sitcom The Golden Girls. She guest starred on shows ranging from Who's the Boss to the soap opera Santa Barbara. The Nineties would not see Betty White slow down. Aside from continuing to play Rose on The Golden Girls, she appeared on such shows as Bob and Diagnosis Murder. She was regular on yet another series, Maybe This Time. She also appeared in the film Hard Rain. This brings us up to the Naughts, where we can see that Miss White's career was in no need of being "revitalised." Even before her famous Snickers commercial, Betty White was a regular on the shows Ladies Man, Boston Legal, and The Bold and the Beautiful. She guest starred on shows ranging from Malcolm in the Middle to That 70's Show to Everwood. She appeared in such movies as Bringing Down the House (2003) and The Proposal (2009). Mind you, all of this was before 2010.
How then was Miss White's career revitalised by that Snicker's commercial 2010? I submit that her career was not revitalised because it needed no revitalisation. As seen from above, Betty White was a very busy lady in the Naughts. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find a decade since the Forties that she wasn't busy!
It is that sense of mischief and fun that I think is at the centre of Betty White as both a person and an actress, and it has shown through in every character she has played and even in her numerous talk show and game show appearances. As a young woman Betty White was still the pretty woman who had never quite lost her girlish sense of fun. In her middle years she was always everyone's favourite aunt, the one who would joke and play games with you. As an older lady she is the grandmother who kids you, pulls pranks on you, and has a good time. I think the reason that Betty White has always been busy and always been popular is that she has such a sense of fun that everyone loves her. Even in the worst of moods it is impossible not to see Betty White and not be cheered up. Betty White simply enjoys life so much that it becomes contagious.
I rather suspect, then, that even had Miss White never made that Snickers commercial we would still see the outpouring of birthday wishes that we have seen this day. Betty White has been called a national treasure and I don't think that is any exaggeration. For seven decades she has brought laughter and happiness to a country often in need of it. One of the first television pioneers, she was also one of the very best. Betty White is the one star from the Golden Age of Television whose career has never faltered, whose career has never slowed down. Indeed, I rather suspect all of us are hoping that she is still around ten years from now so we can wish her "Happy 100th birthday!"