Sitcoms Online - Main Page / Message Boards - Main Page / News Blog / Photo Galleries / DVD Reviews / Buy TV Shows on DVD and Blu-ray

View Today's Active Threads / View New Posts / Mark All Boards Read / Chit Chat Board

Hot in Cleveland links at Sitcoms Online / Hot in Cleveland Photo Gallery

Hot in Cleveland - Season One

Buy Hot in Cleveland - Season One on DVD
Hot in Cleveland - Season Two

Buy Hot in Cleveland - Season Two on DVD
Hot in Cleveland - Season Three

Buy Hot in Cleveland - Season Three on DVD
Hot in Cleveland - Season Four

Buy Hot in Cleveland - Season Four on DVD
Hot in Cleveland - Season Five

Buy Hot in Cleveland - Season Five on DVD

Sitcoms Online Message Boards - Forums  

Go Back   Sitcoms Online Message Boards - Forums > 2010s Sitcoms > Hot in Cleveland
User Name

Welcome to the Sitcoms Online Message Boards - Forums.

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest which gives you limited access to view most discussions and access our other features. By joining our free community you will have access to post topics, search, view attachments, communicate privately with other members (PM), respond to polls, upload content and access many other special features. Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free so please, join our community today! News Blog Headlines Twitter Facebook Instagram RSS

SitcomsOnline Digest: Neil Flynn Cast in NBC Sitcom Pilot; Jimmy Fallon and Will Smith Remix Sitcom Theme Song Classics
Fri-Yay: No Season 4 for Rick and Morty?; Ashlynn Yennie Cast in TV Thriller Buried Secrets
TV Land's Younger Returns in June for Season 5; Hallmark Channel 2018 Upfront
Fox Summer 2018 Schedule; Bounce TV Series Returns in April for 2nd Season
Murphy Brown Casts 2 All-New Stars for Series; USA Network Orders 2nd Season of Series
NBC Orders 3rd Season of Will & Grace Revival; Lifetime Upfront Sets Premiere Dates for New Drama and Movie
Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of March 19, 2018)
SitcomsOnline Digest: Dax Shepard Cast in Recurring Role on The Ranch; Jake McDorman Joins Murphy Brown Revival
Fri-Yay: Why Netflix Should Renew One Day at a Time; Freeform Sets Date for Final Season of Sitcom, and Orders a Movie
Food Network Brings Out Sitcom Stars; Alexis Bledel Joins Popular Hulu Series

New on DVD/Blu-ray (February/March)

Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Seventh Season Green Acres - The Complete Fifth Season Mayberry R.F.D. - The Complete First Season Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Ninth Season One Day at a Time - Season Two

02/06 - All in the Family - Seasons 1-5
02/06 - Bosom Buddies - The Complete Series
02/06 - Women of the House - Complete 12 Episode Series
02/13 - Broad City - Season 4
02/13 - Three's Company - The Complete Series - Come and Knock on Our Door Collection
02/27 - Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Seventh Season
02/27 - Green Acres - The Complete Fifth Season
02/27 - Mayberry R.F.D. - The Complete First Season
03/06 - Atlanta - The Complete First Season
03/06 - Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Ninth Season
03/13 - The New Adventures of Old Christine - The Complete First Season
03/27 - One Day at a Time - Season Two
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 06-18-2013, 10:08 AM   #1
Mr. Television
Forum Legend
Mr. Television's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 06, 2003
Location: Were you're not
Posts: 60,546
Default Is Betty White's "dirty old lady act" a bad thing?

Betty White Is Not a Sex Machine Our culture’s cruel obsession with dirty old women


To understand the specific angle of the pop cultural infatuation with Betty White, look no further than the magazine cover on which she poses in a leather bikini and knee-high boots, straddling a centaur. It’s a cartoon rendering, but still a perfect emblem of White’s current status as the poster girl for raunchy old ladies on television. Her sitcom, “Hot in Cleveland”—about a group of older women who move to Ohio after discovering that local men eye them like porn stars in Spanx—was recently renewed for a fifth season. The NBC reality show “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” features senior citizens pranking unsuspecting youths. “Stop staring at my tits, you pervert,” one granny tells a mortified young man. White is the host, applying frosting to the chest of a shirtless Chippendale and dropping one-liners about her scandalous sex life.

Over the past few years, this sort of thing has won White a devoted following. She’s done guest spots on “Community” and “30 Rock.” Hundreds of thousands of Facebook fans petitioned to have her host “Saturday Night Live,” where her lines included “Many bakers from my era have dry or even yeasty muffins.” Other typical White bits involve references to crotch massagers, lap dances, squirting muffins (that muffin innuendo refused to die), suggestive hot-dog eating, and showering with Hugh Jackman. In one episode of “Hot in Cleveland,” her character, Elka, is on trial for some petty misdemeanor and sets out to acquit herself by seducing a juror. Emerging from a courthouse broom closet, she adjusts her blouse and declares, “Justice has been serviced.” May I suggest it hasn’t been?

White has always been saucy, but her dirty old lady act is a recent development. Even later in her career (she’s 91!), she got roles that made use of her deceptive innocence and acid wit. In her fifties, she stole scenes in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as Sue Ann Nivens, a ruthless man-eater oozing phony charm. Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls,” the sweet foil to Bea Arthur’s caustic Dorothy, was ditzy but also insecure in a fully plausible way. These characters, in other words, were layered and surprising. The story of how such a versatile actress was reduced to an adorable receptacle for penis jokes is also the story of the condescending way we treat old people on television today.

Granted, TV comedy has often struggled to represent the elderly as humans. This was a preoccupation of former Florida lawmaker Claude Pepper, who in 1977 grilled a group of network executives before the House of Representatives’ Select Committee on Aging: “Are we so victimized by our own stereotypes that we only recognize as elderly those televised characters who are toothless, sexless, humorless, witless, and constipated?” Women in particular have gotten a raw deal. Old men in comedies have long been allowed to occupy a broad spectrum of shtick, but for decades, old ladies were prudish nags: Take cranky Mother Dexter in the ’70s sitcom “Phyllis” and Johnny Carson’s clueless old-woman parody, “Aunt Blabby.”

Even in that bleak milieu, though, there were older women who were seditiously edgy. Phyllis Diller—the seminal stand-up comedian who briefly starred in an ABC sitcom, “The Phyllis Diller Show,” about the misadventures of a wacky, chain-smoking housewife—could seem like an affront to feminism, exaggerating her age and ugliness for comic effect. “My body’s in such bad shape, I wear prescription underwear,” she once cracked. But her hammy decrepitude was its own subversive statement about the culture’s squeamishness about female sexuality and old age. She was unsettling the expectations of her audience even as she played to them.

These characters aren’t actually exploring the sexuality of older women—they’re stunts to generate cheap laughs.

Then in 1985 came “The Golden Girls.” There has never been anything like it on television—a comedy about older women with complicated inner lives. All four women were single, and their forays into dating were played both for laughs and for pathos. In one episode, Dorothy asks, “Have you ever met a man who knows how to push all your buttons?” Blanche replies: “Just once. He was a cabana boy in Pensacola.” In another, octogenarian Sophia befriends an elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease, sitting with him patiently on a bench as he tells her again and again about his late wife.

White’s Rose Nylund was a key part of what made the show at once so tender and so funny. When Rose considers sleeping with a new boyfriend for the first time since the death of her beloved husband, Charlie (from a heart attack, while making love), her emotions—guilt, anxiety, embarrassment—feel crushing and real. There is nothing cheesy about the moment, no cymbal-clash joke when the deed is done. Loneliness, senility, death, sex: “Golden Girls” understood that there was comedy to be mined from all of it. Todd Milliner, executive producer of “Hot in Cleveland,” said the show was one of his favorites growing up. “To get someone to give a show like ‘Golden Girls’ a chance on a mainstream network today,” he says, “would be the toughest thing.”

And so that’s how we’ve ended up with shows like “Off Their Rockers.” Chris Coelen, its executive producer, told me he made a calculated bid to appeal to a younger demographic. “I think if this was a show that felt like it was specifically for older people, older people interacting with other older people, I think it wouldn’t do as well as it does,” he says. “But the fact that we have young people in bikinis, having fun, along with our older people—that helps.” One TV writer recently explained that networks increasingly like their shows to be “noisy,” whether by way of sex or violence: “There’s just that need to say, ‘Hey, look at me! Look over here! Watch this!’ ”

Apparently, in the network TV imagination, nothing is quite as outrageous as the female body in decline. Maw Maw on “Raising Hope” is a senile grandma (played by the great Cloris Leachman) whose observations include “I couldn’t have an orgasm unless he choked me.” The lecherous bisexual matriarch Evelyn from “Two and a Half Men” swigs martinis and preys on wealthy men. In “Hot in Cleveland” there are more jokes about breasts—flaunted, sagging, surgically altered—than the laugh track can possibly handle.

Susan Harris, the creator of “Golden Girls,” has caught only glimpses of Betty White’s new shows. She finds them hard to watch. “TV should have grown up a bit more and a bit faster,” she told me. But it hasn’t, and it probably won’t. Fifty years from now, one can only imagine the indignities that our old ladies will have to endure on television. Zooey Deschanel naked on a centaur and Anna Faris managing a muffin shop, coming in 2060 to NBC.

Laura Bennett is a staff writer at The New Republic.
  Reply With Quote
Old 06-18-2013, 01:47 PM   #2
Forum Veteran
I'm NOT a Blockhead!
Marvo301's Avatar
Join Date: May 17, 2002
Location: The Great White North
Posts: 21,042

I'm not really a fan of Betty's dirty old lady act but I expect it's one of the reasons she continue's to be a working actress at her age.
Only a life lived for others is worth living. Albert Einstein

A life isn't worth living unless it has impact on other lives. Jackie Robinson

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. Benjamin Franklin
  Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 07:44 PM.

Although the administrators and moderators of the Sitcoms Online Message Boards will attempt to keep all objectionable messages off this forum, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the author, and neither the owners of the Sitcoms Online Message Boards, nor Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd. (developers of vBulletin) will be held responsible for the content of any message. The owners of the Sitcoms Online Message Boards reserve the right to remove, edit, move or close any thread for any reason.

Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.5.0
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.