Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Betty White as Old Media/New New Media Symbiosis

I was interviewed by E! Online yesterday about whether I thought Betty White - who everyone including me was saying was hilarious on Saturday Night Live this past Saturday night - was really that funny, or was she just "getting an old-lady pass" because she is 88 years old?  My answer was that she has enormous talent, which indeed came across even funnier because of her age.   An 88-year old using raunchy language breaks the norm, and will therefore always be funnier than a 28-year old saying the same thing.  (For the same reason, little kids cursing are funnier than adults.   Think of the the Balloon Boy asking "Who the hell is Wolf?" about CNN interviewer Wolf Blitzer in October 2009.)


But there's an additional very important lesson in the new success of Betty White: it's a vivid example of old media/new new media symbiosis, a key component of the relationship of new new media to older media such as television that is discussed in New New Media.  In Betty White's case, she was first a television star, years ago, on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and then on the Golden Girls.  She appeared in a great 2010 Superbowl commercial for Snickers with octogenarian Abe Vigoda.  These are impressive old media successes.  But, most importantly for the current Betty White wave,  they motivated the formation of a Facebook group to get Betty White to host Saturday Night Live.


This new new media push resulted in Betty White hosting Saturday Night Live, which, because she was so funny on the show, in turn has led to calls for Betty White to host the Oscars, Carol Burnett to host Saturday Night Live, etc.   Facebook is the engine of all of these.   In addition, then, to this being an example of television-Facebook hybridization, Betty White's new success also demonstrates another fundamental principle of new new media: consumers becoming producers, in this case, programming television via Facebook.


Betty White is not only old and funny, she has become an archetypal example of old/new new media partnership.

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