If 30 is "the new 20" and 40 is "the new 30," then what exactly is 88½? As two executives from an ad agency known for creating cultural icons like the Aflac Duck, we think it just might be the new cool -- especially if your name is Betty White, who at nearly-90, has suddenly burst onto the scene as pop-culture's biggest star.
Just off the heels of a much buzzed-about stint as the host of Saturday Night Live (the highest-rated episode since the 2008 presidential campaign), good old Betty is nothing but White hot. In fact, despite a career full of iconic TV roles -- like Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls -- it's safe to say that in 2010, White has more name recognition than ever.
It's all thanks to two of today's most powerful pop-culture influencers: the Super Bowl and Facebook. Her reemergence in the smash-hit Super Bowl Snickers commercial created just the right conditions, while Facebook provided the setting for mass interest to build and multiply among TV's highly coveted 18-34 demographic. The result was the perfect storm -- no less than a "White" Squall, or a "Big Bang!" idea as we call it.
"When I first heard about the campaign to get me to host Saturday Night Live," White explained in her SNL opening monologue, "I didn't know what Facebook was [...]People say, 'But Betty, it's a great way to connect with friends,'" she continued, "Well, at my age, if I want to connect with old friends, I need a Ouija board."
All joking aside, it's exactly that irreverence about her age and willingness to take risks that has produced sharable online content, like the Super Bowl commercial, and ignited the pop-culture craze that created an entirely new Facebook fan base at whirlwind speed. And it's transformed her image from that of a sweet granny to an A-list -- and even racy -- comedienne.
But we may not have even seen the eye of this storm. With her hilarious SNL performance still making waves across the Internet, White's online following has now started a new push on Facebook to name her as host of the 2011 Academy Awards -- an effort nearly 200,000 strong and growing by the minute. Although The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has stated they have no hosting offers currently in place, don't count her out just yet. After all, that's what the folks at SNL said at first, too.
At her age, you'd think Betty White might be starting to think about slowing down, but just the opposite. She's already begun production on a new sitcom called Hot in Cleveland -- cable network TV Land's first -- on which she will have a recurring role.
In the now-famous Snicker's Super Bowl commercial, her teammates snidely say "You're playing like Betty White out there." But from where we sit, we think the real question nowadays is, "Who wouldn't want to play like her?"
At age 88½, Betty White is toppling ageist barriers and putting to bed the myth that growing older means becoming irrelevant. She's showing the world that "cool" doesn't have an expiration date...and from the looks of her career, we can't think of a reason why it should. Betty White is hot everywhere -- not just in Cleveland -- and it's all because of pop culture, not in spite of it. So, to that, we think Betty would have just one thing to say: "Thank you for being a (Facebook) friend."
You go, Golden Girl!