Most of us are aware that there are two types of old these days. There is Baby-Boomer old, an audacious, aspirational sort of old. Common depictions include couples sky-diving for their 40th anniversaries; Richard Branson doing all manner of macho rich-guy nonsense; and the woman of a certain age on a seashore holding a fluttering piece of voile toward the winds of freedom.
It is from this cultural interstice that Betty White’s late-career renaissance was made possible. The White phenomenon can be cast largely as a youth-culture one; something that never would have happened if it weren’t for the 2010 Facebook petition, driven by under-30s, asking White to host “Saturday Night Live.” Today White fits in a truly novel category of fame: a giant star with cult cachet among people who could be her great-grandchildren.
The twilight years thus appeal as a time when a kind of paradoxical freedom can be located, a time thought to be beyond the petty concerns of hotness and coolness, where you can finally, truly, really be yourself.
Today, college graduations, weddings, 30th birthday parties, Christenings, brises — these sorts of events are regularly blessed with multiple Grannies, Papas, Yiayias, Zaides, Nanas, Nonnas, Omas, Abuelitos. They stand up; they take bows. In the true fabric of experience, this is not some invisible stitching.
Source: The New York Times Magazine, April 28, 2013