This morning, the Huffington Post had an article by their Entertainment Editor Sara Boboltz about Betty White being accepted for membership into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that votes on the Oscars. From the headline and opening passage, I thought the article would be questioning the Academy's decision, deriding the action which is tenuous at best. Instead, Ms. Boboltz snarkily took them to task for taking so long to accept the beloved 95-year-old Betty White into its group after 72 years acting.
To be clear, I don't really care one way or the other if Betty White is in the Academy. Personally, I don't think she remotely deserves membership -- for reasons I'll explain -- but if they want to make her a member for any reason, it's their club. And it's a lovely tribute. So, fine, not a problem. What rubs me the wrong way is something else entirely. It's that not only was the author was so snippy about the Academy's supposed long delay and terrible oversight, but she's the "Entertainment Editor" and one would hope she would know better.
After all, here's how she ended the piece, chiding the organization for this seemingly egregious omission. "Apparently," she wrote, "the Academy has also used the opportunity to correct the decadeslong oversight that was not inviting Betty White to join its exclusive club. Be better, guys."
Worse, it was the silliness of her justification for why she believed Betty White long-deserved membership. (The correct answer, by the way, is -- "Betty White is a Hollywood icon, and it's just such a nice honor for them to have made.") What she wrote though to explain why this should have been done oh-so long ago and why the Academy has been oh-so thoughtless and male-based was --
"Aside from acting as a badge of honor for top figures in Hollywood, Academy members are given the esteemed privilege of choosing Oscar recipients. White has never been nominated for that award, but she has been nominated for four Golden Globes for her performance in “The Golden Girls” and 21 Emmy awards for various roles, five of which she won for her roles on shows including “The Golden Girls,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and others. She’s also got a Grammy. All of that, coupled with her standing as the legendary Betty White, makes her absence from the Academy membership a bit of a head-scratcher."
It is only a head-scratcher if you don't know what you're talking about.
Okay, here's the thing. Look at that list she re references. Pick out all the ones that are...well, y'know...MOVIES. Zero. None. Nada. The Emmys are TV. The Golden Globe awards were for TV. The Grammy is for audio recordings. There is absolutely nothing Ms. Boboltz pointed to that had anything to do with movies. And it's not terribly hard to figure out why that would be not just important, but 100% essential. After all, just check out the frigging name of the organization. It's the Academy of MOTION PICTURE Arts and Sciences. You can't miss it.
I thought Sara Boboltz was going to ask "Why now"? Why was Betty White given Motion Picture Academy admission now, when she hasn't even been in a movie in seven years? Or that she was going to point out that in 72 years of acting, Betty White has only been in around eight movies. And never starred in one, all small roles. I would challenge Ms. Boboltz -- or you -- to simply name three movies that Betty White has ever even been in.
Okay, she played the grandmother in The Proposal in 2009 with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, and was great fun in it. Before that, the last major film Betty White was in was Advise & Consent. It was made in 1962, that's over half a century ago!
But pretty much the entirety of her career -- and yes, it's a legendary career -- is in TV. And the Motion Picture Academy is for motion pictures. Movies. Feature films.
But again, if the Motion Picture Academy wants to honor Betty White and have her as a member -- more power to them. Hey, who wouldn't want to have Betty White at their party? She's had a great TV career, been in a handful of movies and appears to be pretty much beloved. So, very nice for the Movie Academy if that's what they wanted. They figured out a way to admit her, which is their absolutely right, so swell. It was a nice thing to do.
But for the Entertainment Editor of the Huffington Post to take AMPAS to task in such a snide way, suggesting male bias and ageism for not having Betty White as a member -- that's utterly foolish. (She even brings in charges the Academy has faced of race bias.) That shows ignorance of what the organization actually is. It's really simple -- she's a TV actress. A wonderful TV actress. But AMPAS is for movies. One would hope that an Entertainment Editor would grasp this.
There's one unintentionally funny thing in Sara Boboltz's article that makes her snarky gaffe all the more pointed. She had a perfect set-up for a wonderful joke, but got caught up in trying to slam the AMPAS and totally missed what was sitting there on a silver platter in front of her. (Or silver-haired platter.) It comes in a passage where she is trying SO hard to bring out the organization's bias and writes -- "In recent years, as Oscar winners have continued to look a bit too white and male for many tastes..."
Arghhh! What a lost opportunity for a great quip to put everything in proper, whimsical perspective. But her blindness is making A Point (no matter how off-base) forced her to miss what was in front of her. Because what she could have written -- and I'll even go so far as to say what she should have written -- was --
"And now the Academy has decided to make themselves even more White. But in the best way possible."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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