Betty White, an iconic actress, passed away on December 31, 2021, leaving an everlasting mark on the entertainment industry and fans like me throughout her eight-decade career.
I first saw White when I was five years old watching “The Golden Girls” at my grandmother’s house. While others may remember her extensive acting career or her activism in the film industry, I first recalled her character, Rose Nylund, telling a story about her home in Minnesota, to the great dam of his three roommates.
Every Sunday since then, I’ve sat down with my grandmother and mother to watch “The Golden Girls,” taking a break from all the stresses of the week.
We saw ourselves in these characters — smart, confident women trying to navigate life — and kept the mentality that if they could get through the week, so could we. I felt too young to identify with the characters on the show, but as I got older I started to notice that I always talked a bit too long and practically mothered my friends, much like White’s character.
When I watched White act on screen, it made me want to be positive like her. Even when she annoyed the other characters, she was always nice to them and remained herself no matter what they thought.
She taught me that women can write and produce their own work, and inspired me to pursue my own passion for writing.
When I started my freshman year of high school, I immediately joined a creative writing club, thinking this would be my chance to take becoming a writer seriously.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t good at writing, not even a little. Looking back, I cringe at how wordy and clunky my work was.
But the important thing was that I was trying. I continued to write throughout high school, hastily typing everything that came to mind into a Google doc.
After writing my plays, I submitted stories to the club editor, where my work was torn up and returned to me so I could start over. This process was often overwhelming and I didn’t feel like I was a good enough writer.
When things got stressful, I kept writing, and when things got tense, I relied on reruns of “The Golden Girls” to get through the day.
White and her continued positivity became an instant comfort – she encouraged me to keep writing. I felt like if I gave up writing, I would give up on her and my younger self.
In addition to his screen roles and presence, seeing White’s outspoken support in the fight for LGBTQ rights and social justice had a huge impact on my growth.
As a queer woman, watching episodes of “The Golden Girls” about LGBTQ issues has given me a new sense of pride in my identity. Growing up, my family seemed to accept the LGBTQ community, but I wasn’t sure if they would accept me or if they thought my sexuality was a phase that I would eventually move past. But watching same-sex relationships on “The Golden Girls” showed me that an older generation could accept them — and if they could, so could my family.
One episode that stood out to me was “Isn’t It Romantic” which follows Jean, a friend of Rose’s roommate who is a lesbian mourning the loss of her partner. Jean develops feelings for Rose during her visit, and although Rose does not reciprocate, she empathizes at the loss of a partner and accepts Jean. The two remain friends when Jean returns home at the end of the episode.
This episode was the first media I watched where two women were in a romantic relationship. It normalized the concept of same-sex relationships for me and sent a message of acceptance, showing me that I could enjoy a similar relationship in real life.
White has been a constant companion my whole life, and I can’t thank her enough for inspiring me to write. In her own words, she said, “Everyone needs a passion. That’s what makes life interesting. If you live without passion, you can go through life without leaving a trace.
This quote means so much to me. I can’t spend my life doing something I don’t like just because it’s an easy choice. I have to keep writing because that’s what excites me.