Betty White Played the Most Offensive Character in This Hit Comedy
Betty White died in 2021 at the age of 99. But the actor and comedian left behind decades of work for her fans to enjoy for many years to come. Thanks to her Emmy-winning work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, White is certainly best known for her television roles. But she’s also appeared in a ton of movies, including one role as perhaps the most offensive character White played throughout her entire career.
Betty White was a multigenerational comedy icon
From the 1950s on, White established herself as a distinctive personality. Even when she appeared as herself, the actor and comedian knew how to make an impact. It’s why so much of her work has been as a regular on game shows and variety shows, particularly in the periods in between her most famous TV projects.
In addition, White began to build up a reputation as the unlikely character to deliver shocking sexual or explicit dialogue in movies. Her role in 1999 horror film Lake Placid is a prime example of this, as her scene-stealing turn helped that movie develop a cult following. But the apex of her time as an inappropriate grandmother figure came a few years later.
But she once played a racist, homophobic character
The 2003 comedy Bringing Down the House stars Steve Martin as Peter Sanderson, a lonely attorney who meets a woman online that turns out to be Queen Latifah’s Charlene Morton. Her arrival in Peter’s life shakes up his stiff, upper-class world. But no one reacts quite as vehemently as Peter’s neighbor, Mrs. Kline, played by White. Throughout the movie, she makes constant disparaging remarks about the Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ communities.
Bringing Down the House, to its credit, doesn’t endorse Mrs. Kline’s views. But the inclusion of such humor is certainly problematic by today’s standards. Moreover, its use in the film is pervasive enough among other characters too that it’s clearly intended to be light-hearted shock value as opposed to hate speech. Bringing Down the House earned $165 million worldwide against a production budget of $33 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
Betty White’s final roles were in animated projects
White’s performance in Bringing Down the House might not be her finest moment. Thankfully, the gifted performer went on to star in many more TV shows and movies after that. Among her final roles was a self-referential performance as Bitey White in Toy Story 4 and Disney+ spinoff series Forky Asks a Question.
White also lent her voice to another animated project, 2019’s Trouble. That movie was eventually retitled Dog Gone Trouble and acquired by Netflix. It was added to the streaming service in May 2021 and marks White’s final film role. Although she was open about not fearing her own death, White’s fans will always look back fondly on her epic career.