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The “Betty White” Explosion

June 13, 2011

     Five years ago, if you were to ask anyone under the age of 35 if they have ever heard of Betty White or could name any television programs she was in, there would be baffled faces. Today you asked those same individuals, they would say, “Oh yeah! The Snickers commercial woman!” The fan frenzy for Betty White was enormous and unexpected, but the :30 ad second that aired during the Super Bowl two years ago made her a cultural icon for this generation.

     The commercial in itself was brilliant. The theme, guys playing football and one of them having an off day, hence performing like an old woman (Betty White) came into picture. The ability for the ad to connect with not only the older demographic and those who knew White from her days on the Golden Girls back in the 80’s, but the younger generation who are thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this woman getting tackled by grown men?’ The message of the commercial is that eating the candy bar Snickers would ‘Feed Your Hunger’ and allow you to become more like yourself. When the guy, played by Betty White in the first half of the commercial, ate the Snickers, he turned back into himself and was not longer hungry.

     The type of criticism I am going to use to analyze the Snickers commercial with Betty White is the Narrative Criticism. A Narrative analysis, which is the systematic study of texts and how they are structured into a cause-and-effect chain of events with a beginning, middle, and end, can be useful in interpreting this text. Understanding the sequence of these events helps reveal the full potential of the meaning that is embedded in the text. In the Narrative Criticism, you must know the distinction between each story, plot, and emplotment. Though this criticism is regularly used on television programs and movies, it can also be effective in analyzing a commercial. The story is a chain of explicit and implicit events and happenings. A plot is all that is visible and audibly present to us and emplotment is the selection and arrangement of events or happenings into a coherent narrative.

This source shows how popular the Betty White commercial was….

White’s fame launched onto Facebook within a matter of days…

     When using a Narrative analysis on this particuliar Snickers commercial, you must first look at the events in which they fall into order. First, the audience sees a game of tackle football being played amongst guy friends. This automatically grabs the attention of all 20-40 some year old males watching the commercial. Next, Betty White comes in the picture and runs as if she would in normal life, slow and awkwardly. However, because White is playing a male, she runs across the middle and gets tackled, pretty hard if I might add, by the other team. These 10 seconds connect not only to the 20-40 some year old males, but anyone who has ever seen Betty White on the big screen from decades ago. People can relate to her through the television shows and her Hollywood icon status.

     Then the commercial shows the team in a huddle and the ‘captain’ confronts his team-mate about ‘playing like Betty White out there’ and her comment back to him, which truly makes the commercial believable and memorable, ‘that’s not what your girlfriend said!’ creates this picture that White is playing a male. Then once his girlfriend comes over and hands him a Snickers to eat, he turns back into himself and the game goes on. The order of the events are crucial for the commercial for it to be successful and to get the meaning across. The cause-and effect of the events lead up to Betty White’s classical line and her changing back into a guy, what Snickers wanted to accomplish in the ad.

     The story was if you are hungry then you have to eat a Snickers candy bar and you will no longer have the starving urge. Visibly the audience sees White being tackled into the puddle of mud, being verbally harassed be her team mates, and then dishing back one her greatest one-liners in television commercial history. When the Super Bowl crowd saw this spectacle, they were immediately talking about it for weeks and months, which I will explain at the end. Finally the emplotment of the selected scenes in the commercial were strategically placed and edited in a way for the audience to fully grasp the comedic humor and message being sent to them.

     So why does any one care Betty White was blind sided into the dirt? Why her come back to her team-mate was so important? The reason, because no one would ever expect to actually witness an older woman of White’s age do those stunts. Her popularity grew throughout the country and people, especially the younger generation, wanted more of Betty White. Her performance in that one commercial landed her in several movie roles, host of Saturday Night Live, and her own television sitcom, all because of :30 seconds on television. You have to analyze why this ad was so successful so you can understand what the people want. If you do not know what the audience wants, then there is no way for any business to connect with them, and Snickers created a media frenzy around White, which she took full advantage of and ran with it.

      Bottom line… The commercial was just flat-out funny and you can attribute 100 views on the YouTube video from me. I was bored one night and could not get enough of Betty White. (Add 15 more views from writing this blog… I love Betty White now!!!!)

 

 

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2 Comments
  1. Your title was eye-catching and sparked interest, but your introduction was even more effective in setting the mood for your blog by building curiosity. Like you mentioned, Betty White is a contemporary, yet timeless, Hollywood icon whom everyone knows and loves. The fact that you used her to illustrate how narrative criticism is used to evaluate a text, gave your blog that “wow factor.” From a media illiterate standpoint, it definitely would make learning about this text-centered approach both informing and enjoyable.
    Your second paragraph was great in the way it placed the Snicker’s ad in context, especially for those who most identify with White from movies such as, The Proposal or You Again, or even the new TV Land sitcom, Hot in Cleveland.
    You gave a very thorough definition of the necessary terms—narrative crit, emplotment, story, and plot,–but for a media illiterate reader, I think it would be beneficial to include a quick example of what you mean by each term. This would help place the terminology in context, instead of just throwing subject-specific vocabulary at them, which they may not be able to fully grasp. Even though your proceeding paragraphs present a thorough description of how these terms relate, in the beginning, it is good to not overload your readers with semi-confusing concepts. Consider introducing each term with the characteristics of the ad, which depict it.
    Your following paragraphs, which describe the ad, are extremely vivid,, specific, detailed images of how the ad played out. Honestly, I did not even need to watch the actual ad to understand what you were talking about. You would make a great narrator voiceover! You were very successful in identifying how the opening scene of men playing football, the middle scene of Betty getting tackled, and the end scene with White’s punch-line, served their intended purposes.
    Implicitly, you were even more successful in evaluating this text not only from its narrative standpoint, but you contributed insight into the audience and production, as well.
    You were successful in demonstrating the “so what” part of the analysis. You were concise, but simplistic in your explanation; Betty White’s appearance in this ad really did act as a catalyst to reinventing herself in the new decade.
    Overall, I enjoyed reading your blog. Your language was informal and engaging, although, you need to slow down a little because there were a few spelling errors and missed words, but it did not immensely detract from your blog. I also really liked the articles which you linked. Not only were they interesting reads, but they were effective in hyperbolizing your points. Truly, I think you recreated and achieved the goal that the Snicker’s ad producers were aiming for almost two years ago. I am sure Betty White would love your blog, too!

  2. Ally McNamara permalink

    John, you choose a great text to examine, one that many people have seen and enjoyed. This commercial was hilarious and won over a lot of viewers. Your style of writing is perfect for a blog: short sentences, bullets, and hyperlinks. You provide a very textbook definition of narrative analysis which is helpful for those outside of our class but I would have liked to see a simplified definition or example after. You did an awesome job analyzing the text and identifying the target audience for that Snickers campaign. I think you should incorporate more links in your blog, maybe from Snickers or something more about Betty White’s Hollywood history. But, I most definitely have to disagree with your assumption that “Five years ago, if you were to ask anyone under the age of 35 if they have ever heard of Betty White or could name any television programs she was in, there would be baffled faces.” I have been watching Betty White in “Golden Girls” and other shows since I was very young. My mother and grandmother have always been huge fans of her and I have many other friends and family members, who are close to my age, who knew of Betty White before she was in the Snickers Super Bowl ad. Yes, that ad definitely spiked her popularity among our age group but be careful with those sweeping generalizations Dr. Nichols warned us about!

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