In memory of Betty White, thank you for being an inspiration

A student explains the impact White had on her through her TV show and activism.


Betty White, an iconic actress, passed away on Dec. 31, 2021, leaving an everlasting mark on the entertainment industry and fans like me through her eight-decade career. 

The first time I saw White, I was five years old watching “The Golden Girls” at my grandma’s house. While others may remember her expansive acting career or activism in the film industry, I first recalled her character, Rose Nylund, telling a story about her home in Minnesota, much to the annoyance of her three roommates. 

Every Sunday since then, I’ve sat down with my grandmother and mother to watch “The Golden Girls,” taking a break from any stress of the week. 

We saw ourselves in these characters – smart and confident women trying to navigate life – and kept the mentality that if they could get through the week then so could we. I used to feel too young to relate to the characters on the show, but as I grew up, I began noticing how I always talked for a bit too long and practically mothered my friends, just like White’s character.

When I watched White act on screen, it made me want to be positive like her. Even when she annoyed other characters, she still was kind to them and kept being 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 get serious about becoming a writer. 

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t good at writing, not even a little. Looking back on it, I cringe thinking about how wordy and awkward my work was. 

But the important thing was that I was trying. I kept writing throughout high school, hastily typing anything I could think of in a Google Doc.

After writing my pieces, I submitted stories to the club’s editor, where my work was torn apart and returned to me so I could start over. This process was often discouraging and I didn’t feel like I was a good enough writer.

When things got stressful, I continued to write, and when things got tense, I relied on reruns of “The Golden Girls” to get me through the day. 

White and her ongoing positivity became an instant comfort – she encouraged me to continue writing. I felt if I gave up on writing, then I’d be letting her and my younger self down. 

Along with her roles and on-screen presence, seeing White’s open support in the fight for LGBTQ rights and social justice had a huge impact on me growing up. 

As a queer woman, watching “The Golden Girls” episodes about LGBTQ issues gave me a new sense of pride in my identity. Growing up, my family seemed accepting of the LGBTQ community, but I wasn’t sure if they’d accept me or think my sexuality was a phase I’d eventually outgrow. But watching queer relationships on “The Golden Girls” showed me an older generation could accept them – and if they could, then so could my family. 

One episode that impacted 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 even though Rose doesn’t reciprocate, she empathizes with losing a partner and accepts Jean. The two remain friends when Jean goes home at the end of the episode. 

This episode was the first piece of media I watched where two women were in a romantic relationship. It normalized the concept of queer relationships for me and sent a message of acceptance, showing me 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, “Everybody needs a passion. That’s what keeps life interesting. If you live without passion, you can go through life without leaving any footprints.” 

This quote means so much to me. I can’t go through life doing something I don’t like just because it’s an easy choice. I have to continue writing because that’s what I’m passionate about.

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