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Betty White as “The Happy Homemaker” taught me to separate the person from her roles

As Sue Ann Nivens in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"

… could not figure why I disliked her

What I did in the early years was unfortunate. At times, I projected the role that the actor or actress played onto their actual persona.

So, for years, I disliked Betty White.


Because I really disliked the role she played on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

What I realize today is that she played the role as Sue Ann Nivens, aka “The Happy Homemaker,” very well.

Separating fact from fiction

Sue Ann was an abrasive, domineering, man-chasing character who was devoid of morality and compassion in that show, and she reflected that role well. She absolutely turned me off, and from that time on, I did not like Betty White.

Today, when I watched those replays, I realize that you cannot place the characters and the roles they play together.

Some villains are very nice people. Some are not. In the old Westerns, the villain was portrayed in the same way, as a nasty, nefarious character.

Quick judgments are often wrong. For instance, when I first saw the trailer for “Forest Gump,” I was turned off by Tom Hanks’ portrayal, but today, it is one of my favorite movies of all time.

Hanks did a fabulous job with that role, and many others, but I like him more in “Sleepless in Seattle” that Forest — until I watched the entire movie.

We should not make mistakes like that. I realize that Sue Ann Nivens rubbed me the wrong way, but today understand that Betty White was definitely not Sue Ann.

I made a mistake.

Sometimes, actors play roles poorly. We can dislike that, but not perhaps the actor or actress individually.

For instance, I thought that Robert Redford did a woeful job as the lead in “The Great Gatsby.” That was probably because was not typecast well for that role. That was not Redford. He was much better in ’The Way We Were” with Barbra Streisand because he fit that role better.

Do not hold that against the actor.

Speaking of Streisand -- as the psychiatrist

I have read that Barbra is one of the most difficult personalities to deal with in entertainment. She does, however, have a majestic voice that can overcome some of that.

However, I really really respected her as an actress until I watched her performance as a psychiatrist in “The Prince of Tides.” She played that role so well, and I accepted her as a good actress — not just a super voice.

Do not mistake the role for the person

So, what I learned form Betty White is to not confuse the person with the role that she or he plays. I never watched her on any other shows, but she became a beloved person based on her personality, not just on the roles that she played.

So, today I do not make that mistake.

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