communication, complaints, language, rants

No… Betty White didn’t say that vaginas are tougher than balls are…

A few days ago, I reposted a rant I wrote in 2014. In that rant, which was originally composed on December 30, 2014, I went off about how annoyed I get when people want to “correct” each other’s opinions. At the end of the rant, I included a popular meme that included Betty White’s visage and the quote, “Why do people say “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” I also shared the original source(s) of that particular joke, which actually came from two comedians– Sheng Wang is partially credited, but it appears that he “borrowed” the joke from Hal Sparks, who did a hilarious routine on Showtime back in 2010. Have a look.

This guy has some comedic chops. Why don’t I know more about him? And why is his material being attributed to someone who has publicly said that she would never had said such a thing?
From Snopes.

When I reposted that blog entry from 2014, I didn’t know that Betty White would die just two days later on New Year’s Eve, 2021. And in the wake of her death, people are, once again, sharing incarnations of that meme with the misattributed quote about how tough vaginas are. I’ve already seen it a few times, and, well, it bugs me.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you shouldn’t be surprised that the practice of misattributing quotes to celebrities bugs me. It’s especially irksome to me when the person who is being falsely attributed to a quote is dead. When a person is dead, he or she can no longer shield themselves against people who put words in their mouths.

In November 2012, Betty White was interviewed by reporter Michael Cragg for The Guardian. Even back then, the infamous vagina quote was being credited to Betty White. Cragg even begins his story with that quote before setting the record straight:

Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” If you happen to look this quote up, you’ll see it attributed to notoriously sweet 90-year-old TV great Betty White. Only those words never passed her lips, and she’d quite like people to bear that in mind next time they see fit to quote it at her, as I have just done. “That’s what I hate about Facebook and the internet,” she sighs. “They can say you said anything. I never would have said that. I’d never say that in a million years.”

I know many people loved Betty White, and that funny quote sounds like something she could have said. I can practically hear her Golden Girls character, Rose Nylund, saying that. But she didn’t say it, and has said she never would have. She plainly said, “I never would have said that. I’d never say that in a million years.” And yet, ten years later, people still share that quote as a means of “honoring” her. Is it really honoring someone when you pair their visage with someone else’s words? Especially when that person has repeatedly and publicly stated that they’ve been misquoted or misattributed?

Betty White joins a long list of famous people who have been credited improperly for things they’ve neither said nor written. How many times have I seen George Carlin credited for writing The Paradox of Our Time, an essay that sounds a little “Carlin-esque”, but was actually written by Dr. Bob Moorehead? George isn’t the only one who has been wrongly credited with writing that essay. It’s also been credited to the Dalai Lama and an unnamed Columbine student. Obviously, many people think it’s a wise and thought provoking essay; that’s why it continually gets shared. But if people really think it’s such a great piece of writing, why not give credit where credit is due? Credit the real writer, Dr. Bob Moorehead, not George Carlin or the Dalai Lama. Take a minute to double check before you share, too.

Most of us have never met the celebrities we admire so much. I think that’s a good thing, since heroes often don’t live up to their images. I have a feeling Betty White was just as sweet in person as she seemed to be on TV, but I don’t know that for sure. She was an actress, and it was her job to be someone she wasn’t– to convincingly play a part on screen so well that people believed they knew her.

I think it’s important to remember that most of the things Betty White said while playing a character, were things that professional writers wrote for her scripts. She played parts that were initially created by someone else, and brought to life by her talent. So when Rose told a St. Olaf story, that wasn’t just Betty– that was also the person who wrote the script.

Even if that quote about the toughness of vaginas sounds like something Rose Nylund would say, we should remember that Rose Nylund wasn’t, in fact, Betty White. Betty was Betty White… and when she wasn’t playing a part, she was herself. And the vast majority of people who know her name and have seen her work, never actually knew Betty off camera. It probably was annoying to her that so many people assumed they knew her well enough to put words in her mouth, so to speak. But, in the Internet age, I’m afraid that is an occupational hazard, as she noted in her article with Michael Cragg of The Guardian.

I do hope that by sharing this post, maybe a couple of people will reconsider sharing that meme– funny as it is. The lady just died two days ago. I’m sure there are other things she actually said that could be shared instead of the “tough vagina” meme that appears to have been inspired by a couple of somewhat less famous comedians. Why not give Hal Sparks or Sheng Wang the credit? They would probably appreciate it, and since they are presumably still living, they can actually use the associated fame.

Betty White was a wonderful, talented, blessed performer who was with us for so many years. Surely we can find another funny quote that Betty actually said that we can share among our friends on Facebook or other social media. Or, better yet, instead of sharing quotes that famous people said, why not come up with some of your own wisdom? I’ll bet you can do it if you try hard enough. But… then you might have another problem.

Every once in awhile, I’ll say something clever and original, and Bill will laugh and say, “That’s funny. Who said that?”

And I’ll roll my eyes and say, “I did. Why is it that whenever I say something funny or interesting, you automatically assume I’m ripping off someone else?”

And then he laughs and apologizes, then admits that I can be clever and witty in my own right, too. In fact, he’s said that’s one of the things he likes about me.

I’m not sure why people feel the need to share quotes, anyway… I used to have a Facebook friend who almost never posted his own thoughts. He just shared things other people said. I wondered what the point of that was. Is that something people do in their everyday lives? Do people go up to others and say things like, “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Gordon B. Hinckley said ‘Conflict grows out of ignorance and suspicion.'”?

I have seen many people use wise quotes online, but it’s not something I see out and about in public, not that I go out in public much nowadays. So why do we do it so often on Facebook? I’m sure some people do it to inspire thought, and there’s nothing wrong with occasionally sharing a profound quote… but I’m a lot more impressed by people who share themselves, rather the stale words some famous person said… or didn’t say. But there’s no pressure to be wise, either. Why not just be yourselves? And let famous people be THEMSELVES.

I know this post makes me sound terribly uptight… and, you know what? I’m gonna own that. We all have our little quirks. This is one of mine. Dead people, especially, can’t defend themselves against false attribution. I will keep complaining about it as long as it’s a problem… which means I’ll probably write another rant on this subject at some point. And if you don’t like it, as Eddie Murphy said, while imitating his drunk stepfather…

“It’s my house…” Yes, Eddie said this, while imitating his stepfather… and I completely agree.

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celebrities, complaints, condescending twatbags, love, marriage

Repost: Gene and Gilda… just stop already!

I am reposting this blog entry from August 31, 2016 because I think it’s a good topic. Gene Wilder died in 2016, though, so please don’t think this is new news. It’s not. I just think the overall subject matter is worth a reshare. Sometimes people don’t think. The screen shot is from a tribute to Gene and Gilda. I have no problem with people memorializing them now, since Gene has been gone for five years. I just thought it was wrong to do it just after his death, when he left a wife behind who had been with him for 25 years.

In case you didn’t know, actor, screenwriter, director and author Gene Wilder died a couple of days ago.  He had lived a very full life and was 83 years old at the time of his passing.  He’d also suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which kept him out of the spotlight over the past few years. 

I first became familiar with Gene Wilder in the 80s.  He was still a fairly prolific actor back then.  I still have not seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Young Frankenstein, but I did see The Woman in RedStir Crazy, and Blazing Saddles.  I always thought he was funny and charming.  I may have to read his novels, too.  I bet they were excellent.  But I am not writing about Gene Wilder this morning because I want to memorialize him.

Gene Wilder died a married man.  His fourth wife, Karen, married him in 1991.  That was twenty-five years ago.  Karen stuck by him as he aged and got sick.  He was married to her longer than he was the three wives before him combined

But people seem to want to remember him with his third wife, Gilda Radner, the adorably funny comedienne who starred on Saturday Night Live in the 70s.  They were married in 1984 in the South of France and their marriage ended tragically five years later, when Gilda got a very aggressive form of ovarian cancer.  I read her book, It’s Always Something, when I was in high school.  It was published in 1989, the year she died.

I will not dispute that Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner were deeply in love.  I remember reading about their love in Gilda’s book.  And I’m sure, if there is a Heaven, the two of them embraced and celebrated when he finally reached the Pearly Gates.  Maybe they’re rejoicing being together again.  I really don’t know.

What I do know is that Gene Wilder has a surviving wife here on planet Earth.  And not even twenty-four hours after her husband’s death, a news article popped up about Gene and Gilda and their sad love story. 

I get that Gene Wilder is timely news right now.  I get that he and Gilda had a special love for each other.  But, in my opinion, the media could have waited awhile before they went ahead with this reminder of Gene’s past love life.  He has a widow now who is presumably grieving.  Where is the deference for her?  Couldn’t this reminder of Gene and Gilda have waited until the sheets had gone cold?

What kills me is that most of the comments I’ve read on that one story alone were very positive.  They were all about how deeply Gene and Gilda loved each other.  Only a few people spared a passing thought for Gene’s fourth wife, Karen, who must have also loved him very much.  Most people were writing things like “What a beautiful love story!”  “They are together again!”  “Such a positive story for a change!” (really?).  It just seems kind of thoughtless to me.

This issue is not new, though.  If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you may already know how I feel about a certain essay that regularly circuits the Internet.  It’s called “Paradox of our Time” and it often gets falsely attributed to George Carlin, who read it and thought it was a “sappy load of shit”.  The essay was, in fact, written by Dr. Bob Moorehead, a pastor.  In fact, this is what Mr. Carlin himself had to say about “Paradox of our Time”.

“PARADOX OF OUR TIME”

One of the more embarrassing items making the internet/e-mail rounds is a sappy load of shit called “The Paradox of Our Time.” The main problem I have with it is that as true as some of the expressed sentiments may be, who really gives a shit? Certainly not me.

I figured out years ago that the human species is totally fucked and has been for a long time. I also know that the sick, media-consumer culture in America continues to make this so-called problem worse. But the trick, folks, is not to give a fuck. Like me. I really don’t care. I stopped worrying about all this temporal bullshit a long time ago. It’s meaningless. (See the preface of “Braindroppings.”)

Another problem I have with “Paradox” is that the ideas are all expressed in a sort of pseudo-spiritual, New-Age-y, “Gee-whiz-can’t-we-do-better-than-this” tone of voice. It’s not only bad prose and poetry, it’s weak philosophy. I hope I never sound like that.

But anyway, there is a version of “Paradox of our Time” circulating that adds a bit more to the essay.  Some uninformed jerk decided to turn the essay into a love story by adding that Carlin wrote it right after his first wife, Brenda Carlin, died of liver cancer.  Then, they add that Carlin quickly followed her to the grave.

A “Weird Al” Yankovic song about this very issue.

Folks, Brenda Carlin died in May 1997 of liver cancer.  George Carlin died in June 2008.  And guess what?  He had remarried!  His second wife, Sally Wade, even published a book about their relationship.  They were together for about ten years.  “Paradox of our Time” was written in 1998, a year after Brenda Carlin died.  But it was not inspired by her, nor was it written by George Carlin.

Now… I don’t know Sally Wade.  I did read her book about life with George, though, and she strikes me as a pretty tough cookie.  Still, I’m sure it was annoying to see her husband not only associated with a piece of writing that he thought was a “sappy load of shit”, but to also see people fabricating a false history.  George Carlin did NOT die of a broken heart right after his first wife died, though he did die of heart failure about eleven years later.  To fabricate a tall tale about how he “followed Brenda to the grave” is just disrespectful, not just to George, but also to his second wife, Sally.

I understand that people want to admire their heroes.  People also love a good story.  We’d like to think that love is forever and that when someone’s first true love dies, he or she is waiting for them up in Heaven.  And maybe that’s what will happen– or maybe not.  But if someone whose first love dies has the good fortune to love again, isn’t it more respectful and kind to pay deference to the person left behind when he or she passes?  Maybe Karen came after Gilda and wasn’t as famous as Gilda was, but she stuck around for 25 years and presumably took care of Gene Wilder when he needed her the most. 

In the case of Gene and Gilda, I would say it’s fine to write about their relationship at some point.  They were genuinely in love with each other and I don’t think it’s wrong to wax poetic about that.  But I don’t think it’s appropriate to romanticize Gene and Gilda when Gene hasn’t even been dead 24 hours and has a grieving widow now acutely dealing with his death.  It’s just tacky and rude, and shows no consideration for his wife. 

But… in the interest of not being a hypocrite, I will not go around flaming the people who do write about Gene and Gilda “together again at last”, even if it does make me shake my head…  When it comes down to it, people have the right to express themselves, even if they’re being tacky and rude in the process.

Edited to add in 2021: Here is a link to an essay written by Karen Wilder, Gene Wilder’s widow, on what it was like to care for him at the end of his life.

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