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Betty White Sets the Standard: Is Hollywood Finally Starting to Honor Age?

Betty White SAGS

Jan. 30: Betty White accepts her Screen Actor's Guild Award.

For years it has been the commonly-held fear of Hollywood actresses that once they entered middle age, they would be overlooked for roles in favor of younger, fresher faces. But if Sunday night’s Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards were anything to go by, the attitude of the entertainment industry has changed.

Proving that age is no handicap to success, 89-year-old Betty White came in as a surprise to beat the likes of Tina Fey and Jane Lynch to take home the award for best actress in a TV comedy. Although she made her first foray into Hollywood over 70 years ago, this was White’s first ever SAG nomination.

"This [is] the biggest surprise I've ever had in this business,” the “Hot in Cleveland” star told the audience who rose to their feet in her honor. “You didn't applaud when I turned 40!"

While White led the pack with her wisdom and years in the business, a number of other actresses recognized for their work weren’t just over 40, but over 50 – winner Melissa Leo for “The Fighter,” nominees Jane Lynch for “Glee,” Annette Bening for “The Kids Are Alright,” Susan Sarandon for “You Don’t Know Jack,” Catherine O’Hara for “Temple Grandin,” and Glenn Close for “Damages.”

“Looks like you'd better forget the Botox if you want to work in Hollywood now.  You'll need those wrinkles to prove you're over 50,” Hollywood and Pop Culture Expert Mirren Lee enthused to FOX411’s Pop Tarts. “At last, the tide has turned and no one can say that only the young 'uns rule our screens.  It's a new era. 

“Part of the change is Baby Boomers demanding to see more than just ‘fetuses’ represented in film and TV, and part of it is because women themselves are taking greater charge of producing projects,” Lee explained.

And even on the male side of the equation, Sunday’s SAG awards suggested that a little age in Hollywood is now on an actor’s side when it comes to receiving recognition. The majority of the winners and nominees were in fact 50 or over – including Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Colin Firth, Steve Buscemi and Geoffrey Rush.

So it seems regardless of whether you are male or female, perhaps the SAG Awards were a good indication that being young and super sexy is no longer the “it” thing in Tinseltown, and at the end of the day – talent really can triumph.

“Longevity is hard earned, and the ones that have endured the ups and downs and have managed to stay relevant, stay sexy, stay talented and enthusiastic are the ones that really inspire us,” Jeanne Wolf of Parade Magazine added. “There is something to seasoning, there is something to experience, and the best in Hollywood is to mix that with a spark of youth.”

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