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The Straight Dope 

Betty: In the Bottle At Last?

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Now we know. They were just saving her for a special occasion. --Jim Siterlet, Urbana, Illinois

My faith in humanity is restored, sort of. Jim, who obviously shares Cecil's sympathy for the oppressed, remembered the column I wrote years ago lamenting the absence of Betty Rubble from bottles of Flintstones chewable vitamins. Manufacturer's excuse #1: she looked too much like Wilma. Manufacturer's excuse #2: "The vitamin die had limited room and in a toss-up between Betty and Wilma, Betty lost out because her slim waist kept breaking." In other words, she lost out because she watched her weight! Is this the message we want to send to impressionable young consumers?

But let's get serious. We all know what really happened.

First male marketing genius: OK, we got the main stud in there, we got his buddy, we got his wife, the kids, the pet dinosaur, the car ... what are we leaving out?

Second male marketing genius: Uh, Betty.

First MMG: So what's more important--your car, your pooch, or your best friend's wife?

(They look at each other.)

First MMG: This is a family product.

Second MMG: Pitch the babe.

When I first wrote about Betty I was as a voice crying in the wilderness. However, a sense of the injustice of it all gradually seeped into the awareness of the American public. The movement got a boost when the movie The Flintstones came out last year. Actress Rosie O'Donnell, whose portrayal of Betty was unjustly overlooked at Oscar time, was asked about Betty's whereabouts during an interview on Eye to Eye With Connie Chung. Her consciousness instantly raised, Rosie cried, "Something has to be done! Hand me the phone. I'm going to call my agent."

The thing snowballed from there. One hundred and fifty women named Betty formed the Betty Club and circulated a petition. Radio DJs, long known for their social concern, circulated their own petitions. An Atlanta rock band decided to call itself Betty's Not a Vitamin. Sensing that popular sentiment was turning against them, the makers of Flintstones vitamins, now known as Bayer Corporation, resolved to put things right, provided they could make a couple bucks in the process. They launched a "Find Betty" promotional campaign, offering big prizes if you could find "icons" of Betty (although apparently not an actual vitaminic representation) in specially marked packages of Flintstones chewables. They also asked the American public to vote on whether Betty should get into the bottle on a permanent basis. "Vote?" Americans asked. "We're supposed to vote on fundamental questions of justice? Hey, why not?" Bayer set up "prehistoric voting booths" (I didn't ask) at malls in major markets and also launched an 800 number that ran till June 12. A company spokesman says some 14,000 votes were received and "it looks good for Betty." A final tabulation is expected within a week or so. You'll read about it here ... well, not first, I regret to say. In a sad lapse of news judgment, Bayer's PR types have promised an exclusive to USA Today. I argued that the only way USA Today could equal my readership's average intelligence was by the additive method. No dice. But you'll read about it here eventually.

One last thing. The Bayer PR folks traced the genesis of the "Where's Betty?" movement and say it all began with a 1994 mention in the late Spy magazine. Nothing against Spy, but this is a crock. My column about Betty was reprinted in More of the Straight Dope in 1988. But what can you expect? Sometimes I'm so far ahead of the curve I get there before they even open the ballpark.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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