In her current film, a romantic comedy called “It’s Complicated”, Meryl Streep plays a woman her own age, 60. She is not playing the leading lady’s mother or grandmother or an elderly neighbour. She is the romantic lead. Many people are saying that’s a first, but it isn’t. Shirley MacLaine played an older romantic lead in “Terms of Endearment” and of course, Ruth Gordon played the romantic lead in the quirky classic “Harold and Maude” when she was 75. While I am happy to see these roles going out to older women, I would like it more if they didn’t make the woman’s age part of the gag. I’d like to see a film that is simply about an older woman…doing whatever and no attention paid to her age. It’s in the same way that I felt that the fuss about Obama becoming the first black President was sad. What I hope for is a day when people don’t even notice that he is black. That’s the real end to racism or agism. When you really don’t even notice it. When age, race, size, shape becomes as insignificant as someone’s eye colour.
However, it is empowering to see Meryl Streep in such as role at her age, especially because she has kept her own face rather than submit to the pressure to turn to plastic surgery. Not only did Meryl’s film kick ass, grossing $105 million so far, even opening against Avatar; it also kicked the Hollywood youth peddlers right in their capped teeth.
It’s so boring seeing female actresses morphing into strangers with their faces pulled into a rictus of suspended surprise with their eyebrows so far up their foreheads they look like escaping caterpillars. There was a funny scene in “It’s Complicated” where a depressed Meryl goes to a plastic surgeon and complains about the sagging skin over one eye. She doesn’t want to do both eyes, mind you, just the left one. When the surgeon explains the horrific procedure of peeling off her face and stapling it into her scalp she races out of his office. During the rest of the movie, when she’s nervous, you see her holding up the skin on that one eye up with her finger trying to look casual. Okay, so some of the aging gags are funny.
Why can’t we be like the British whose films are full of people with interesting faces? Faces that are expressive, mobile, wrinkled, sagging and telling a life’s story. In age there is beauty and comedy and romance. We are a powerful group, those oldies over 45. We are at the top of our earning curve. We spend over a trillion a year (according to my husband, I’m doing the lion’s share). We see movies. We buy clothes. We are interested in fashion. We travel. We aren’t the stay-home middle-aged dowagers our mothers and grandmothers were. We aren’t invisible. And have the numbers to sway even the youth-oriented boys in Hollywood to see things our way. If not for the pleasure of seeing a very funny movie, go and see it to place a vote toward acceptance of older women in our society. Let the box office speak for you.
Oh and Hollywood, you can keep your silly boob jobs too!