Aging Is A Privilege, Not A Sin

February 8, 2011

My wife Lauren wrote that line in a poignant blog she wrote this week.

And the line really hit me.

Of course, aging is a privilege, particularly when you consider the alternative.

But it’s more than that. Much more.

Before reading Lauren’s blog, I had just watched the wonderful Packers/Steelers Super Bowl game and was just dumbfounded (emphasis on the “dumb”) at the movie commercials during the game. Every movie looked the same: huge action, technological wizardry, and subject matter geared to teenagers. For those of us who have enjoyed a couple of months of movies such as The King’s Speech, Hereafter, and The Social Network, those commercials were a slap-in-the-face-wake-up-call reminder that movies with content, real characters, and real human emotions will now be basically going on hiatus again until October.

Welcome to The New Hollywood.

After reading Lauren’s blog, we watched Piers Morgan interview Angie Dickinson, Nichelle Nichols, Linda Evans, and Stefanie Powers. All 4 delightful women were huge, trailblazing television stars back in the 1970s. None of them are actively working as actresses today, some maybe by choice, but all because of the hideous ageism that rules Hollywood.

Despite a groundbreaking and successful class action lawsuit, actors, writers, directors, and audiences in the second or third act of life are persona non grata in the New Hollywood.

As I wrote in Chapter 16 of  Bringing Back The Old Hollywood:

Forever Thirty-Nine: Soylent Green

Jack Benny wasn’t the only person who couldn’t bear the thought of turning forty.

I have an old, uh, long-time friend who worked very successfully for many years as a writer in The New Hollywood.

One of the most extraordinary aspects of my friend’s success was that he somehow managed to stop the aging process. When he reached thirty-nine, he just magically stayed there for almost a decade.

As the executive revolving door continued to spin, and new faces appeared, he just stayed thirty-nine. Unlike The Picture of Dorian Gray, he didn’t have a rapidly aging portrait stashed in an attic somewhere.

When you hit forty in The New Hollywood, you are looked upon much like a milk carton that has exceeded its expiration date.

If you have the temerity and incredibly bad judgment to actually turn fifty and admit it, many people look at you as though you were auditioning for the next sequel to The Night of The Living Dead.

In short, despite a successful class action lawsuit a few years ago, ageism is almost a religion in The New Hollywood.

Sadly enough, people’s careers often hinge on looking and behaving younger and younger as they get older and older; hence, the plethora of plastic surgeons in Los Angeles.

Whereas age and experience are qualities that are respected and even revered in many cultures and societies, those same qualities are the kisses of career death in The New Hollywood; therefore, they must be camouflaged and hidden from sight.

Soylent Green was a 1973 science fiction film that posited a future where food had become so scarce that human beings were recycled into a new food called Soylent Green. A remake of that film is now in development. So, to writers, actors, directors, and producers over forty: caution–we may be next. Soylent Gray, anyone?

Practically speaking, though, it’s completely understandable that a business that caters almost exclusively to teenagers and people in their twenties would prefer writers, directors, actors, and producers who relate to the issues of that audience.

It’s beyond pathetic, however, for talented people over forty to have to pretend that they are something that they are not and it’s even worse for those people to have to come up with movie ideas that don’t in any way appeal to them or their life experiences anymore.

As The Old Hollywood focuses on Acts Two and Three of life, it will be the beneficiary of the talents of thousands of men and women whose creative passions have been stifled by the New Hollywood. When those passions are released and then channeled into films that are no longer limited to teenage angst, the force of the creative outpouring from these talented filmmakers will make a hurricane feel like a mild breeze.           

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