The other day, I saw an interview with Jane Fonda. God bless her, she has decided to embrace aging as fully as she embraced living the French life with her French husband in early ’60′s France, the anti-war movement in the early ’70′s, her workout videos in the early ’80′s, being wife to Ted Turner in the ’90′s.
This is good. Very good. In our ageist society, we need actresses like Jane Fonda to speak about really enjoying getting old. True, unlike the rest of us, she is able to pay for plastic surgery that permits her to look very good in her ’70′s. Nevertheless, I don’t mind having her as a poster “girl” for aging. Maybe it is her girl next door persona, the all American girl who, like so many, went through all the ups and downs along with our society during the tumultuous second half of the 20th century. But probably it has more to do with her spunky attitude towards aging. She is not coming across as apologetic, embarrassed or as someone who regrets no longer being young. No. She enthusiastically embraces this next stage in her life. As we all should.
Yes, we have Helen Mirren who is very gracefully aging and playing roles that reflect women around her age group. But she is British. We have Charlotte Rampling who has just come out with a movie, 45 years, about an aging couple confronting certain situations that they permitted themselves to ignore for most of their marriage. Charlotte Rampling was considered very sexy in her younger days. That sexy person has permitted herself to age gracefully. But again, she is British. Then we have the beautiful Julie Christie, who played in a wonderful film dealing with Alzheimer’s. But again, British.
Yes, it seems that the British actresses are much more accepting of their aging process than the American actresses. There are probably many reasons for this, but the least is not because Hollywood has always worshiped the younger, beautiful actress over the older, more experienced actress. This, of course, forces older actresses to do what they can to look younger and to seek younger roles that might be meatier rather than potentially being cast as a grandmother in a supporting role to the protagonist. Ironically, these British actresses are finding roles that permit viewers to experience the process of aging, the transitions that occur and the means by which to deal with them.
More importantly, but probably influenced by Hollywood’s attitude towards aging, is the undercurrent of bias towards the aging process that exists in our society. Since World War II, the media, which really has a major influence in how people think and what they gravitate towards, has spent millions of dollars extolling the benefits of youth over age.
I certainly hope that Jane Fonda, through embracing her age and proudly proclaiming it, will have as much influence on our outlook of aging as she has had in other areas.
copyright Yvonne Behrens 2015