Maybe it’s a bit strange for me to be annoyed by ageism. After all, beyond some underestimation I haven’t been subject to ageist behavior. But I head forward into this discussion with the firm belief that people can support causes that don’t affect them. Men can be feminists, after all. That said…
I just started watching Grace and Frankie, and it is phenomenal. I won’t go into much detail about it, beyond that its four main stars are all older (about the age of retirement, with grandkids). I wasn’t even two minutes into the first episode when I realized how strange that was, and how strange it was that it was strange.
Older people are nearly never the stars. They’re mentors, sure, crazy grandparents, side characters, teachers. Mr. Miagis, Dumbledores, Professor Xs, etc. Why must the protagonist always be young and spritely? The oldest Disney Princess is Elsa at 21. Luke Skywalker started at 19. Harry Potter started at 11!
Well, there’s a lot of reasons. We like the hero’s story. We love a good bildungsroman (fancy German word for “coming of age story”). It’s more interesting to see people fall in love than continue to be in love, just like how it’s interesting to see people get a job rather than retire. How many shows start with someone getting a new job, or moving to a new place after college, or getting engaged? Beginnings are simply more interesting than ends.
But life doesn’t just ride on a happy ending after you turn 30. Life just keeps happening. There is no happy ending to wrap it all up; it just keeps going. Why is it so hard to imagine an older person going through an exciting story as the protagonist?
Well, let me tell you: Grace and Frankie have an interesting story, and they’re genuinely funny as well. They made me realize that we may need to invent a Bechdel test for people over fifty. Two people, over fifty, with names, have a conversation about something other than how old they are. Surely, that’s a hard bill to fit.
I guess this hits me hard because I just ended another year of college and am about to end my 6-month internship, and it feels like a sort of graduation. A place where movies end, but life does not. Or maybe it’s because I’m salty about not being a teenager anymore. Either way, I think it’s important to teach people that you don’t get a happily ever after. You just get more life.
I think that’s a positive thing. To live always happily would be to live quite a boring life.
Anyhow, yes. I vote we end age discrimination as well as all the other discriminations we’re already fighting to end. I think it’s just as important, for people of all ages. Some people may say, “Oh, they’ve had their chance at the spotlight.” But I don’t think the spotlight cares about wrinkles. It cares about people deserving of attention, and that could be anyone.