I’m not a movie buff, so I confess I didn’t know who Maggie Gyllenhaal was prior to reading this story. It rather appears she’s ‘too old’, a 37 year old actress, to be the love interest in a movie opposite a 55 year old man.
Thirty seven, eh? I remember that like it was…oooh…last year!
I’m sorry, but am I the only one who thinks she’s drop dead gorgeous with to-die-for cheekbones?
I’ve seen Jennifer Aniston ‘act’, and essentially I don’t think she can act; she has no depth. Anything I’ve ever seen her in she pretty much plays ‘Jennifer Aniston’, and personally I’d dismiss her from ‘the love interest’ in anything because I find her wholly unconvincing. Oddly, at a decade older than Ms.Gyllenhaal, she still seems to be getting ‘love interest roles in films that come with what I regard more as a public health warning as a genre: ‘romantic comedy’.
I’ve not seen Ms. Gyllenhaal act, the movies listed in her wiki entry apparently as lightweight as anything Jennifer Aniston has done, but I’m not in a position to judge Ms. Gyllenhaal on her acting abilities, or capacity to convincingly be the love interest of an older man. But let’s leave aside my (lack of) knowledge about the movie business.
Let’s get to the hub of the issue: sexist ageism.
Predictably, the media has blanket-covered the matter, and rightly so. It’s Hollywood’s version of ‘social engineering’, again. As usual, from James Bond to…whatever…the action hero has to be seen wooing women young enough to be their daughters. Isn’t there something slightly wrong, on all sorts of levels, with this?
Presumably, there will come a time when Hollywood needs an older woman for a role. You know, someone exactly the same age as the leading man, required to play the mother of the leading man’s main squeeze.
Where might these women be? Retired from Hollywood, mopping tables in Burger King? I don’t know. I’m so far removed from Hollywood that I’m unsure how ‘Tinseltown’ really works. Nor do I really care.
What I do care about is that women are treated to this sort of routine gender-based ageism. It makes me angry.
As usual, though, there’s a need to have a Second Life perspective on this, and following on from my ‘Older Guys rock!‘ post, I began to analyse the role and function of ‘age’ within Second Life, a platform that sometimes appears to adopt a similar position to that of Tinseltown, demanding that women, more than men, fall into a framework of the eternally youthful. Certainly, men in SL are just as willing to take the ‘Neverland’ approach and never grow up, or old, in many instances, but it seemed to me that it’s women who are…not ‘pressurised’ as such, but encouraged, or persuaded, to adopt that more youthful look.
In this, I turned to Barbara, who pretty much functions as SLN’s ‘older avatar correspondent’ a lot of the time, because I know that she is very interested in such things:
‘In my estimation there’s a Catch-22 situation with SL. Skin designers make young skins. They’re widely available and you can often find good ones free. So people find it easier to create a good looking younger avatar. Skin designers are more reluctant to do older ones, and the older ones that are created are often prohibitively expensive. Why pay L$1000 or more for an older looking skin when you can probably get a good skin for free?
‘Hair is a little easier. Just buy grey or white instead of blonde or brunette, but a lot of the emphasis of the game is that ‘alternative’ life, so clearly people are drawn to that element of it. I understand why people may want to shave a decade or two off their real life age and re-live their youth. Just because we hit 50 doesn’t mean we don’t remember our wild youth like it was yesterday. Cyber…again, it’s a guilt free replication of our teenage years, without the fear of teen pregnancy or any ‘reputation’ applied because your avatar is promiscuous, very much removed from the RL experience. Of course people want that. I’ve read Canary Beck’s survey too, and can completely understand the reasons why people have the SL sex lives they do.
‘There’s a kind of a flip-side to being an obvious ‘older woman’ in SL, incidentally, which I think does diverge from what you’re suggesting is the Hollywood experience, in that the ‘older woman’, as an obvious avatar, can sometimes become a MILF or yummy mummy figure. This would be part and parcel of my SL experience, in that my avatar’s look, and my profile, clearly identifies me as an ‘older woman’ and that, I think, is attractive to younger males in SL. Sometimes, that feeds back into what you, Canary and Vanadis identified last week as ‘unwanted attentions’ and how to deal with them. By creating an older avatar you create a set of circumstances wherein, being older, you become more attractive, at least in the sense of being another notch on the SL bedpost.’
Is there an appetite for women to wear older looking avatars in the manner Barbara does?
Barbara would appear to suggest that skin designers have a role to play, wherein they could diversify and create a wider age-range of affordable skins of varying age. Indeed, if Barbara’s last point, the ‘older woman as object of sexual desire’ is correct, such skins might well have a ready-made attraction for some. She confides that he would love to be able to purchase a ‘middle aged’ skin. ‘I think the skin I use, while designed for a younger avatar, works…apart from around the face. It’s easy to create a shape that replicates middle-age by thickening the body a little and making the boobs saggier, but there remains a problem with the face. We tend to get more wrinkles, around the eyes, in real life, and without being able to age the face accordingly it does make me still feel I’m living a little bit of a lie by not being true to myself, although the lie is being perpetuated my skin designers rather than me wishing to be something I’m not’.
As SL ages, so the perspective of its players change. Personally, I’m finding that more males are adopting an older look where once they would have bought into the eternal youthfulness that SL offers. This is quite apparent to me at some of the naturist sims I visit, where some males, beyond the SL friends I wrote about in the ‘Older guys rock’ post, now feel confident enough to adopt older avatars. Like Hollywood, it’s obvious that being 55 in SL or in the movies, isn’t necessarily seen to be a bar to playing the romantic lead. I did recently investigate what I would call a non-genuine naturist sim where a balding, white bearded male avatar was indulging in a threesome with two youthful lovelies. And no, you didn’t see the sim reviewed and blogged for that specific reason 🙂
So SL replicates Hollywood, from the older man/younger woman perspective. Is it working in the opposite direction? Apart from Barbara’s reported ‘milf’ scenario, I’ve certainly never seen any evidence of it. There simply don’t appear to be many older looking female avatars chatting or dancing with younger looking male avatars from what I can see.
I think it’s good that males are confident enough to adopt older looking avatars. I welcome that development. However, it seems to me that SL replicates RL to a degree where the older guy can get the younger female, but the older female -even the SL equivalent of a 37-year-old Maggie Gyllenhaal- remains (the likes of Barbara notwithstanding) almost invisible.