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The Age-old

The Age-old


How to stay young in Hollywood? Become a lesbian.

Search the internet for any female entertainer over the age of 40. What you'll find: other people talking about how old they're getting. By "people" I mean everyone from financial advisers to celebrity-obsessed journalists to losers with nothing better to do than write hateful blogs. You'll find a securities analyst reporting to Warner Music Group -- in advising the label not to re-sign her -- that Madonna is not bankable, citing the fact that she'll be 60 at the end of her new Live Nation contract. You'll find a celebrity gossip blog saying Sharon Stone "looks pretty good for being 120 years old." That kind of talk hurts, as demonstrated by Kim Cattrall crying about ageism in her speech at the Golden Globes. Demi Moore gets the worst of it--she only married Ashton to make herself look younger and she looks like crap even after all the plastic surgery. (Classic double whammy: hate you for being old, and hate you for trying to do something about how old you are.) No matter how these women are dismissed and dissected, people will always mention their age.

Now let's look at our out lesbians. Rosie, as we all know, was recently called a "slob" and a "truck driver" by a certain man with astounding hair. Ellen broke down about a rescue dog on her TV show, after which people coined her "a mess." While it seems that our lesbians in the public eye are caught in a different double standard (at once too masculine and not masculine enough), people don't really care how old they are. Why?

One could posit that Madonna and company have made careers out of sexiness -- traditional female sexiness, for lack of a better term -- and Rosie and Ellen have made careers out of comedy, which is ageless. Look at George Burns: "the older, the funnier" seemed to be the formula there. But I think the ageism disparity between high-profile straight women and their lesbian counterparts is more complex than that. First, Rosie and Ellen (and Melissa and k.d., for that matter) are not exactly throwing on conical bras, doing famous leg-crossing (and uncrossing) scenes, or playing strippers on the big screen. I'm sure there are plenty of lesbians out there who would happily do any of that in their careers if given the chance -- it's just that "lesbian" and "hot" are thought to be mutually exclusive. To be a woman in entertainment and make it, you are either a straight sexy girl or you are an out lesbian; in the latter case, you aren't subject to ageism because you're not subject to sexism because you're not entirely perceived as a woman. Who cares how old you are; you're not even a girl. Right?

A more generous explanation could be that men (society, the press, prevailing thought, whatever you want to call it) are more forgiving of women who never went for femininity in the first place. All four of the ones who have been allowed to exist in the mainstream, that is. But whatever the paradigm -- straight women are sexy but come with an expiration date; lesbians can go on forever because they were never sexy to begin with -- it's on the way out. The L Word proves that. Because whether the characters are reflective of the average American lesbian or not, The L Word is shifting (a) the aesthetic of actual lesbians and (b) the way lesbians in general are perceived. For many people the show is a documentary about lesbians in Los Angeles. A nature show, even. So here are these fictional lesbians who are somewhat girly and sexy -- certainly more so than any actual out lesbians in the public eye. Will these actresses, and the hordes of young lesbians mimicking their personas, be immune to the sexism that breeds ageism in the mainstream? Or will they also fall prey to it because, finally, they're feminine enough to be desired and then discarded?

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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