Confessions From Duane Reade
"Look how 73-year-old Harrison Ford is still celebrated as Han Solo on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and his Jedi counterpart, 59-year-old Carrie Fisher, is being blasted on social media for “not aging well.
My opinion: Harrison Ford looks old as the hills. Is he aging well? Not compared to a lot of women his age, but you know what? Great. Being old as the hills as a gorgeous thing; think about how much smarter, experienced and craft-savvy he must be. Might I even venture to say more sexy?Well, this depends on how we define ‘sexy.'
I was looking at magazines in a Duane Reade as an experiment and noticed something remarkable (aka not remarkable or surprising at all): Every single woman on every single magazine was air brushed within an inch of their lives, even Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who are poster chicks for pointing to this ridiculous / obvious gender factor. But they get it: To have a voice, they have to play the game and pretend to never age. The only woman who wasn't completely whitewashed with the gloss of unrealistic perfection was the TIME Magazine cover pic of Angela Merkel, The Person of the Year, Chancellor of the Free World. BUT IT WASNT EVEN A PICTURE. It was a drawing, a rendering that was an approximation of her reality. They couldn't airbrush her up and get away with it, because she doesn't exist on the spectrum to titillate, but to challenge. She's a bastion of brains and smarts-appeal, which apparently is not what we care about in this craven, inside-out season of society.
(*Shakes fist and tells the kids to get off her lawn.*) Anyway…
This was the discovery for me: The men on the front of mags showed plenty signs of age. The mags ACCENTUATED crows feet & gray hair. They ACCENTUATED furrowed brows. It was shocking at how blatant the image crafting really was. There was no apology, no shame. (This is not to say that men don't have LOTS of image pressure from all sides in different ways, btw. I'm not that cloistered in my perception of how this is all going down.)
But I'm telling you nothing new. Here's the thing:
This is not irreversible. Everyday people in everyday jobs who work at these everyday magazines have the power to say, "You know what, I'm not going to make this woman look like a comic book approximation. I'm not going to shave her thighs down with my electronic wand. I'm not going to CHANGE THE SHADE OF A WOMAN'S SKIN (!?) to match the ideal." Whatever that is. You know who else can help change this: we can. I'm as guilty as the next person for filtering a pic within an inch of its life and taking a selfie over and over again to look my best; slathering prescription strength skin meds on my face, etc ad nauseam. But we can also try to be real with one another. Vulnerable. And the more we are real with our real image, the more we can change the tide of exception.
It's a Real Movement. Hashtag that mess.
As actors, aren't we trying to be real? Isn't that what people pay a lot of money to see? People being vulnerable in real scenarios about real things? That's gutsy. That's sexy. I think if people are fed an appetite of real faces and bodies and ages, they would consume it as healthy. Tasty. But we are feeding people an appetite of candy corn, sugar-coated caricatures. So that's what we all expect from ourselves. We're gonna be sick to our soul-stomaches any day now. Oh wait, we already are. (aka any Real Wives TV brand you want to reference)
Look. I'm not being holier than thou about this tho, ok?
And I'll def be a hypocrite 10 times over with this. Cause, of course, I personally struggle with this a lot. I am in this crazy business and my face and body are my product and I want to work. So I play the game, too. I post flattering pics and smirky smiles showing how fun this whole image game is. (It's not fun at all.) BUT I also must be who I am: a woman, loved by my family and by God and feel free to say things like, "I had hip surgery last month and I looked a hot mess for days on end." (This is absolutely true.) (I'm better, but not 100% yet.) (I look a hot mess today.)
This is a confession, I suppose. This is me saying "I play the image game because I love my craft and it seems this is part of it for now." Especially when a beautiful woman like Carrie Fisher can't even be appreciated for her own rock-stardom in a franchise she helped create.
But I also don't like the game and, just like all false loves, it will turn on me and be a bitter root of resentment if I don't recognize it as an idol of our age. This is me checking and balancing myself with y'all. Let me not feed a monster of image expectation that will one day turn and devour me. Let me not fall on my own sword of pride and fear. (Moral of the story complete. Well... almost.)
This: Harrison Ford, you look pretty ragged despite being killer cool. But that's ok. Your image doesn't define who you are and aging is the gift of being alive. May we move toward a generation of culture makers who believe the same.