She threw a Bette Davis-sized temper-tantrum and is refusing to have anything to do with Hollywood until it can write a decent storyline for older woman. Rumour has is that the later characters of Joan Crawford and Katherine Hepburn have also joined in the picket line.
I mean, what the hell happened to decently-written roles for older women? When I first saw Baby Jane, which is about the bitter – and ultimately deadly – rivalry between two sisters, Jane (Davis) who was a child star and fizzled out in adolescence, and Blanche (Crawford) a superstar who may or may not have been paralysed by the bitter and vengeful Jane, I wasn’t too impressed. It didn’t help that I had seen one of Davis’s other later movies, All About Eve, in which she plays a spoilt, fading stage star, and was basically unimpressed that, while good roles, they both showed Davis’s character as bitter, dried up, miserable, vengeful.
Then I watched Katherine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, in which she plays a WASPy wife struggling to deal with her daughter’s engagement to a black man. She was easily the equal of her on-screen husband Spencer Tracey and portrayed issues of race and family with dignity and class that was appropriate for her age – not desperately trying to look youthful and glamorous for the fact she was well into her fifties.
It was then I realised that Baby Jane and Eve, while portraying older women as bitter, dried up etc, still portrayed them as fleshed-out, with motives and a backstory you could understand. They may not have been hugely likeable, their logic may have been somewhat warped, even sociopathic, but they made sense.
And they looked and acted their age. These were believable, Oscar-nominated roles for women well into their fifties. Who looked like they were well into their fifties, and acted like it.
I can’t think of a single movie today which portrayed aging so honestly and unapologetically, but still believable and fleshed-out – certainly not one which enjoyed the commercial success those three did. Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn are both talented actresses, but look years younger then they actually are, and constantly play glamorous roles – they are the ideal for aging women (never mind the fact that no-one gives a crap Jack Nicholson is bald and has a beer gut), not the average, the honest truth, or even some of the more bitter examples.
What does it say about Hollywood that it was doing better at presenting women who age with varying degrees of grace forty years ago then it is today? What does it say about audiences today for accepting much less believable standards then it was forty years ago?