Let’s talk about aging in Hollywood…

Women in Hollywood aren’t encouraged to reflect life experience in their faces… Which is rather ironic considering their faces become “faces” because they’re expected to do just that; inhabit a role, transform, emote, reflect, take us on life’s journey… You get the picture.

expectancyHere’s “the journey” depicted in the work of John Singer Sargent. I see beauty in every phase.

Young_Lady_in_White+color+corrected_smThere is a lushness to youth; big features, skin plump, life pliable and ready to be written in the eyes…

Ena and Betty, Daughters of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer 1901 by John Singer Sargent 1856-1925And, this is the stage plastic surgery sets the standard by…

Jaw firm, cheeks high, skin taught…

I’ve had laser facials and radio frequency treatments, and I’ve never appeared on screen. I have friends who have had facelifts and neck lifts. One actress used to joke — in between surgeries — about having her ears removed and replaced. Another hallucinated from the pain medication in recovery and had chats with dead relatives. And yet another wasn’t allowed to tilt her head down for a week immediately after surgery.  Would any of us felt the pressure if we lived someplace else? I don’t know.

 Let’s go on. This is a sketch of Ethel Mary Smyth, suffragette, composer, author, it’s all there in her face, probably in her late forties:

John_Singer_Sargent_Dame_Ethel_SmythThis woman was a force to be reckoned with, Dr. Anderson was the first woman to qualify as an M.D. in Great Britain and France, a surgeon, founded a hospital, became dean of a college and served as a Mayor and Magistrate, also a first in her native country. Tell me you don’t see the strength and age in her face…

elizabeth-garrett-anderson-1900A dear friend and historian in London provided some vital background on the esteemed doctor.

Dearest V,
That’s Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. What a woman.
Her torturous route to being a doubly qualified doctor and all the doors that were slammed in her face and after her… well I could (and regularly in another life do) go on.
She was, long before being a Mayor of Aldeburgh (of the music festival) the first woman elected to public office in the UK and a member of the London School Board and her sister and best friend were no shirkers either…EGA’s sister was Millicent Fawcett her friend Emily Davies. Legend has it they decided one night to take on the bastions of medicine, education and politics… each specialising in one, but as history tells tending to branch out into the others.
I don’t wish to do that awful Greece to Rome thing that we Brits sometimes do, but might I point out – as I may have done before – that many of our most famous actresses are pretty surgery free… Judi, Maggie, Helen, Emma, Kate and on and on.
It doesn’t seem to have stopped them, how many Oscars and Emmys would that be between them?
I know it’s not hard cash, but surely there’s a question of priorities.
Yes, Emma and Kate and Rachel Weisz have established the British Anti Plastic Surgery League. I don’t take such a moral view myself, though I understand the feminist argument, which is exemplified, sadly, by the tales of your friends.
One thing occurs however, as plastic surgery becomes as commonplace in the US as say, orthodonistry then all actors and actresses will have to have work done simply to reflect the society in which the live accurately.
I must confess to being struck, not just in NYC and Miami, but in DC and The South but quite how many people seemed to have ‘been under the knife’. Either the surgery is more widespread with you or less subtly done (which I doubt).
This, I fear, is not a change merely on our screens but our streets too… soon it will, like vagrancy and begging be socially unacceptable to be old, or at least to look it.

Yours ever,
B.

NPG D7185; Mabell Frances Elizabeth (nÈe Gore), Countess of Airlie after John Singer Sargent

I am currently hunting down this Lady’s memoirs because I know she had stories to tell, you can see it…look at those eyes…

As a close confidante to Queen Mary, Lady Airlie was a close observer of the fluctuating relationships within the British Royal Family, and detailed her reminiscences about them in her memoirs, which were unfinished at the time of her death (at the age of 90 in 1956). They were later discovered by Jennifer Ellis, who edited and published them as Thatched with Gold: The Memoirs of Mabell, Countess of Airlie in 1962.

via Mabell Ogilvy, Countess of Airlie – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Wouldn’t it be nice if women in Hollywood felt free to tell their stories and look their age? Well…hold on a second…author and actress…

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