Wednesday, 05 October 2005
According to the cover touts, this October issue is devoted to “Age Brilliantly!” and there might actually be editorial copy somewhere in the 350 pages if it could be found among the approximately 320 pages of ads featuring 20-something models.
The real “brilliance” here is that the story pages are cleverly designed to look like the ads (and vice versa) so readers will be suckered into thinking pimple remedies (page 103) and multinational corporations selling such products as automobiles, insurance and blue jeans with pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness (page 117) are as equally deserving of attention as the articles.
A few wise words about getting older - buried among the youth-promotion ads - from Maya Angelou and Linda Ellerbee notwithstanding, the entire magazine reinforces our ageist culture’s demand to put a bag over our heads when the first wrinkle appears.
According to one story, aging beautifully - presented as the ultimate goal of aging - can be done in five easy steps: wear sunscreen, cut your hair, whiten your teeth, sleep and stand up straight. If I’m not mistaken, Seventeen magazine does this story every month.
But the longest – and most offensive – piece in the magazine comes from so-called comedy writer, Nora Ephron. Jennifer perfectly catches the essence of it on her blog:
“…Ms. Ephron declares without irony that she’s spent $20,000 on her teeth and that coloring her hair ‘costs more each year than [her] first automobile.’ She spends, she estimates, eight hours a week on what she daintily refers to as ‘beauty maintenance’ - and those eight hours that keep her from looking like ‘a homeless woman…with frizzled flyaway gray hair…a pot belly…dirty nails, chapped lips, and mustache and bushy eyebrows.’”
That’s what Ms. Ephron and – presumably – Oprah believe aging looks like. No wonder everyone in the U.S. is afraid of getting old.
A few nights ago, former model, Christie Brinkley, turned up in a television commercial for some cosmetic saying, “I love being the age I am. I just don’t want to look it.” And a movie star (Andy McDowell?) regularly shills for a hair coloring product warning viewers of the horrors of gray hair.
It is this daily barrage of negative messages about aging that perpetuates age discrimination in the workplace and the general disrespect for anyone over 40. Where is Oprah’s much-ballyhooed affection for the underdog when she talks about getting older?
Her October issue pretends to celebrate age, but she is no more than a captain in the youth and beauty police brigade reinforcing the insidious prejudice against old people – the appearance of youth is all that matters. Deeply buried in the magazine, from Maya Angelou, is the real issue Oprah, with her vast and adoring audience, should be supporting:
"The surface, the superficial, the way one looks has become valued too highly in our society. When the skin begins to sag, many women go for Botox. Why on earth would you let somebody stick a needle in your face just to get rid of a wrinkle? Here's the real question: What do we have to do to place more value on age? We have to value ourselves not for what we look like or the things we possess but for the women we are.”