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Ageism at the Oscars

category_bug_ageism.gif Did you watch the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night? Not having seen most of the movies, I hadn't intended to do so plus, it feels like a anachronism these days, watching famous rich people applaud themselves.

But then I recalled reading that an old friend I had worked with for many years, Don Mischer, was one of the new executive producers and the director of the show this year. So I tuned in.

From a strictly production point of view, I thought it was fine, as glamorous as it is expected to be, well shot and produced (hurray, Don!). What I could not abide were the non-stop remarks and bad jokes about the age of the presenters, winners and historical settings of the nominated films.

Host Billy Crystal, age 63 himself was the main offender. His ageism was showing throughout the entire program with “jokes” disparaging age. Eighty-two-year-old Christopher Plummer "has a tendency to wander off," said Crystal. And, "next year this'll be called the Flomax Theater." Then, after Plummer won the Supporting Actor award, Crystal was on him again:

“Congratulations to Mr. Plummer; the average age of the winners has now jumped to 67.”

There are contexts in which that could be funny, but not from Crystal Sunday night. He repeated the joke, upping the average age when it was announced that Woody Allen had won the writers award.

There was more but I wasn't taking notes but surprised at what felt like an assault, a devaluation of anything and anyone older than about 25.

And it wasn't just the show. “Even the Jokes Have Wrinkles” was the title of a New York Times morning-after Oscar story by Alessandra Stanley who started off with this knee slapper,

“The whole night looked like an AARP pep rally, starting off with Morgan Freeman...”

Ms. Stanley then larded her report with a string of paragraphs written to disparage anything of age – classic movies for being old, period movies for correctly depicting the cultures of their eras and then went on to blame age for any or all of the show's failings – Billy Crystal's flat delivery and old writers for his tired jokes.

The anti-age theme was taken up in another New York Times Monday morning story written by Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes. “Nostalgia ruled the night,” they sniffed (and that was just the movies themselves). The whole affair was less than stellar apparently because it just seemed – well, oldish. Even comedian Chris Rock did not escape their disdain:

“Chris Rock followed with a racial joke, about black men getting lousy roles even in animated films. It may have been in questionable taste, but it jarred the show closer to modern times. [emphasis added]

About which, of course, old people know nothing, you see. (By the way, The Chris Rock joke was really funny.)

After all these years of keeping track, I am still surprised sometimes at how much casual ageism is tossed around every day in any context without anyone being called out for it. If the same attitudes were as regularly aimed at people of color or women, heads would (figuratively) roll.

It must be said that the show was flat and lacked excitement, but that's not the fault of the older actors. A lot of blame can be placed at the feet of the Academy which keeps tight control over the length of winner's speeches, what they can say and how they must behave so nothing startling or interesting ever happens.

There was a small, unexpected moment I liked when William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg won the Oscar for Short Film (Animated). Not being actors, their joy was delightfully unrehearsed and real.

One described themselves as “two swamp rats from Louisiana” which was a great, good surprise given that their film is such a charming and elegant, completely non-swamp-rat-style creation. I posted it here for you in the Saturday Interesting Stuff a few weeks ago. Here it is again, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

If the video becomes locked out of replay, you can get a bit of sense of the film from the trailer here.


At The elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: Chihuahua Anyone?

Comments

Maybe I am paranoid, but I see a lot of ageism out there. Most of it related to medicare and social security as "entitlements" and resentment that these so called "entitlements" won't be there for the writer and his/her audience. I even read a blog where the author suggested that maybe his readers put old people out of their misery.

Yes, yes, I do get your point, and the "oldster jokes" did pile up. But...those elders WERE the ones collecting the Oscars. What more proof does the world need that they are talented, on top of their game, relevant. I say GOOD on the old farts. Keep up the good work!

Rarely do I watch Dr. Oz, due to his focus on advice for removing all the well earned, (in most cases) the wrinkles, sags, and profiles that come along with aging. He has become a marketer of all kinds of recipes, creams & pills that are "anti-aging"..... I used to be an ardent fan of Dr. Oz,
no more!

To be honest, I rarely, watch films with the new generation of actors and I prefer older actors. I'd rather watch Morgan Freeman or Clint read the phone book than the crap most of the younger actors are doing. What passes for talent and art today mostly leaves me cold.

It probably doesn't help that those in the entertainment industry keep themselves so artificially young looking (sandblasting their faces, coloring and adding hair, and all). It creates an illusion that they are so much younger than they are. A few decades, and less cosmetic options ago) Crystal, at 63, probably would not have gotten this gig. (Is 63 the new 43 in Hollywood?)
The biggest laugh at our house was the guy who mocked Angelina Jolie's very staged thigh exposure. Now that was funny!

I meant to say thank you, also, for posting the Flying Books video a while back. As the clips were shown on the awards, that was the only one I was familiar with. Is there a site where these can be accessed? I actually find them to be some of the best work in film, but can rarely find them.

And I loved the video!!! Books have given me winds throughout my life.

Maybe I stumbled across a reason this morning why some folks make so many ageist comments. They announced the ten new contestants for "Dancing with the Stars". This sixty-nine year old has absolutely no idea who six of the ten are. Needless to say, I won't be watching total strangers try to dance.

We have been to a few more films this year than usual. We didn't get to see the Oscars, but Hugo deserved every one it earned. Money Ball co-star...young and plump, he was great. There were other bits this year that were keepers too. I'll take my senior discounts and keep on seeing films.

We have one nephew in the independent film industry, so we follow the small films with great enthusiasm.

I had been looking forward to the Oscars, especially since Billy Crystal was the MC. What a disappointment! His "jokes" were insulting and dull. The best parts of the show were some of the surprised newbies and of course seeing my old favorites like Meryl and Morgan.

I think we have a crisis of ageism in the U.S. Living in Hawaii, I feel it less, because Asians have a culture of respect for elders. Whenever people make ageist remarks, I call them on it without hesitation. Prime offenders are those not themselves in the first blush of youth who imagine that they look younger than they really do.

As the wife (now widow) of a film editor I lived in Hollywood for over forty years, and had plenty of exposure to the crass phoniness of the town and the industry. So, no, I didn't watch the Oscars. The thought that there was enough Botox concentrated in the Kodak Theatre last Sunday night to annihilate the entire planet is enough reason, for me, to just ignore it.

Thank you so much for posting The Fantastic Flying Books! It was wonderful! The preciousness of books! I've been saving for a Kindle...maybe I'll reconsider...

Ageism is everywhere. This is especially true for me while attending exercise classes with people (women) mostly in their 40s and 50s.

The remarks made are done with such ease that it stuns me every time.

I remind them that they are talking about me and wonder what people will be saying about them before too long.

Your comments about ageism in so many of the remarks is dead-on. As a canadian, I was pleased that Christopher Plummer got the supporting actor award. His own comments noted how long he waited for the Oscar which was an indirect reference to his age. Perhaps he could get away with it because he was talking about himself rather than talking about others. Most of the jokes during the evening were in poor taste.

I wouldn't mind if the ageism jokes were really funny, but they weren't. Instead, as you say, they were kind of insulting and certainly wouldn't be tolerated if they were about race, gender or sexual orientation.

If you want to see something fresh and original and more interesting, next year tune into the Grammys instead.

Long post ahead, but these are the lyrics of a song my spinning coach included in her music mix the other night. (The spelling is as I found it on a Web site referring to the song's annoying bubblegum pop singer, Kesha.) During the class, a foxy gent of at least 65, decked out in his sponsored cycling team duds, rode his stationary bike next to the coach MUCH faster and harder than she; he was also far more fit.

Chours:
D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R
A dinosaur
D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R
A dinosaur
An O-L-D M-A-N
You're just an old man
Hitting on me what?
You need a cat scan

Verse 1:
Oh man
Why are you starrin' at me
Mack on me and my friends it's kinda a creepy
You should be prowling around the Old folks home
Come on dude!
Leave us alone

At first we thought that it was kind of I'll when
We saw that you were like a billion
And still out tryin' to make a killin'
Get back to the museum

Chours:
D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R
A dinosaur
D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R
A dinosaur
An O-L-D M-A-N
You're just an old man
Hitting on me what?
You need a cat scan

Hey dinosaur,
Baby, you're prehistoric!
Hey dinosaur,
That's what you are HA!

Hey carnivore,
You want my meat and I know it!
Hey dinosaur,
That's what you are HA!

Yeah, Your pretty old hahaha

Not long til' your a senior citizen
And you can strut around with that sexy tank of oxygen
Honey your toupee is fallin' to your left side
Get up and go bro!
Oh wait your fossilized HA!

Then you offered me a martini
Walk away with your hips with in sinking
Then you say, Honey wanna come with me
I'm about to barf seriously

Chorus:
D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R
A dinosaur
D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R
A dinosaur
An O-L-D M-A-N
You're just an old man
Hitting on me what?
You need a cat scan

Hey dinosaur,
Baby you're prehistoric!
Hey dinosaur,
That's what you are HA!

Hey carnivore,
You want my meat I know it!
Hey dinosaur,
That's what you are HA!

Hey dinosaur,
Baby you're prehistoric!
Hey dinosaur,
That's what you are HA!

Hey carnivore,
You want my meat I know it!
Hey dinosaur,
That's what you are HA!

Chorus:
D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R
A dinosaur
D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R
That's what you are HA!
D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R
That's what you are HA!

http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/k/kesha/dinosaur.html

Lee...
You or, rather, the lyric leaves me speechless. Moreso after following your link and watching the video of it.

I have no idea what to say.

Nope - didn't watch the Oscars and I haven't for years.

I was wondering when you would get to this post. :)

When Billy Crystal made his first age related joke I thought, "Ronni is going to have something to say about this."

That was right after I thought, "Really, old age jokes? What the heck is he thinking?"

Only I didn't really think "heck" I thought of another four letter word.

Loved The Flying Books!

I missed the Oscars. Glad to see Christopher Plummer's character in Beginners won him an Oscar. Thanks to keeping up with gay aging in order to share here, I'd actually seen one of the films, a rarity.

Ronni -- I think I know what you mean. As the song went on (and on) during my public gym EXERCISE class I really felt I might cry from the sheer insult of it.

Lee, my question is: Were you not in a position to object? At this age, I don't suffer fools gladly--one of the advantages of being old. I think I might have EXERCISED my right to go over and turn off the source of the music, even if it meant tearing a few wires loose.

I didn't watch because I hadn't seen any of the movies. Crystal's jokes sound like someone frightened and in denial. He's getting older and knows there's not a darn thing he can do about it.

Billy Crystal was trying to run backwards through his life.

Running backward never works.

What is he? The wake of his boat, or the inventor of his future?

I'm a Billy Crystal fan, but I too was left cold by the ageist jokes. It may have begun with the first time he hosted the Oscars decades ago, the host of the Oscars is seems now required to have a dour delivery. I noted that many presenters had to do their job in a "madcap" way too, but the evening is supposed to be about the most serious honor that can be bestowed on people in film!I did love the guy who made fun of Angelina Jolie. I've had a crush on Christopher Plummer since age 13, and I wish Billy Crystal would have left out the "wandering" joke!

Not going to watch the Oscars again. Loved the Cirque de Soleil performance though. I read a book through most of it but didn't miss Crystal's excellent line “Nothing can take the sting out of the world’s economic problems like watching millionaires present each other with gold statues.”

Lyn -- In a spinning class, participants are on stationary bikes riding fast and hard. I usually finish up dripping wet. The music mix is supposed to keep us going, but mostly we zone out and focus on breathing, form and just trying to keep going. The classes are quite difficult and have helped me tremendously.

The music is played loud enough that the coach has to use a mic to be heard. Yes, I could have shrieked out that I was offended, and maybe have been heard, but I didn't.

Ever since Ronni posted her reaction, I have been thinking about what to do. The instructor teaches tonight. I have decided I will go to the gym, not to take her class but to catch her beforehand and explain to her why the song was so offensive. As you know, the singer has freedom of speech and so does the coach. I can't demand anything, but I can and will take action.

Just for the sake of discussion, has anyone posting here ever taken a group gym class, heard offensive music and then done something about it? If so, how did you handle it? I welcome your advice.

So Ronni, with all this about Ageism, its interesting to see that Alex announced his engagement on Facebook today.Never thought he would ever do that again.With that said, congrats to him and the "girlfriend"

Friends and I used to inline skate at a large recreation center. There was an evening DJ in a booth above, playing dance type music.

One the young DJ played a new song with slurred lyrics. Some kind of rap?

We listened carefully.

The song went like this:

"Don't want no short d--k man."

What?

I don't always watch the Oscars but have frequently in recent years for various reasons.

I slept through the first part of the Oscars, so missed the beginning portion of the show, including Crystal's opening. I, too, thought the show was a bit "flat" though smoothly produced. Hard to get much of anything very spontaneous since they rigidly adhere to program time limitations, plus winners have to talk fast and be brief.

Too bad they cut Octavia Spenser. If you wanna have true spontaneous moments, you have to risk some long dull ones and the show isn't geared for that any more. I could do without the red carpet, designer gowns and shoes emphasis, all the after-party hoopla, but fan-types seem to thrive on that stuff. Viewing audiences any more are fragmented -- it's a different world.

Yeah, I got a little tired of the constant cheap laughs based on age references. I think many in Chrystal's and sixties generation are uber age conscious and have a hard time dealing with getting older, since they bring up the stereotypical aging views so frequently, trying to joke about them. Too bad, since their life expectancy is longer than previous generations.

Heard the Twitter world didn't even know who Crystal was.

I did actually see some of the movies this year so formed some opinions about them I've shared.

Oscar show did make a glaring error by not recognizing a true prominent older star in their tribute film to stars who died this past Oscar year -- Betty Garrett -- "On The Town" -- a classic movie -- and a career that kept her working in more movies, stage, TV almost 'til her death at 90+.

Movies such as the flying books offer other food for thought

... way back in the "idyllic" early 1900's when women wore long dress and men wore suits... and "everyone's" skin was lily white...

->> Posted by: Lee
Ke$ha she's the best in my opinion. Dinosaur is her best song, maybe a little too long.

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