|Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony-award winning John Legend became the People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive 2019, wrote Meera Estrada of Global News CA, a news platform / Photo by: Granandres10 via Wikimedia Commons|
Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony-award winning John Legend became the People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive 2019, wrote Meera Estrada of Global News CA, a news platform. People also listed other winners in various categories, including the “Sexiest Silver Fox.” The winner of that category was the grey-haired George Clooney. While people don’t mind seeing much older men in Hollywood and film, it’s a different story for women.
Remember when 55-year-old actor Keanu Reeves was trending on social media after being photographed together with artist and philanthropist Alexandra Grant, 46? People are touting the woman as “age-appropriate” to ‘The Matrix” actor, drawing upon the issue of gender equity in Hollywood, said Gwen Aviles of NBC, an American radio and television network.
Let’s expound on the said couple. Reeves has kept his dating life private, but after he was seen holding hands with Grant at the LAMCA Art + Film Gala, rumors started to emerge about the couple. The couple previously worked together as business partners, collaborating on “Ode to Happiness” (2011), an adult picture book, and photography collection “Shadows” (2016). Reeves was trending on Twitter.
In a post that garnered nearly 24,000 like and over 5,000 retweets, one Twitter user captioned, “In this house we love, support and respect Keanu Reeves and Alexandra Grant.” There were also reports commending Reeves as “brave” and a “hero.” Some people even mistook Grant as 74-year-old Hellen Mirren because of the former’s grey hair. Celebrations aside, there were others who lashed out mean-spirited “granny” comments at Grant, which was far from the “sexy silver fox” status. Many also criticized Reeves for dating a woman nine years younger than him.
Grant wrote on Instagram that she went gray prematurely in her early 20s, dying her hair in every color until she could no longer tolerate the toxicity of the dyes, stated Jeena Sharma of Paper, a New York City-based independent magazine. Grant said beauty standards should not dictate how women should look.
Comedian Whitney Cummings tweeted, “The fact that some people are mistaking Keanu Reeves’ age-appropriate girlfriend with Helen Mirren is wild. In Hollywood, if you’re not 24, you might as well be 70.”
|Alexandra Grant wrote on Instagram that she went gray prematurely in her early 20s, dying her hair in every color until she could no longer tolerate the toxicity of the dyes / Photo by: Ovidiu Hrubaru via Shutterstock|
Aging Is Treated Differently for Women
Professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University and the author of “The Drama of Celebrity” Sharon Marcus told NBC that the buzz surrounding Reeves and Grant highlighted the ways men are “held to less stringent standards than women.” If Grant was 55 and Reeves was 46, people would view the relationship differently, Marcus said. But Reeves is being treated like a king and prince for dating a woman older than 25. According to Marcus, “men get graded on a curve and are praised for being moderately decent.”
Marcus also correlated the praise Reeves received with the public understanding that celebrities, especially men, can have whatever they want. Marcus added that we live in a society where we understand success in material assets and see women as assets. When a celebrity like Reeves dates an older woman who doesn’t dye her hair, some individuals believe he should be granted a feminist Nobel Prize.
All these highlight the issue of ageism in Hollywood. It is problematic when we commend men like Clooney for having grey hair, going as far as to label them as silver foxes. What about the women? Sadly, they are admired for maintaining their youth, showing no signs of the aging process. When we hear the words “aging gracefully,” it does not mean aging naturally. It means seeing women “wrinkle-free, crease-free, and without a grey in sight.” “For women, defying age is the name of the game,” Estrada asserted.
Further, once women reach their early 40s, they are no longer seen as desirable to men, argued Montana Miller, an associate professor of pop culture at Bowling Green State University. “This is exactly what people's reactions are about; the eagerness to cast away and discard older women in Hollywood as irrelevant,” she added.
But We Should Not Condemn Those Who Choose Younger People
Marcus said the reactions Reeves received were related to discussions on power dynamics and relationships with younger significant others in the #MeToo era. Speaking of which, there are cases of older men dating much younger women. For example, 65-year-old Dennis Quaid came under fire for dating 26-year-old doctoral student at the University of Texas Laura Sovie. Another example is 44-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio, who is known to date women no older than 25.
Despite the above-mentioned cases, Miller said she refuses to condemn all Hollywood men who prefer a younger partner even if it is better for Keanu to date a 46-year-old woman than a 26-year-old. She concluded, “There is undoubtedly a cult of youth in Hollywood, but people have the right to date whoever they want.”
Ageism, as well as sexism, are present in Hollywood. Men are lauded for sporting gray hair, while women are lambasted for aging, expecting the latter to maintain their youth. Further, people should not be quick to discard older women in Hollywood as irrelevant. Perhaps Hollywood needs to embrace the aging process more and give credit to older women.
|Marcus said the reactions Reeves received were related to discussions on power dynamics and relationships with younger significant others in the #MeToo era / Photo by: Governo do Estado de São Paulo via Wikimedia Commons|