Aging Gracefully in Hollywood

I don’t know if Dyan Cannon has had plastic surgery but I think she looks hotter now than she did in Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice and I think that’s a little weird. For all the hullabaloo about middle-aged women being Hollywood’s new It Girls, nobody’s said anything about that nasty little word that has very different connotations in the megalomaniac 90s than it did in the heyday of 70s feminism: work. None of us can know for sure who’s had it, or what was said to make them get it but it’s impossible to cheer for all the new forty- and fiftysomething “trailblazers” when so many of them have had facelifts.

Granted, we live in a culture that thinks fortysomething women are about as sexy as hangnails — and to a certain extent, mature actresses who choose to have work done are merely responding to that constraint. They want to be employed and are willing to spend money to make themselves more employable.

But once these women get their eyes tucked and lips shot up with collagen, they change the standards for their age group so much that it will someday be impossible for natural women over the age of 32 to get any work. A fortysomething babe with throat fat, semi-sagging breasts, and a cellulited rear just can’t compete with a suctioned fortysomething who will lend just as many “nontraditional” casting points to the project. (The great unintentional joke on last season’s “Ally McBeal” was that Richard Fish, a lawyer in the firm, was attracted to Cannon’s character, Whipper Cone, because of her wattle — when she didn’t even have one to speak of.)

Older Plasticine women are the ultimate fantasy fodder for young men: they satisfy the mama complex while simultaneously providing really good eye candy. Every yuppie boy who watches “Ally McBeal” and “The Practice” can imagine Whipper Cone hugging him to her breasts — and know for certain that those breasts wouldn’t droop. While Dennis Franz and Harvey Keitel won kudos for baring their bums in “NYPD Blue” in The Piano respectively, I can’t recall a single recent film or television show that featured a realistically bulbous female rear — except Jonathan Nossiter’s brilliant 1997 indie Sunday, which nobody saw. And don’t even mention the words Rene Russo. She’s not treading new ground with a bod like that. Natural or not, she’s an anomaly, not a visionary.

While the fashion industry is learning that middle-aged women have buying power, and has begun to feature real-looking, if exceedingly beautiful, models in ad campaigns, Hollywood lags behind. While unenhanced porn actresses have banded together to oppose breast implants in the industry, mainstream actresses just keep shilling for the patriarchy.

I can’t stand up and applaud for the fortysomething actresses who are working as producers and directors when they show so little chutzpah on the plastic surgery issue. It’s just plain hypocritical for the very same women who decry Hollywood’s desexualizing of older actresses to go get their faces fixed every two weeks.

Women in my mother’s generation are supposed to be happy that there are more and more roles for middle-aged actresses, but there’s not much to applaud for when the actresses look like mutated freaks. When my parents see a movie and my dad admits a crush on the fifty-two-year-old, nipped-and-tucked, female star, my mom’s not going to feel flattered. She’s going to feel majorly dissed — because until she pays the twenty grand to get the work done herself, she’ll never be able to compare. (And baby boomer women know who’s real and who’s not – because they grew up watching these actresses. They saw them in the pert stage, the wilting stage, and the vacuumed stage.)
Middle-aged actresses should take a hint from the porn industry, which is always about five steps ahead of Hollywood in the maturity department, and form a group of unenhanced, forty-plus actresses: the Naturababe List. Opening credits of movies could feature the Naturababe logo – two droopy breasts – next to the names of all its members. Younger actresses could sign on too as a way of showing their, um, support.

I know, I know: what about all the actresses who’d love to be a part of the struggle but whose face fat is sitting in a medical waste facility in the Hollywood Hills? They can simply take a cue from reformed Barbie Pamela Anderson Lee, and reverse the work they’ve already had done — get the collagen sucked out of their lips, stick some butt fat back under their eyes, and have their chins stretched enough to create some serious wattle.

Heed my call, you minions of women-with-work! Repent your wicked ways and let your faces go! To those who are natural-but-still-debating, just say no! And if, at the end of the day, you just can’t stand the prospect of a natural puss, just compromise and buy a face bra. There’s a character on “Ally McBeal” who sells them.