November 1, 2011

USA: Actors used to be butterflies - now they are mayflies

NEW ORLEANS, LA / Reader's Digest /  November 1, 2011

Books & Entertainment Blog
By Jim Menick

Old Age in Hollywood is Younger Than Ever

In America we live in a culture where people expect to live longer and healthier than previous generations. That’s the promise of our society, at any rate, if we hold up our part of the bargain, and don’t eat a lot of junk and get out of our seats and move around every once in a while.
The opposite is true in Hollywood, which never has been much like the rest of America. If you’re in the movies, you expect to live shorter and disappear more quickly than previous generations. Not your real self, though: your movie self.
Tom Shone, writing in Slate, analyzes the life spans of stars today versus stars in earlier years. Youth has always been prized on the screen: the rest of us like to look at healthy young faces rather than sickly old faces, which makes sense when you’re talking about escapist fare. If everyone in Star Wars had been as old as Alec Guinness, there would have been a lot less jumping around and running away from those Imperial Troopers, and it wouldn’t have been half as much fun. Do we really want to see Indiana Jones using a walker? Would Harry Potter have held our attention if all the attendees at Hogwarts were newly retired grandparents pursuing their childhood dreams of the magical education they never got? The problem with this is not that stars peak young, but that we may be losing older actors as the arcs of their careers shuffle them off before they acquire the experience to become great.
Shone writes: ‘Actors used to be butterflies—now they are mayflies. Your teens are when you break out, your twenties your prime acting real estate, and 30 the age at which the women win their Oscars, at which point they either go to work for HBO or disappear into Paltrow-esque semi-retirement, and the men announce their plans to direct.”
Where is this all going? Hard to say. Read Twinkle Twinkle, Little Stars to find out where it is.
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