The Hallmark Channel and the horrors of aging.
[originally posted at my blog Love Is The Slug]
So there are certain days where I’m off and I have to do laundry and clean my room and other mundane tasks that you may be shocked to learn an ultra-glamorous hairstylist/rocker/blogger like myself may have to do. But when faced with having to engage in such drudgery, I often find solace in the marathon stretches of The Golden Girls that air most mornings/early afternoons on the Hallmark Channel, allowing the wacky antics of Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia to whisk me away to a happy place while I vacuum up mannequin head hair from the carpet and fold my delicate unmentionables. And while I get a certain perverse thrill in watching a gay-cult-following sort of TV show on such a family-oriented network , I’ve increasingly found myself horrified at what an utterly depressing network Hallmark is. (And not just because it also reruns episodes of Touched By An Angel which are terrifying enough to behold in commercial form. And emotionally stressful too. One minute I am loving Della Reese’s silver-foxy hair and the next I am being accosted by Roma Downey’s giant head and horrifyingly Feria-red tresses. But I digress.)
The same way that the Lifetime network feels like it essentializes women in this International Coffees-sipping, Oprah worshiping, perpetually victimized (seriously, those original movies are like a Wheel of Fortune game of cancer/rape/abuse/murder) sort of way, Hallmark feels like it’s here to remind older folks that Growing Old Is Horrible And Terrifying Always. I’m not saying it can’t be scary – hell, I just freaked myself out a month or so ago when I realized I had been convinced for WEEKS that I was still 36 and not 37 and the fact of forgetting my actual age made me feel positively ancient. But their advertising space is mainly devoted to a series of commercials that make aging seem like an endless series of events involving falling, broken hips, bowel problems and incontinence. And while all of those issues are doubtlessly relevant to older adults, I guess I’d like to see a little more balance.
It’s ironic to watch a show like Golden Girls – a show that was rather groundbreaking in that it centered around the lives of a group of older women who led full, active lives, complete with romance, sex and frank and unflinching depictions of the stresses of aging instead of letting it all slide into cartoon-ish mishaps and pandering crap. And then you get to a commercial and you see Jamie Lee Curtis, a gorgeous woman of 51 who is not an untalented actress whom Hollywood has seemed to discard so she has to make a living hocking yogurts that make it easier for you to take a shit. How about we get to see one of those new KY ads featuring a couple over 50? Or even over 60? Because they do have sex you know, whether you want to imagine it or not. Or what about an ad for the iPhone with some older adults in it? I saw a woman on the bus the other day who was easily 20 years my senior who was working her iPhone like there was no tomorrow. I don’t even know how to use one of those things!
It’s a depressing wake-up call when a cheesy, two camera sitcom from the 80s seems almost revolutionary alongside most of the media we consume today. And don’t try to use Betty White’s current ubiquity as a counter-argument. It reeks of tokenism even if she’s funny as hell and I like that she’s around a lot. It’s 2010, folks. It’s time to realize that older people do more than worry about Osteoporosis, have irregular bowels and watch TV shows about angels who mess with people’s lives.