Last weekend, I suggested to Karl that we go to the movies, something we don’t really do that often these days. There have been a couple of movies that I’d expressed interest in seeing, but nothing that tempted Karl away from watching the Military Channel’s non-stop tribute to, well, the military. So, I said that was fine, and I’d go by myself—inwardly pleased that I could spend the afternoon alone with Sam.
Sam and I go way back. While so many of my friends were swooning over John Travolta and Peter Frampton, I had a crush on Sam. The twinkling eyes, the droopy moustache, the voice that could have invented “aural” sex. That Sam. When he starred in Lifeguard, he spent most of the movie in a red bathing suit, for which I was deeply grateful. And Sam on a motorcycle in Mask. It was almost too much.
Surely, you know I’m talking about Sam Elliott. After more than forty years as a working actor, he is getting the best reviews of his career, plus Oscar buzz, for his performance in The Hero.
Now this isn’t going to turn into a review of the film, and I always hesitate to recommend movies unless I know something about the taste of the person to whom I’m talking. That said, if you’re looking for an intelligent film that includes a full reading of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Dirge Without Music, you should check it out. And if you’re not familiar with Dirge Without Music, you should check that out, too.
But putting most of that aside, the thing I really love about Sam right now is his having a career high at 72. Imagine that. Aging is hard for everybody, but it’s particularly hard on women and folks in the LGBT community. Now Sam doesn’t fit into either of those groups, but he does work in Hollywood.
And Sam isn’t the only hero in this arena. Think about this. After turning 60, Katharine Hepburn won three of her four Oscars. Judi Dench got her first Oscar nomination at age 63, has followed that one with six more, and is positioned to get her eighth nomination next year.
And on the gay side, Quentin Crisp was largely unknown until his The Naked Civil Servant came out as a television film starring John Hurt when Crisp was 66. He stirred up controversy, especially in the LGBT community, until his death 24 years later.
The problems associated with aging won’t be solved by latching on to heroes or heroines, regardless of how sexy, stylish or outrageous they may be. Women know how getting older can make them increasingly more invisible in society. And as a study published in Social Science and Medicine has pointed out, “internalized gay ageism” exists, can be measured, and has a relationship with “depressive symptoms.”
The authors of that study identified “mattering” as a means of mitigating the ageism, something that seems transferable to men, women, straight, gay and everything in between. We all want to be relevant, to matter.
So I’ll be rooting for Sam and Judi when the Oscar nominations are announced. And if they get nominated, I’ll be rooting for them on Oscar night.
Bradley Cooper will just have to wait.