Monday Morning: I'm skimming the Arts section of the New York Times, and I check the Arts, Briefly feature to see what's going on. On Monday, there's always a story about the weekend's top films, and I'm curious. I read that Kevin Hart's sequel--Think like a Man Too--was number one at the box office. And then I read this: "The only other new movie of note, Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.), took in an estimated $13.5 million, about what was expected given that the somberly marketed film mostly went after the gray-hair set."
THE GRAY-HAIR SET?
Let's admit a few things. Eastwood is no longer a young man (he just turned 84), and it's been awhile since his films attracted a young audience. And let's also admit: The original "Jersey Boys"--Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons--had their biggest hits when I was in high school and college ("Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry," 1962; "Rag Doll," 1964; "Let's Hang On," 1965). Let's also admit that--at least at the Kent Cinema last Friday night--most of the audience were not ... young.
And Eastwood slipped into the film a sly reference to himself: On the TV we see a quick shot of the young Eastwood playing Rowdy Yates on the old Western series Rawhide (1959-65). In the Kent Cinema the other night, I heard an appreciative buzz at that moment--all of it, probably, from, you know, the gray-hair set.
THE GRAY-HAIR SET?
I don't think I'm alone when I say this: I've always been annoyed by those who categorize (and thereby judge?) by some sort of physical/chronological trait. I never liked hearing You're just a kid or Teenagers today are just so _____ [fill in the blank] or You look like you've put on a few [usually uttered when I'd put on quite a bit more than a few] or Have you always been short for your age? or ... whatever. We don't tend to think about these categories at all--not until we move into them. Then, suddenly, we become more alert and sensitive--and even defensive. I often see Facebook posts from folks who are offended by something they've read on the site--and I confess I've sometimes messaged friends who have said things about the elderly (never angry things ... just ... things). But I also have to admit: When I was younger, I was every bit as clueless as some I'm criticizing right now.
In recent decades, mainstream journalism has sought to avoid grouping folks and thereby sort of dismissing them with a phrase. You can't get away these days with comments about the physical traits of ethnicities and races; you pay a price if you're careless about the language you use to talk about women. But other constituencies are still fair game. How many jokes have you heard about Chris Christie's weight? And it's still okay, apparently, to ridicule teenagers and the elderly. (In coffee shops I often overhear the young say something like "Some old guy ..." and the older say "Kids today are just ....") One sure way to elicit the sound "Eeeuuuuuuuuu!" from the young is to talk about Elder Sex.
And I often see posts on Facebook that use words and/or images to point out how disgusting the elderly are (I am?). The image below is one I've seen quite a few times--and someone re-posted it just yesterday (Monday), too.
And now that I'm galloping toward 70, I've become more and more sensitive about being locked in a chronological category. Dismissed. True, it's not all that bad for me yet, but I've seen what I consider egregious examples of it in the elder facilities where my loved ones have finished/are finishing their days. Too often I saw my father--who survived the Depression, served in the U. S. Army overseas (both theaters) in World War II, who was called back to active duty during the Korean War, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma (I could go on and on)--too often, as I said, I saw him treated as little more than a piece of meat when he got older and was living in assisted living and nursing facilities. No one, it seemed, had taken the time to learn his story--or the stories of his fellow residents. I see this as the most profound disrespect.
In our culture, it seems, the older you get the less others want to hear your voice--or to solicit your opinion, or ... access your vast database of experience. It wasn't always so. And it isn't so in some more traditional cultures.
But, sadly, it is so in ours.