Rather Dame Than Damsel

BEN DALTON embraces old actresses and explains why it’s time to take down that Megan Fox poster and hang up Helen Mirren.

acting energy helen mirren Hollywood jennifer aniston old age youth

Sound the trumpets, lay out the crumpets; Jennifer Aniston is in a new film! What’s even more exiting is that promotional images for the forthcoming Horrible Bosses show her to be very much straying from her old-faithful F.R.I.E.N.Dly girl-next-door image.

A click of the mouse shows Anniston stripped down, sporting nothing but a pair of skimpy knick-knacks, with a decidedly playful and cattish glance flashed at the camera lens. Not contented with this already over-frothing panoply of sexuality, Aniston puts the icing on the cake of titillation with an array of bananas, hotdogs and other phallic paraphernalia which she holds suggestively close to her visage.

Yet the images don’t seem to have been met with the desired hype or animated displacement of testosterone. With many the harsh critic dubbing the actress ‘too old’ to bring horn and steam to the screen, and others calling for her to consider a ‘change of direction’ in her career, has Anniston’s forehead been stamped with an uncompromising red-ink expiry-date at the tender age of  41?

It would seem that in a world head-over-heels for the young and the beautiful, poor ‘old’ Jennifer might just have been crowned ‘mutton’ on a -whirring conveyor belt of lamb. You might shudder to speculate what might lie in wait at the end of this conveyor belt. A gargantuan celestial waste bin perhaps, (a dumpster in Jennifer’s case), teaming with society’s throw-aways, VHSs, dirty Y-fronts and now the modern actress, who has dared on the wrong side of the electric fence of middle age.

But we all age, wrinkle, mould and decay, so why shouldn’t our actresses? Age appears to have become a thorny taboo of our times, the ‘he-who-must-not-be-named’ of muggle pop culture. Actresses grow old and disappear clandestinely behind locked, closed doors while we are spoon fed their frozen youth in DVD box sets, old posters and E4 re-runs. In its promotion of the vivacious, the toothy and the beach-bottomed, Hollywood ironically enters a state of stagnancy. It has become sterile and unmoving.

Surely by now, after years of a placid on-screen diet of youth and perfection, it is time to look to the older actress for our kicks.  Or at least follow the actress, in this case our fair Jennifer, as she matures and develops; watch her push through cinematic puberty and enter filmic womanhood.

Actresses such as Dame Judi Dench and Helen Mirren fly the flag of the older actress, proving that age, experience and development really do make for more exciting viewing. The feeling of living and having lived, of the history that they bring to the screen is vivacious and fresh. Unlike a dusty national trust property, this is a reflection of life very much ‘to-be-touched’.

And it’s sexy too. Sultry Mirren marched with agenda onto the Jonathon Ross show, upstaging her host with a sharp, chiselled onslaught of wit. Not to mention her proud and unabashed shedding of clothes in Calendar Girls. As for Judi Dench, I defy any cinema-goer not to have swooned over her seductively stiff-lipped, dominating portrayal of M, effortlessly securing her place amongst the growing fleet of bond girls.

Together, the actresses remove the rigidity but also frigidity associated with the title of ‘Dame’, a formidable argument to halt the production line of wide eyed, naïve spring-lamb actresses. In a society, which appears to want to conceal anything that reminds us of age, it’s time to make space on the wall for a new breed of pin-up.