A feisty, 70-something GRANDMA hits the big screen. Mature age feminism. Bring it on!

by Kerry Cue

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There are two reasons to get excited about this film. (New York Times Review) Firstly, it’s called Grandma and Ellie, the lead character, is a feisty, take-no-prisoners 70-something and a long way from the doddering little old lady stereotype.

Secondly, Ellie is played by Lily Tomlin, a comedian I’ve admired since she first hit our screens in Laugh In in the sixties. What’s not to like about a hard-hitting comic feminist who says:

“We have reason to believe that man first walked upright to free his hands for masturbation.”

Lily Tomlin as Grandma Ellie

Lily Tomlin as Grandma Ellie

Grandma Ellie, according to Tomlin, has attitude. ‘If somebody is lying or fudging an issue, she just can’t take it and she is just gonna rail against it.’ That’s an attitude many of us will recognise. Significantly, Lily Tomlin turns 76 on the 1st September this year. Tomlin is smart, sassy, uncompromising and funny.

We need to see vibrant older women on screen as they make growing old look interesting.

Photo Source: Film Website

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How old is old in Hollywood? You don’t want to know.

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purple quote 1“I wish that other women would let other women age gracefully. Women take it as something personal that they are getting older. They think that they failed somehow by not staying 25. This is crazy to me because my belief is that it’s a privilege to get older – not everybody gets to get older’
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……………………………..Cameron Diaz, actress, 41.

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In the 1967 film, The Graduate, Anne Bancroft played Mrs Robinson, a bored-housewife living in a loveless marriage. When the 21-year-old Ben Braddock played by Dustin Hoffman visits the Robinsons, urged on by his parents (Mr Robinson is a partner in a legal firm with Ben’s father), he is seduced by the much older Mrs Robinson. Ben, however, falls in love with Elaine, the Robinson’s daughter, and in a climactic ending, the young couple run off together.

The Graduate 1967  Anne Bancroft  and Dustin Hoffman

The Graduate 1967
Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman

At the time, Anne Bancroft was 36-years-old and, in fact, only 6 years older than Dustin Hoffman. So, historically, in Hollywood you are branded ‘the older woman’ at 36 years of age.

Forty-five plus years on The Graduate highlights a more disturbing issue. In the film, Mrs Robinson is a ‘formidable’ character. There is a word you do not hear any more. ‘Formidable’ applied to an older woman in a position of authority. The ‘formidable woman’ was matronly and someone to reckon with. She stood for definite principles. She didn’t tolerate fools and often held the position of Hospital Matron, Head Mistress or, even, the family Matriarch. When we were young girls many ‘formidable women’ – Reverend Mother, for starters –  had our measure. Where are they today? These days, older women, who exercise authority are described as ‘ball breakers’, ‘old dragons’ or, in the case of the matriarch, ‘a Control Freak’. Is it the ‘management team’ and their spin that has replaced the ‘formidable woman in the workplace? Has the mass movement of women out of the home and into the workplace in the 1970s unthroned the matriarch? Curious, isn’t it?

Anne Bancroft, 70, 2001

Anne Bancroft, 70, 2001

At 70 years of age Anne Bancroft (above) still looked impressive. She won an Oscar in 1962 for her role in The Miracle Worker. She was happily married to her second husband, Mel Brooks, for 45 years. They had one son. Sadly, she died in 2005.

Photo Source: Film Promotion Pic and Salon.com

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After Retirement a New Career

by Dimity Reed

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purple quote 1Imagination creates reality.purple quote 2

……………………..Richard Wagner, Composer1813 – 1883.

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Having spent around 40 really terrific years as an architect and having rarely thought about age, my 70th birthday appeared just as a marvellous urban renewal project which had involved me for four years finished. So there were a few free moments there to contemplate how I might entertain myself, and possibly others, for what could be another 20 years.

Then, one evening, after a slightly boozy dinner, a musicologist friend asked if we wanted to go to a lecture he was giving the following day on how we humans turn sound into music. That invitation became a new life, and not just for me. We went and were so mesmerised by his ideas and presentation that I rang our youngest filmmaker son (there are a few in the family), Sam, and suggested he attend the next talk.
 He did and afterwards asked our mate, Heath Lees, if he were interested in doing a television series on music and how we hear it. He was.

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They talked for a while and agreed to talk more. Then Sam asked if I were interested in producing the series. I replied (with a rare meekness) that I knew nothing about film production. “Ah”, said Sam, “You’d be very good at it.” I don’t know about you, but in my parental experience flattery is quite unusual, so I immediately said ‘Yes’. And in early 2012 became a virgin film producer.

Screen Grab from Wagner's Ring  - A Tale Told in Music

Screen Grab from Wagner’s Ring
– A Tale Told in Music

Heath wrote a script, we hired the Salon at the Melbourne Recital Centre, put a great crew together and shot a 16 minute teaser in a week. Sam edited it and I took it to a producer in Sydney for advice. The advice was good but unexpected, “Wagner’s 4 opera Ring cycle is on in Melbourne in 2013 and Heath Lees is a world expert on Wagner. He’s a brilliant communicator so put More To Music aside and do something on The Ring.”

A screen grab from Wagner's Ring - A Tale Told in Music

A screen grab from Wagner’s Ring –
A Tale Told in Music

Heath, Sam and I took the advice and started work on four films, one on each of the Ring operas in September 2012. The scripts were written, money raised, brilliant crew again employed, wondrous singers involved and a month shooting in Europe happened. The films were completed and ready for sale in September 2013 (Available online here).

Dimity Reed, Film Editor

Dimity Reed, Film Editor

None of it was easy but it was glorious fun and the films are magical. Working with very talented people is one of life’s joys and everyone involved in Wagner’s Ring: A Tale Told in Music was hugely talented, hard-working, generous and fun.

So now we’re back where we stated, working on More To Music. And this, I think, is what the politicians call moving forward.

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Dimity Reed,  Architecture Ambassador , 2008

Dimity Reed, Architecture Ambassador , 2008

Dimity Reed’s CV includes architect, author, Professor of Urban Design at RMIT University, Board Member and Councillor of the City of St Kilda, but at 70 years of age she found a new career as Managing Director of Mad Woman Productions. Her book, Tangled Destinies – the National Museum of Australia, was published in 2002.

 

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We cannot let others define aging for us.

….We must, as we have done before,

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…………….redefine this stage for ourselves.

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What the media doesn’t tell you!

Frankly, my dear, they’re over you!

the-tibertine-sibylIf you have found little of interest in the lifestyle pages across all media platforms, there is a reason. After 54-years of age we are of no interest to Marketing. Apparently, we are ‘too set in our ways’. So, apart from some tragic and cheap ads spruiking pre-paid funerals and incontinence pads, we do not attract the advertising dollar. Therefore editors of magazines, newspapers, websites and blogs aimed at women couldn’t care less about our issues.

There are lots of ads for dubious anti-aging and slimming products, much like the 1950s ads (below) but with their own Facebook Page. But the anti-wrinkle creams and slimming products do not target us. They are aimed at 40, 30 and even 20 year olds. They have more to fear from aging and being overweight than us.50s chin strap We’ve already had to face certain realities. Besides, we’ve been applying goops for 40+ years and we must have tried scores of diets with little success!!! We’ll look at the real science ( and not the ‘radiessence’ or ‘luminosity’) of face creams and rubbish diets later.

But there are many issues such as health, sex and self-perception that change after 54 years of age and that we want to discuss. If you are looking at retirement and your daughter wants the BIG wedding, do you have to pay for it? What if you are divorced? What if it’s her 2nd wedding?

How do you deal with a neurotic daughter-in-law? Or a control-freak son-in-law? Or vice-versa?

Cole Swimsuit Ad 1953 And we wanted those curves!

Cole Swimsuit Ad 1953
And we wanted those curves!

Are you prepared to look after grandchildren one day a week? Two days? How would you react if your daughter handed you a spread sheet scheduling every minute of that one day?

If you didn’t have children, are you now being swamped by the 2nd wave of child-centric conversations as your friends become grandparents?

Moreover, how did any of us even produce children with the hilariously vague ‘sex education‘ we received in the 60s or 70s?

We, The Sibyls, are smart, vibrant and interesting women. It is the intention of this blog to reinvent aging. We’re doing this for ourselves. Welcome.

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