by Kerry Cue
“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’
……………………………..Cameron Diaz, actress, 41.
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.
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?
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.
Kerry Cue is a humorist, journalist, mathematician, and author. You can find more of her writing on her blog. Her latest book is a crime novel, Target 91, Penmore Press, Tucson, AZ (2019).
Photo Source: Film Promotion Pic and Salon.com