Thursday, April 03, 2008

Still Lively After All These Years

Kathy Lee Gifford is returning to television:

Kathie Lee Gifford had no intention of returning to TV – she just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

"I was having lunch with a friend at [Manhattan restaurant] Michael's on Nov. 7, and Hoda [Kotb] ambushed me and said, 'Will you come on the Today show?' " Gifford, still lively at 54, told PEOPLE the day of Matt Lauer's announcement that she would co-host the NBC morning program's 10 a.m. fourth hour. She starts next Monday.

Imagine that, still lively at 54. Not dead or anything.

The world of television offers a fascinating glimpse of the society we pretend to live in: Almost all women are young and beautiful, with Barbie-like body proportions, and most of the men are young and handsome, too. The few old people we see regularly on television are almost all men, however, and in general television, as opposed to the real world, has many more men than women. Something happens to women in the television world which makes them not exist in large numbers and/or die young. It's probably that lack of liveliness the quote refers to.

That the U.S. culture is ageist goes without saying, but Rush Limbaugh has still said it, with the kind of distortion he excels in:

There is this thing in this country that, as you age -- and this is particularly, you know, women are hardest hit on this, and particularly in Hollywood -- America loses interest in you, and we know this is true because we constantly hear from aging actresses, who lament that they can't get decent roles anymore, other than in supporting roles that will not lead to any direct impact, yay or nay, in the box office. While Hollywood box-office receipts may be stagnant, none of that changes the fact that this is a country obsessed with appearance. It's a country obsessed with looks. The number of people in public life who appear on television or on the big screen, who are content to be who they are, you can probably count on one hand. Everybody's trying to make themselves look different -- and in that situation, in that case, they think they're making themselves look better. It's just the way our culture has evolved. It's the way the country is. It's like almost an addiction that some people have to what I call the perfection that Hollywood presents of successful, beautiful, fun-loving people. So the question is this: Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?

Mm. How about watching a guy president get older, day by day? Say, one like John McCain? Or does he get to benefit from the old guy exception to the ageist rules?