Unless you’re on Mars, you’ve no doubt heard about the mix-up at the 2017 Academy Award show. Warren Beatty, 79, and Faye Dunaway, 76, accidentally announced the wrong movie for Best Picture.
Twitter was immediately on fire, calling Beatty stupid, dim-witted, brain-dead, senile, and blind. People completely blamed him – and his age – for the screw up and cruel and degrading name-calling ensued.
Later, it was announced that the incident wasn’t his fault after all. The Academy mistakenly gave him the wrong card for Best Actress. Apparently, Beatty saw La La Land’s name on the card and was confused as to why Emma Stone’s name was on it.
As Beatty explained on the show, probably sensing people were going to call him senile: “I want to tell you what happened. I opened the envelope and it said, ‘Emma Stone, ‘La La Land.’ That’s why I took such a long look at Faye, and at you. I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
Some people still blamed Beatty for passing the card to Dunaway to read, supposedly letting her take the fall. But, my reaction was different. I think he handed her the card looking for a second opinion. Dunaway thought he was joking (“You’re impossible, come on,” she said) and read the card.
Some of the press, and people on social media, claimed that Beatty should have asked for help when he noticed there was a problem. Maybe, but I say, give the man a break. Could you think calmly with 32 million people watching? I would venture a guess that a lot of younger people would have done the same thing.
Besides, even the Academy admitted this whole thing wasn’t Beatty’s – or Dunaway’s – fault! And their age had nothing to do with the flub either. (By the way, even if Beatty was totally to blame, it wouldn’t justify all the mean-spirited mocking and name-calling that, in my opinion, was sadly based on people’s lack of respect for the elderly.)
Recently Humana invited me to watch and participate online in a panel discussion they sponsored, Over Sixty, Under Estimated: A Healthy Look at the “Silver” Screen at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles that included baby boomer actress Francis Fisher. During the discussion, the panel made a good point.
These days, if Hollywood ridiculed an ethnic group, the LGBT community, or the disabled in movies, people would be in an uproar. So why do people quietly tolerate the way movies make fun of older people? Older characters in movies have often been stereotyped as irritable, depressed, slow-witted, lonely, sickly, whiny, rude, horny, and foul-mouthed – as if that’s all they had to offer.
Several actors aged 50-plus were nominated in prestigious categories this year in strong roles – although it should be noted none of them won. I thought maybe we, as active, vibrant baby boomers who have valuable knowledge, experience, and insight that only comes with age, were finally paving the way for a change in the way people view aging.
However, this faux pas at the Oscar Show and all the ridicule obviously based on Beatty’s and Dunaway’s age makes me think I was wrong. While some cultures honor the elderly, in general, Hollywood seems to be reflecting society’s ongoing disrespectful, negative view of aging.
I realize that during this divisive time in America, many stayed away from the Academy Award show because of its political viewpoints. But the one thing we all have in common is that we’re getting older. In fact, we are living in a time when the population of people ages 65 and older is expected to triple to 1.5 billion by mid-century.
Personally, I was appalled at how quick people were to slam Beatty as an older person who was supposedly clueless because of his age. I can only hope one day people will learn to respect the elderly and appreciate everything they have to offer.