Tuesday, February 01, 2011

What's wrong with aging gracefully?

I have a morbid fascination with celebrity plastic surgery. Whenever we see an older celeb on TV or in the movies, I'm always searching their faces, looking for the signs. Usually you don't have to look too far--sometimes it slaps you right in your own face. I've never gotten over whatever it was that Steve Martin did to his wonderful eyes ten or twelve years ago; they're a good inch farther apart than they used to be.

Several months ago we went to see a very good movie called "Easy A" which starred young Emma Stone, who is a favorite of ours, and which also starred the not-so-young Patricia Clarkson (age 51) and Lisa Kudrow (age 47.) In all of Clarkson's and Kudrow's scenes, I kept staring at their faces and marveling at how natural and wonderful they each looked.

They each have some wrinkles, but it works for them. They don't have weird cheekbones, their eyes aren't too far apart. Clarkson in particular just glowed on-screen, and I understand they have make-up and lighting people to make them look good, but her face still looks natural.

I think both ladies looked even better to me because we had just sat through a preview for the movie "Burlesque," starring Cher, whom I hadn't seen on-screen in quite a long time.

To be fair to Cher, she is 64 years old, older than Kudrow and Clarkson. And when you find a picture of her where she's holding her face still, she can almost look normal--not 64 years old, but not quite a circus freak yet. But watching her try to move her mouth and talk through all that filler in her face was frankly horrifying.

All this came back into my memory tonight when I was watching this show on PBS called "Pioneers of Television." I've only managed to catch a couple episodes of this, but they take a TV genre and go back and look at some of the key shows and interview whatever stars they can find who are still alive and relatively coherent. It's fun and nostalgic.

Tonight the topic was crime dramas, and there were three women who were interviewed for this show who made me wonder all over again how it is that we've bought into this belief that loads of plastic surgery are the only way we can hang onto the illusion of youth--and that youth is an illusion worth hanging onto in the first place.

Barbara Bain was drop-dead gorgeous 40 years ago, playing a covert agent on "Mission: Impossible." Now she's 81 years old, and I think she still looks terrific.

My mom always used to tease my dad about Angie Dickinson--apparently he had a little crush on her when she was on "Policewoman" back in the 70s. She was beautiful then:

And I think she's held up pretty darn well for someone pushing 80:

And then there was Stefanie Powers, who starred in a goofy little show called "The Girl from UNCLE" in the mid-60's and also in "Hart to Hart" in the 80's.

She's almost 70 now and still looks amazing:

It's not that I believe none of these women have had plastic surgery. We're talking Hollywood here--I think they give you an open-ended coupon for one free procedure when you get your SAG card. In the cheekbone areas, especially, I wouldn't be surprised if all three of them have had work. But it's unobtrusive. It enhances rather than distracts. And most importantly, they left some sags and wrinkles and folds, instead of just polishing their whole face to a smooth flat surface like...well...

I also don't think plastic surgery has been kind to Meg Ryan (age 49):

Or Priscilla Presley (age 65):

To quote Helena Bonham Carter (age 44 and un-plastic surgeried): "You have two choices. You can have the work done and look weirder, or have nothing done and look older. I think the only way I’ll continue to get work is if I don’t get anything done…I can still move all my face muscles! There aren’t many who can still do that."

I think I'd rather look old than weird. Ask me again in 20 years, and I may choose differently, but I think old is okay. And there are so many beautiful older women! They're older, they own it, and their faces are still beautiful. I love being able to see a person's life in their face, not their surgeries.