Age is a funny thing. Once you think you’ve got the hang of a certain age, you zoom past it at such a high speed it makes your head spin. Managed to get a budget together? Live on your own? Good, have a serious relationship! Boom! Managed that for a while? Here, try kids! Pow! And before you know it, you’re exhausted, sitting on your ass in front of the TV wondering where the years went and why everything is so damned loud these days.
What gets annoying after a while though is watching your heroes age with you. We’re in a golden age of geekdom and part of that has been dredging up legends of yesteryear and shoving them back on the screen. Harrison Ford has already reprised two of the roles that made him an international superstar, Ghostbusters is getting rebooted, Arnie gives us a wrinkly Terminator and Bruce Campbell finally gets to expand on the character of Ash Williams. Now it’s possible to see this as simply squeezing more cash out of older franchises the way that bands reform once they run out of drinking money. However it’s part of something that has been going on for longer than that.
One of my favourite action films of recent years was RED. The concept of older, retired spies kicking the heck out of younger, sassier agents was just a slice of fried gold. But a few years earlier Taken had appeared, spawning a slew of similar films showing an older, more experienced character taking the new folks to town. It was as if the joke of RED had suddenly become reality. I however, was not disappointed by this. As a society, our attitude towards older people sucks donkey balls. Hollywood is obsessed with young looks and glamour so to see older characters back on the screen was a breath of fresh air. And when the Doctor regenerated into an older, more senior form, I howled with delight happy to see an older actor in what had become a staging platform for young actors to launch their careers.
Oh how the internet had been ringing with speculation over that one. Everyone from Rory Kinnear to Idris Elba to even Ryan Gosling (seriously? Ryan fricking Gosling!?) had been nominated, some with merit, some without. So the reaction to veteran actor and all round nice guy Peter Capaldi getting the role was downright hilarious. For me though, I was celebrating. As someone who is slowly coming to realise that I no longer qualify as ‘young’, having older role models on screen is a great way of feeling better about your age. Not that I expect to be taking down terrorists in my 60s like Liam Neeson or piloting a TARDIS any time soon (although I live in hope) but having older people on screen sends a vital message: that it’s not just folks in their 20s who can make a difference, that you don’t have to be young, hung and full of cum to be the hero. It’s important not just for my generation though, it’s vital that younger viewers get to see older characters on screen as well. Representation is important, a point that seems to have been sorely missed by a number of awards ceremonies this year. (Ok, let’s be honest, every goddam year.) The perception that older people have no part to play in our society is seriously outdated, especially if you look at voting figures.
Which is why it’s vital that more is done. Because although it’s great to see more older heroes on screen, it’s not just the old white guys we need to see. As glad as I was to see Carrie Fisher reprise her role as General Leia in The Force Awakens, I was disappointed to see how little she had to do in the film. And despite how devastatingly attractive and powerful Helen Mirren was in RED, we’ve yet to see more older women kicking butt on TV. And don’t get me started on how monochrome our cast of actors has been as well.
Recently I had the joy of watching Ash vs The Evil Dead, another show bringing back a beloved character to the screen. However as good as it was to see Bruce Campbell returning to slay the undead, it was even better to see him reunited with Lucy Lawless who he has worked with on many other TV shows such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. The latter is currently in the process of being rebooted for a new generation, creativity in Hollywood clearly running at an all-time low. Does this mean we’ll get to see Lawless once again clad in leather armour and busting heads with her companion Gabrielle? No, of course not. The edict has come in that the roles are to be recast, to be filled with hot, new young things. Colour me disappointed? You betcha.
Age comes for all of us and it’s been good to see some older actors reprising their roles and others taking up parts normally given to the younger generation. It’s a start but there’s more to do. Just as we need more than just token parts for non-white, western male actors, we need to see older people on screen as well and in capable, positive roles. Not just to give us someone to aspire to but to show that age does not render one incapable of action or ineffective in society. If Bruce Willis can still be making Die Hard movies at 58, we deserve to see many more characters for older actors and soon. And any time they want to give Dame Helen Mirren her own RED spin off film, I’ll be ready and waiting.
Taken 2 via IMDB/EuropaCorp/Canal+
Doctor Who via IMDB/BBC
RED via IMDB/Summit Entertainment