Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beautiful Plumage 4 A Head of My Time

It has taken me a few months to return to the topic of hair and aging.

But I feel the time has come when Oprah, no less, has a show on ageing gracefully, starring the extensively-freshened Raquel Welch, and both of them sit there, side by side, on camera, in a well-lit studio, representing thousands of dollars of nips, tucks and ‘products’ (not to mention millions of dollars lavished, over decades, on personal trainers and hair dye), admonishing the rest of womankind to drop everything and ‘take good care of themselves’.

This embrace of ageing gracefully is a fairly recent phenomenon, but it doesn’t surprise me, coming, as it does, just as the world’s largest (speaking population-wise) demographic enters its 60’s. Wherever we have gone before, there has been big money to be made so why should this stage of life be any different? As a generation encouraged by advertising to think that the whole world is watching its every pore, appearances have often been an uppermost consideration. And there she is, Oprah, queen of the self-involved, leading the way. Although she purports to care a lot about things like her ‘spirit’, let’s not kid ourselves.

With all her money, she’d still sell her soul, if she could stay thin. We all know that! Being spiritual is definitely runner-up.

So at a time of life when people have the opportunity to turn to introspection and maybe, a little philanthropy, we are now being advised that, for the sake of humanity, it would be wise not to give up on our appearances or ‘let ourselves go’. As if we have a choice. Letting ourselves go is the inevitable and ultimately conclusive result of a life lived, well, or otherwise. Unfortunately, you cannot stay at the party forever.

Some, of course, have tried, to varying degrees of success.

A digression with a point:

The best depiction of the consequences of eternal existence at the final frontier, so to speak, is the one presented by Jonathan Swift, a man more remembered for the first two chapters of his ‘oeuvre’, wherein his hero, Gulliver, an early frequent cruiser, takes voyages to two islands no longer featured on the Royal Caribbean itinerary, Lilliput and Brobdingnag. In these places people are either too tiny or too huge, giving Swift the opportunity to mock the pettiness and then galumphing coarseness of person-kind to the delight of readers of all ages for over 300 years and to the chagrin of Walt Disney, when Max and Dave Fleischer jumped the gun and animated the first chapter in 1939 as a full length feature before he got his mousey little hands on it.

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ has been done several times since then, of course, most recently in the mid-nineties, by Ted Danson and his wife, the lovely Mary Steenburgen. That TV mini-series won many awards, mostly in the categories where nobody gets to go up on the stage to claim them. Artsy stuff like design and technical work which, unfortunately, is of no interest to the viewing public. I did not see that version personally, so cannot attest to whether or not Larry David’s buddy visited Luggnagg, a port to which I will refer shortly, but I highly doubt it. At least, it’s not in the synopsis, which is rife with ‘spoiler alerts’ as if anyone alive doesn’t already know the outcome of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. (Neigh!)

Another digression, another point:

In my passion for semi-thorough research and just plain curiosity, I have been able to discover, for you, dear blogfans, that a brand new version for a new generation will be released this Christmas starring the versatile and strangely repulsive, Jack Black, whose physical stature puts him somewhere between the two nations.

It might be interesting. (The lovely Emily Blunt and the even lovelier Billy Connelley co-star, which shows someone was paying attention).

But somehow, I doubt it. It’s being marketed with the tagline,
‘BLACK IS THE NEW BIG’, so you understand why I worry.
(Chris Noth had better move over).

“All that narrative and no rights to pay make for many incarnations”.
(Old Hollywood saying)


It’s this island of Luggnagg which everybody ignores in their movie depictions, which is of special relevance to my topic today. It is populated not by giants or little people, as they like to be called in their Reality TV series, but struldbrugs, humans who seem normal but are, in fact immortal. The catch, and there’s always a catch, is that they continue to age indefinitely, with all that entails. I'd list the symptoms, but it's too depressing.

Good old Wikipedia, (which you should never use, we tell our students), tells us that they develop normally until they reach the age of 30 and then become ‘dejected’. No surprise there. They know, unlike Oprah and Raquel, that it’s only downhill after 30. At 80, they are declared legally dead, quickly divested of their property by their children (unlike today when they use up all their assets supporting their medical and social needs) and are pretty much left to stumble around blindly, on a small allowance, hoping for visitors who never come.

(With or without money, they never come. Especially if they've already got their mitts on the money).

Is it any wonder that Ted and Mary decided to skip this part? Who wants to watch them creaking around the ‘home’ with even more wrinkles than usual? At least in ‘Benjamin Button’ Brad Pitt had the decency to age backwards and give us the relief of some buffed abs before he finally perished.

So my point, such as it is, is this.

Actually, I don’t remember what it is. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

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