The Age Old Question

Maggie-GyllenhaalSometimes when watching a show or movie at home, I will look people up on the IMDB.  One of my curiosities is to look up actors and actresses in the lead roles who are supposed to be a couple in the film and show and see what kind of age difference there is.  Often, the age difference is pretty large.  Only in the last few years have I recalled seeing pairings of equal ages(within five years of each other).

But it is overwhelmingly in the direction that a couple with a large age gap in film and television being an older guy and younger woman.  On the occasion where it is an older woman and a younger man?  It tends to be the point of the film.  This is, of course, not some new observation I am making.  I am not under any illusion that I stumbled on something.

Just this past May, Maggie Gyllenhall (six years younger than me) told about how she was told she was not getting a role because at 37, she was too old to be the love interest for a 55 year old actor.  If you look through the IMDB, you will actually find that plenty of actresses have no age or birthday listed.  Gyllenhall’s story underscores there are probably good reasons for not including Ages.  If a casting director looks you up on the IMDB?  They cannot simply look at age and pass.

There is a long  standing tradition that it is rude to ask a woman her age.  It is not actually rude…but our patriarchal system has put the greatest emphasis women have to offer is their youth and beauty.The cold hard truth is there is no good reason to demand a romantic interest in a movie be played by a 24 year old when the lead male is Jack Nicholson.  The fact that this is still the norm is proof as to how far we have not come in roles for women in Hollywood.

mirren-loreal_shootPeople talk about how great Helen Mirren looks in a bikini at 70, pat themselves on the back for being supposedly not ageist and hire 27 year old Emma Stone or 25 year old Jennifer Lawrence to play 40 year old Bradley Cooper’s love interest.  The thing is, you know what Helen Mirren brings to film?  Not a great bikini body, but tremendous acting talent.  Emma and Jennifer are attractive, but they are more talented than to be treated as the eye candy for older actor’s arms.  And the larger the gap, the more it can just feel creepy.

It is time to stop telling women their age is the enemy.  Film and television can help by choosing age appropriate actresses for their leading men more than they do not.  Because there are certainly cases where you might be telling the tale of an age gap.  But if that is not part of the plot, if your lead just happens to be dating or married to someone ten years his junior, maybe rethink that.  You seem very conscious of who you pair older women up with, Hollywood (just how often are Helen Mirren and Dame Judi Dench paired up with male leads in their 30’s or 40’s?).  Show that conscientious attitude with your male leads.  You might be surprised.

Rand Versus Orientation

If you want to make people you disagree with look bad, just tie them to Ayn Rand.  Sometimes, this is pretty easy to do, such as folks who support big business over the poor.  Other times, it is a bit more…um…muddled.

The author argues:

Traditionally, sexual desire has been characterized as being called forth by the other, a motion of love and desire that wells up in us as a response to a value perceived in another human being. Sexual attraction, in this view, is other-orientated.

And then continues:

Rand reverses this order, arguing that “sex is an expression of self-esteem” and “the most profoundly selfish of all acts.” A man “will always be attracted to the woman who reflects the deepest vision of himself.” Man — considered as an individual, without any reference to another person — has a set of values. The woman he is attracted to is not attractive insofar as she presents something “new” or “other.” Rather she presents something “old” and “the same” — the embodiment of a value-set he already has. For Rand, all sex is masturbation, sex with oneself. The other becomes a mirror for our values, and we — Narcissus, all — are aroused by the sight.

I see the setup…where we are going here…

I cannot reject Ayn Rand as easily as I’d like, for the simple reason that our current logic of “sexual orientation” is Randian to the core. That I am a “heterosexual” means precisely this, that I have a pre-set “orientation” towards the other sex, an already-operating valuation of “women” as such. A particular woman, far from presenting some “new” value, calling forth attraction from me, is attractive insofar as she “clicks” with my orientation. She is a fulfillment of my values, my already-established desire, which is not for her – for then it could only be called forth from a personal encounter with her — but for “the other  sex.”

When a young boy finds himself attracted to another boy, we admonish him to “come out of the closet,” to recognize himself as being a homosexual — or at least bisexual. But what does this mean, except that his sexual attraction to another, particular person is nothing more than evidence of his pre-existing orientation? Our boy had, unbeknownst to himself, an identity, a set of values and desires and a mode of being in the world. His attraction was not called forth by another, it was only revealed as having always been a part — and a fixed, identity-determining part, no less — of his ego. The ego, and not the other, becomes the reference point for human sexuality.

See, by accepting the notion that we have a generally preset orientation, that are attractions are based on self.  To be frank, this is rather loopy semantics.  I cannot recall a time when there was not something about women I found to be, well alluring.  I may not have quite understood what caught my eye about Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman or Catherine Bach on the Dukes of Hazzard…but I knew there was something.  Puberty kind of cleared it all up.  It made the attraction clearer (but with all new confusions).  Does it actually change something to say Lynda Carter called forth my feelings of desires?  Even in the traditional view, we are drawn to the person who called us out because of a feeling stirred in us.

And the other problem with the “called forth” school of thought is it takes all responsibility off of me.  I cannot help my feelings, the other person is stirring them, not me!  This is, oddly enough, the stalker school of thought.  I cannot control this because the other person inspires my love, whether they want it or not, it is their doing.

The Rand philosophy was, “I desire what I want and will take it, whether the object of desire wants me to or not.”  The notion of being heterosexual or homosexual is simply, “I desire this trait.”

Acknowledging the existence of a pre-ordained orientation is not Randian at all.  It is simply being aware that your attraction to a person has many components in play.  I would note that the “called forth desire” model would favor gay relationships as equal to heterosexual ones, as you are being drawn to the person, not their gender.

But really, the whole piece is a semantic argument in an attempt to tie Rand to the school of thought on orientation.

The Just and Humble Walk of Mercy

It has been one month…and still does not fully feel real.  I originally posted this to my Tumblr.

I found out this week that my Dad’s favorite Bible Verse is Micah 6:8.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God.

I did not know this until last Wednesday.  But it is not really a surprise.

My dad is a gentle man.  Not a gentleman, which can be mere shallow politeness.  But a gentle man.  He is a man who will listen to your view point, and if he chooses to voice an opinion at all, he does not take a condescending tone if he disagrees.  He politely offers his take.  If he is ever exasperated?  I never see it.  I wish I had that kind of patience.  I all to often find people frustrating.  But not Dad.

Dad is center right and a Christian.  Yet, he has never been forceful.  He does not preach down to people.  Heck, he can sometimes only say a couple words and never bring up God.

But my Dad loves to help people.  If you need help?  His hand will reach out.  At 72, my Dad is vibrant and loved people.  I could bring any person reading this to meet my Dad, and he would care about you.  He would listen when you need it.  He would cry with you when you need it.  He would smile and laugh with you when you need it.

My Dad is not a saint of course.  I mean, if you are an inanimate object, he can hurl an unending stream of obscenities at you when you frustrate him.  Think of the dad in a Christmas story.  But using Christian vernacular…I have not known many men who embody all of the Fruits of the Spirit.  But my Dad sure comes close.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self control…those really apply to my Dad.

I am speaking in the present tense…but on Wednesday, April 15th, I got the worst text message I think I may ever get.  My Mother sent a text (because she could not reach me by phone while I was on the phone at work) asking me to come home…Dad had passed away.  On the previous Friday he had a medical checkup and was told he was in great shape.  On that Tuesday, our family got together to celebrate my Mom’s birthday (which is the 15th).  My Dad gave no indication of feeling ill.  He went to sleep…and never woke up.  According to the people who visited from the Cremation Society only 6% of people die at home…and only 3% die as peacefully as my Dad appears to have.

Truth is, we really thought Mom would be going first.  Mom has stage four cancer, and we all thought I was moving in to be with Dad when she passed.  But to all of our surprise?  It is Dad that is gone today.

It is weird, the things that make me think of Dad.  Star Wars.  It is the first movie I can remember him taking me to.  The Rock…Dad and I really like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.  Neither of us figured out quite what it was, but we do know we liked him.  And I had hoped to see San Andreas with Dad.

My Mom emphasized his faith was what made him the amazing guy he was.  I do not doubt this.  My Dad’s faith was utterly sincere and heartfelt.  I do not really share it.  I confess, right now, the idea of there being a God who loves us and set a place aside for us to all come together after we die is appealing.  Because I would like to see my Dad again.

A lot of people have been telling us how my Dad encouraged them as Christians.  But I learned something larger.  I learned what it was to be a great human.  And I just do not live up to being the same man my Dad was.  but this is one thing I know…I was blessed to have a great Dad.  And I am going to miss him.


CNN and Meaningless Statistics That White People Love

CNN is the go to for white conservative people trying to “discredit” supposed “narratives”.  They know their liberal friends won’t accept the Fox News information.  But CNN supposedly represents the liberal mainstream media.  This is pretty laughable if you actually watch CNN.  They bend over backwards to be neutral on any story, giving voice to any yahoo in the name of covering all the angles.  Fox says they are “fair and balanced”, but they do not make the gymnastics to live up to that.

So, when CNN puts up statistics, without actually analyzing them, white conservatives get to work spreading it on Facebook with “concerned” commentary.  The popular statistic right now is the one that shows police shot more white people than any other race in a few year span.  But the reasons for that are pretty simple.  The country is 63% white, 12% Black.  Plus, a general statistic about the number of people killed by race does not address the issue.

The frustration is not that cops kill more black people than white people.  That is a complete strawman.  And the statistic does not break down into specific circumstances such as whether the person killed was armed.  No, the issue is that black people are more likely to be killed by the cops even when they are unarmed.  And if you take the statistics of the number of white and black people killed by police and set it against the population?  Black people are, in fact, killed at a much higher rate than white people by cops.  It is explored more in depth here.