Caitriona Balfe just celebrated her 37th birthday on October 4th. All-day long, I saw well wishes for her flash across my social media sites. Outlander’s fans, the cast, crew, and creators were all wishing her the happiest of days and thanking her for bringing Diana Gabaldon’s character the WWII nurse, Claire Randall Fraser, to life. Her birthday fell in close proximity to a few casting and award announcements and the unveiling of a new EW cover (the cover was tweeted one day after I wrote this http://wp.me/p4mtBT-4BP coincidence?…I think I’m clairvoyant! LOL). All of this news had me thinking about season 3 and I’ve got ideas jotted down and several articles in the creation about Fergus and Ian and Marsali. There has been lots of inspiration for an Outlander blog! Today, however, I find myself still thinking of Caitriona’s birthday. She is 37 on the upward slope toward forty which often is the point of no return or should I say no role for most actresses. Have you seen Amy Schumer’s skit on the subject? https://youtu.be/XPpsI8mWKmg
I know that Cait has said that she has no interest in being a starlet and so, I’m wondering if she had any real idea how fortuitous it was she said yes to playing Claire? She has an opportunity to play a character that will not only continue to grow as a person, but she will get the chance to play a character who ages. She is going to get to play a female character who still has an active sex life past forty. In fact, her character still has a passionate sex life…until she’s…well, last time I checked Claire and her Jamie were grandparents who indulge their appetite for each other…often. Folks,…Outlander has the chance to once again break some ground in portraying sex on TV. Brace yourselves there is a chance we will see hot sex between two older monogamous married people who are passionately committed to each other.
First, let me say that the older I get the older still being young seems to get. I can remember when I thought 50 seemed the end of the line for everything including being sexy. I recall reading a reflection Erma Bombeck wrote about turning 50. She was looking forward to being able to dress in loose pants and going to the grocery store without makeup. She believed there would be less pressure to conform because nobody cared what you looked like when you turned fifty. Evidently, Erma and I believed there was an expiration date on sexual attractiveness.
I’ve been married to the same man going on 41 years. We still hold hands and kiss…in front of people…like our children, which for some reason totally grosses them out. We hear things like “Stop! We get it, we get it, you still have sex, but just… STOP!” LOL! It’s not like we are groping each other and swallowing each other’s tongues and need to be told to get a room. Usually, it’s just a “moment” when we feel affection or gratitude and lean in for a gentle kiss and a look into each other’s eyes. I would think knowing your parents feel this way about each other would be a good thing, but evidently,…not so much. This leads me to wonder how Outlander will portray sex between it’s two main characters who are rapidly approaching fifty. I’m wondering if they know they have the chance to once again break the mold when it comes to how sex is portrayed on the screen because believe or not, people over fifty do have sex lives. One of the things that have kept me attracted to this book series is Diana Gabaldon’s decision to go beyond the falling in love stage in relationships. She decided to write about love that lasts for fifty years. I think that’s why some of the books that come later in the series like A Breath of Snow and Ashes are my favorites. I read them and find myself nodding in recognition of the truth of what it is like to be in a committed relationship.
I believe that our society has a very unrealistic view of being in love which Hollywood has tended to perpetuate. We tend to believe it’s like the fairytale. Happy endings aren’t necessarily easy to obtain. Ms. Gabaldon’s books take the reader beyond falling in love and into the everyday realities of how people stay in love despite tragedy and hardship.
My husband once told me about a conversation he had with one of his young college football players. The young man had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and was going to drop out of school. My husband told him our story which included my getting pregnant at 18 and his not dropping out of college. He told him it could be done and he would help him find a way to make it happen if the young man wanted to stay in school. My husband said he felt the need to tell the young man the truth about marriage, “Marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it is the thing I am the proudest of”. Diana’s books give us a portrait of the self-sacrifice, acceptance, loyalty, and sometimes the forgiving it takes to maintain a long-term relationship. One of the reasons some fans lament the lack of sex in season 2 is that they miss the communication that happens when those two are in bed together. Sex is an integral part of how they communicate with each other, it is often how they connect when words just aren’t sufficient or there are no words. It rings true to me, sex is important for a variety of reasons in a marriage and I hope season three of Outlander will show us sex between this older couple that comes close to approximating real-life because, for the most part, Hollywood hasn’t.
I find myself more and more fascinated by the role film plays in our perceptions, particularly of women. In general, Hollywood has an abysmal record when it comes to representing women as real members of the human race and that includes representing aging women in film.
Men over 40 accounted for 53% of characters whereas women that age represented 30%. That has implications for the number of female authority figures onscreen.
Age is one issue among many that has endured in Hollywood. The study found that among actors over 40 in film and television, 74.3% of characters are male and only 25.7% are female.
When they do put older women paired with an older man in a film the relationship still isn’t portrayed as sexy, but instead is “typically portrayed as sweet, cute and humorous”. It is about companionship rather than a real relationship.
If you watch a random assortment of Hollywood movies, you could be forgiven for believing that the only people who have sex are in their 20s and, occasionally, 30s. When people in their 50s and older engage in an on-screen romance, their relationship is typically portrayed as sweet, cute and humorous.
In other words, the message that film-makers send us is, “Sex is for when you are young. Companionship is for when you’re older.” While it’s true that most of us know more about relationships now than we did as teenagers, this certainly doesn’t mean that sex has left the building. Far from it! In real life, baby boomers are saying that sex gets better with age. (read this great article with Dame Helen Mirren about sex after 60) http://sixtyandme.com/should-hollywood-embrace-sex-after-50/
Curious, I began looking for information to read about older women and sex in film. One article link that popped up on my screen was entitled “The Top Ten Sex Scenes of Actresses Over 50” on a webpage called MiddleSexy which promotes the idea that sex, when we are older, can be better than when we are younger “older/better/sexier”. I was hopeful that what I would find was a list of films that showed women over fifty in “realistic” sexual relationships…not so much. In this article, 9 out of 10 of the films listed involved older women having sex with younger men and one about incest. Evidently, Hollywood and the author believe only “cougars” can be sexy or have hot sex. http://middlesexy.com/2014/10/21/top-10-movie-sex-scenes-featuring-actresses-over-50/
Men, as Amy Shumer’s skit suggests, don’t have an expiration date and are still seen as f*able no matter how old they are. Do you remember the fuss over Carrie Fisher’s not aging well in the new Star Wars movie? http://wp.me/p65lj4-2r Women are consistently told they are too old to play the love interest of men older than themselves. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/21/maggie-gyllenhaal-too-old-hollywood
I asked myself if I could remember a film that actually showed an older couple having hot sex. The only movie I could think of was The Thomas Crown Affair with Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan. It was definitely sexy, but missing a key component for me…the ever after part. This was still just another falling in love story. However, it should still be considered ground-breaking for it’s the portrayal of an older couple having passionate sex. I would have loved to have seen a sequel to that movie. Were those two characters able to make a relationship work?!
The good news is that there seems to be more attention being paid to Hollywood’s issues with women in general. Outlander has been part of a movement that has shown that TV with a female protagonist can generate audiences and money. One of the biggest reasons we don’t see more realistic portrayals of older couples on the screen is because there aren’t enough women behind the camera and enough good roles being written for older women.
You’ve got to go behind the camera to fix things in front of the camera.http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/09/youre-the-worsts-aya-cash-on-ageism-in-hollywood.html
But, here’s some even better news…Outlander has two seasons to show the world that sex between two older committed people can be hot and meaningful too.