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SNL, Helen Mirren’s Boobs and Older Women’s Sexuality

SNL, Helen Mirren's Boobs and Older Women's Sexuality


Something bizarre happened on TV this weekend. While Helen Mirren was supposed to host SNL, it turned out the show was hosted not by Mirren, but by her boobs. This week’s episode of SNL highlighted the uncomfortable nature of how we as a culture deal with and talk about sexuality and the older woman.

The funny thing is that the whole show was premised on the fact that they were celebrating the fact that Mirren was 65 and hot. The first image that was shown in the monologue was Mirren looking gorgeous in a bikini on vacation that made its way around the world. But what could have turned into a groundbreaking episode (like the one with Betty White last year) turned into boobfest and managed to turn a woman who has always embraced her sexuality into a joke. It’s like no one can really believe that a 65 year old woman could be hot and look great, so they needed to make it seem like she is a visitor from another planet.

It’s strange because you would think the straight guy mentality that rules SNL would have come out last week when Elton John hosted. But while some of those sketches were funny, it felt that John was part of the joke and in on it. This week it felt that Mirren was not in on the jokes (even though she was trying so hard), and that the only sketches that the writers could come up with were to highlight her boobs and her looks precisely because no one (even the smart writers on SNL) can embrace the sexuality of older women in popular culture. It’s like they were all sitting in the writers room trying to come up with skits about Mirren and they kept getting pictures of their moms in their heads and got grossed out and gave up and went to the lowest common denominator.

The sketches were all tired. Aside from the boob grabbing incidents, Mirren played Julie Andrews with a temper; Eleanor Roosevelt making out with Marilyn Monroe; and Mary Shelly revealing that she based Frankenstein on Frank Stein. Boring.

But SNL is not the cause of this problem, just our most recent example of it.

Kim Cattrall from Sex and the City has been in the press over the last couple of week’s talking about her new film that just opened Meet Monica Velour and how she has worked mostly onstage in Britain over the last couple of years because of how the US and US films deal with older women and sexuality. She talks about older women and sexuality better than most people probably because she has been so visible on the topic due to the fact that she actually played a woman over 50 who has had sex on screen. Here’s a great quote she had in the LA Times about getting older and the movie business:

I just did “Private Lives” last spring, and my leading man was 35, Matthew MacFayden. And everyone was saying, “This is not going to work because she could have had him,” just like the line from “Monica Velour.” And there is no age difference on that stage. He looked older, I looked younger. We just played the scene. I don’t care what people think. There were people at the screenings who are like, “Oh, gosh, whoa, the way you looked.” And they’re in the beauty business and the fashion business and I completely understand it, but in my life and career I want to embrace aging because I think that’s what’s interesting. I think a forehead without any lines doesn’t tell me they’ve lived a life. They’re trying to hang on, and I want to let go.

This is an issue that won’t go away even though people (ie young people) don’t want to believe that people over 50 are sexual beings and actually have sex. As baby boomers continue to age, and yes, have sex this conversation will keep shifting. This week’s episode of SNL just clarified that need to keep having the conversation.

Saturday Night Live’ recap: Helen Mirren transcended a laugh-lite ‘SNL‘ (EW)

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