The oddball comedy Harold and Maude – just released on Blu Ray – is a comedy about love when you’re older – but it doesn’t treat older love as a joke.
Ruth Gordon, the actress playing a free-spirited woman pushing 80 – was close to the age of the woman she played and wonderful in the part, according to Maura Kelly writing in Atlantic Monthly.
Made 30 years ago, it’s a black comedy which pivots on the extreme age difference between the lovers. Its success depended on the Gordon character being “beautifully wrinkled” for the story to have emotional impact.
Movie Sex at 60: ‘Cute or Amusing’
But Kelly asks; “Could it have been made today?” And answers: “Probably not.”
Actresses in their 20s are now getting Botox to stave off wrinkles. When older couples are seen, they are rarely out of their 60s and the sex is shown as cute or amusing, says Melanie Davis, co-president of the Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Hollywood may be creating norms, or just responding to them, because some of the audience won’t accept the idea of senior sex as anything but a sad joke.
There were lots of positive reviews for Harold and Maude on the online cultural magazine site Pajiba.com but then there was this:
“I loved this movie right up until the sex scene. … I don’t know which is worse—knowing the Holocaust happened or knowing old people have sex.”
Sexy Older Women ‘Laughable’
Older actors may get the chance to play “dirty old men” but they are always teamed with younger women – and if older women are portrayed as having sexual needs we’re supposed to laugh at them.
Think Blanche from The Golden Girls or Elizabeth Ashley’s Diane in the Todd Solodnz film Happiness.
Real Life Sex Gets Better With Age
In real life it seems there’s ground for more optimism. A recent study found older women – mean age 67 – “almost always or always” reached orgasm and were more satisfied with their sex lives than ever.
But what do you think? Do you want to see more movies showing older people – the 70 plus group – having satisfying sex lives? Or should we just all pretend they don’t exist?