November 19, 2015

The Inverse Function

#BITCHPLEASE  I met Corinne Simpson on set of the Sexy Voter campaign, where she demonstrated the delight of individual eyelashes. After quickly discovering we're both writers, both into horror and feminism, we decided we better go for coffee. Our new friendship has lightened my spirit with so much needed laughter and shared wisdom that I'm reminded of a universal force that brings people together at just the right time. Plus, a woman who can use Star Trek: The Next Generation to perfectly illustrate my current spiritual obstacles... you wanna keep her around and thank her daily. 

She is a superb storyteller (I will never think of breakfast quite the same) and a brilliant mind. When she offered to write piece on Hollywood and the invisibility of women of a certain age - particularly in relationship to men - well I knew this was something to share and discuss. So please enjoy and give her some love!

The Inverse Function

Guest Post by Corinne Simpson.

There is a curious thing that happens in Hollywood as women age: they become invisible.  Or rather, they simply don’t age.  It’s a phenomenon I like to affectionately call The Inverse Function because I am very mathematically inclined.  No, that’s a joke, I’m not at all but I do full-heartedly support women in STEM and believe more women should be in STEM fields because our world is our battleground and our playground simultaneously.  Women should define and explore it as much as men.  I digress.  Defined, inverse means “(of a proportion) containing terms of which an increase in one results in a decrease in another.  A term is said to be in inverse proportion to another term if it increases (or decreases) as the other decreases (or increases)”. So, like my bank account and makeup collection: that is an inverse relationship.  As my makeup collection increases, my bank account decreases.  But in Hollywood The Inverse Function I refer to is age-related.  Specifically: as actors age (or increase in years), their lead actresses get younger (or their ages decrease).

Let’s examine the evidence.  Don’t take anything based solely on rumour.  As Grissom always said on CSI, the evidence never lies. In 1992 Denzel Washington was 37 in Malcolm X opposite Angela Bassett at 34.  In 2006 Denzel Washington was 51 in Déjà Vu opposite Paula Patton at 30. Did you see what happened there? The Inverse Function. Hollywood math. 2014‘s Magic in the Moonlight had 54 year old Colin Firth romancing 26 year old Emma Stone.  1999’s Entrapment memorably paired 69 year old Sean Connery with 30 year old Catherine Zeta Jones.  In 2013 29 year old Olivia Wilde played the love interest to 50 year old Steve Carell in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and 61 year old Liam Neeson in Third Person.

Hollywood ensures that leading men – the male superstar names we’ve grown up loving – stay on top. Tom Cruise, Liam Neeson, Sylvester Stallone, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, George Clooney, all these guys are still marquee names headlining dramas, actioners, and romances alike.  But their onscreen love interests give way cyclically to younger actresses: from Meryl Streep to Olivia Wilde, from Penelope Cruz to Dakota Johnson.  And if you think I’m decrying youth in any way you are missing my point entirely.  This is not a treatise against young women, this is an outcry against the erasure of women as they age.  Men are allowed to grey and wrinkle and stoop and frown onscreen as long as they want to.  They are sexy silver foxes prowling through the same types of films they’ve always headlined.  But their female peers are increasingly pressed into the background as grandmothers, mothers, and assistants while actresses who could realistically be the actors’ daughters or granddaughters romance them onscreen.  Actresses aren’t permitted to age sexily, alluringly, powerfully, and in all the glorious nuance and confidence that real life provides.

The Inverse Function means women don’t as readily see a reflection of themselves in entertainment as they age out of their always-glorified twenties.  (Never mind that POC and diverse body types almost never witness accurate and wide-ranging portrayals of themselves on any screen which is a strongly-worded conversation we must continue to have with each other and studio moguls.)  There is an onscreen age at which women are arbitrarily ‘retired’ to nurturing sideline roles and it is women few and far between that get to buck the paradigm with any success.  This tendency to cast ever-younger actresses in roles with careers that require experience or extensive education, for example, means that we are robbed of acknowledgement of the years of struggle and learning that real women in the same fields must endure to succeed.

"We are robbed of acknowledgement of the years of struggle and learning that real women in the same fields must endure to succeed."

Indeed, there is no onscreen celebration of hard-earned laugh lines or deserved grey hairs, of the sex appeal that comes with being comfortable in one’s own skin, of the curvature of flesh that has borne children or rebounded from illness, of the knowing light behind eyes that have seen and chosen not to succumb to grief… of all the things that comprise a long life, a life well lived, years earned, sexiness understood, love matured, age embraced. Then too if women dare to flip the paradigm and romance younger men either onscreen or in real life, they are cruelly mocked, labeled ‘cougars’ (or worse), decried as tacky, slut-shamed.  Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Cher, and so many other women playing a man’s game by their own rules and branded heartlessly for it one way or another.

Is there a solution? Of course. We’re already living it, you know: aging. We all age. We’re all aging incrementally every day. But instead of reading that as a death knell or a savage taunt, why don’t we read it as a great unexplored possibility? As a species we learn so much more as we age. We grow so much more adept in our abilities, we comprehend much subtler ideals, we are more prone to make peace with our bodies after years of battling – not always but often.

And if the aging of our bodies was not perpetually sold as a debilitative disease that must be fought with every cent and ounce of energy we possess, we may start to find a greater measure of peace in the living our bodies do and what’s inside instead of the image cast in photos and mirrors.  I want to see women my age kicking ass onscreen. I just turned forty. I feel like a kid. I feel both comfortable and powerful which is a heady combination and only something I have recently discovered in myself. I want to see that onscreen. I want to see women who enter a third career and fight tooth and nail to succeed at it. I want to see women embracing sexuality they’ve formerly denied whether it was suppressing bisexuality or lesbianism or emerging from a bad marriage or loss with a celebrated hunger for sexual expression. I want to see women who are mothers who go back to work and juggle both selves admirably while not going slightly mad: at their story being fulfillment on all levels, not having to either choose or be Wonder Woman.

I want to see female spies, mature female superheroes, women CEOs, women industry leaders, women mechanics and farmers, all aging in believable beautiful bodies, all brimming with passion and ideas and ability and understanding and laughter and anger and sexual yearning and all the things that make us collectively human.  I want to see a gorgeous fifty year old woman romancing George Clooney. I’m so thrilled that Monica Bellucci has finally seduced James Bond and I want to see more and more of that. I want to see my inner self onscreen as reflected through women who are not twenty.  I love you, beautiful young women, but not every story is yours. And when you’re forty you’ll feel that keenly.  You’ll want to tell your own stories your way. And I’ll want to watch them.

So here’s to all the gloriously aging women I want to see more of on my screen in every possible way but especially as strong ferocious leads and all manner of romantic partners in their own right.  Women don’t disappear with age. We get better. That’s what I want to see.

Corinne Simpson is the Bomb

Corinne is a writer, makeup artist, wanderer, literary vampire (made-up title, means nothing), and seeker of adventure.  She hosts stories told by others on her blog,, where she also occasionally writes some things herself.  She has a play she needs to edit and get onstage as well as a novel so researched it should actually start writing itself at this point.  She turns faces into art, fantasies and horrors via her makeup company VampireNomad Palette (  She believes in the holy trinity of the written word, imagination, and true connection. With those three things you can accomplish anything, really. And for everything else there’s Mastercard.

@VampireNomad on Twitter

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