Recently I was at a friend’s house for brunch and there, on
the TV, was a Love Boat marathon. This
was very compelling. (Hey, don’t judge) Not only because of the nostalgia
factor and memories of elementary school sleep overs, but because of the striking
contrast to what we see on TV today.
There were elderly people with fully developed romantic story
lines! Not played for laughs! And not played by actors who looked like they could
still do 5 hours of step aerobics (My mind is in the 80s, stay with me here).
On episode after episode, there were senior citizens enjoying love, flirtation,
and sexy storylines with multiple suitors vying for their affection.
Now sure, The Love
Boat format was largely about the guest stars who were famous years ago.
But seeing it again made me realize how much our media has changed and the
images of people we see have changed. Remember TV used to be primarily targeted
towards adults, including adults in their elder years. This has changed as our
marketing focus has slide younger and younger. And of course we are meant to
look younger and younger as well. It’s all about anti-aging these days.
It is one thing to see more older actors being celebrated as
sexy now. Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren – super inspiring and SEXY as hell. And
that is good to see. But it is also intimidating and has attached to it the
additional message that we have to look like a 40 year old to be an attractive
70 year old. It is something else entirely to see someone who actually looks
like my grandma, strutting her stuff in a fluffy turquoise muumuu with attached
cape that gently flows over her noticeably large belly and hips, having someone
be hit with love at first sight of her. That sends a different message about who
is worthy of a love story, doesn’t it?
Now I am not claiming that The Love Boat did great things for my developing mind or sense of
what love had in store. But I do think that seeing storylines involving people my
grandparents age hooking up for some vacation love and for some spontaneous
weddings was probably good for me, setting a foundation I was
unaware of that romance stays with us throughout our entire life.
What I think is important to remember is the insidious way
our image of the world gets edited by who is not represented. We should always
take time to ask ourselves - who is missing from this crafted-for-my-entertainment
world? For all the vastness of available media at this point in time, the
people we see are in some ways more edited than ever. We need to see people of
all colors, ages, sizes, gender representations, orientations, physical
capacities, … and we need to see just plain old average looking people, living their
lives and loving one another. We need to see ourselves represented. All aboard!