Oscars Flub & the Knee-Jerk Response That is Ageism – A Challenge

February 27, 2017
Laura Beck, The Eden Alternative

So, I watched the Oscars with a friend last night.  As midnight here on the East Coast neared, it was time to reveal the winning film for the Best Picture category. Like a bizarre replay of the recent Miss Universe foible, the wrong film was announced as the winner.   A little time would reveal that the mistake involved a backstage mix-up in the handoff of the envelopes to the award presenters.  Yet, immediately after the kerfuffle took place, several comments and Tweets let loose, targeting the age of the esteemed presenters, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

Here are two of the most gifted artists in film history, with several award-winning acting and directing credits between them, who were chosen to present this prestigious award in honor of the 50th anniversary of their lauded 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde.”   In the blink of an eye, they were reduced from icons to the “old people.”  One well-intended Tweet still left a sting saying, “Don’t y’all go blaming the old people for that one.  They gave Warren Beatty the wrong envelope.”

Ah, the knee-jerk response that is ageism….  I’ve been teaching and speaking and writing about ageism for years now.  But, this was one of those times it felt deeply personal for me, even if I can’t call Faye and Warren BFFs.  Here were two artistic giants from MY time.  As a lover of fine films, I grew up watching Warren and Faye own the screen in darkened movie theaters (yeah, pre-Netflix and all).  They deserved better than this.

For all the joy it can bring by creating connectedness, the speed of social media seems to give us permission to blurt the first thoughtless thing that comes to mind and broadcast it to millions. This is, indeed, its shadow side. When it comes to ageism and ableism (or any ism, for that matter), the speed/easy access combination creates a forum where negative messaging can reverberate at the speed of light.

So, I have a challenge for you.  Let’s flood social media today (this week!) with positive reflections of the Elders in our lives!  Let’s turn that speed and reach around to serve our mission! Share a bit of wisdom from an older, wiser human that has touched you, buoyed you, or transformed you.  Reflect on the brilliance, kindness, creativity, or thoughtfulness of an Elder in your world.  Tweet, post, or shout it from the rooftops.  It really can be different….

7 Comments. Leave new

Josephine Cooper
February 27, 2017 11:17 am

THANK YOU for calling this out! The creeping bias of ageism is rarely noticed. I am pleased that you too the opportunity to call out this very public example.


Thank you! In the flurry of “what happened?!” there immediately were comments about Faye Dunaway looking old and queries about facelifts. More than one ism was happening. Jimmy Kimmel, obviously flustered, wanted to give everyone an Oscar, which many in the black community have taken as an insult. Also, Jimmy Kimmel managed to make fun of non “white people” names. I like Jimmy, and want to give him the benefit of the doubt, hoping he is poking fun at himself and/or simply doesn’t know what to do.

Sorry for the tangent. I have shared your blog via Twitter and Facebook, and will continue to share stories of elders who teach me as I become one of the.


Sharon Lloyd-O'Connor
February 28, 2017 8:27 am

A teachable moment for a society in sore need… if Warren Beatty was slow to react to what was on the card he read, he was an example of grace. Standing before a massive audience of colleagues whom he cherished and taught, called upon to be an instrument of performance in one of the most intensively scripted and competently organized events in the world, he looked at words that made little sense. He was not the folly of rushing, panic or blaming; he thought, considered, looked to someone he trusted for help. And he had the strength and presence of mind to step forward and explain to the stunned masses what had happened. Ah, the injury we can all avert by leaning, with gratitude, toward lights such as his.

Josephine Cooper
February 28, 2017 11:12 am

This depiction of events especially appeals to me. I have an exercise that I do in my head when I hear stereotypes of aging — such as that we are “slow”. I believe that our life experience has made most of us more deliberative, careful, and sensitive to the consequences of how to handle a variety of situations. This is not a negative type of caution. It is the caution of wisdom.


YES Josephine! And research supports this exercise you’ve been doing! Caution of wisdom indeed!

Linda s. slone
March 3, 2017 10:14 am

I love it !! Caution of wisdom…Thank you Josephine May I today be guided by not speed but caution of wisdom so as not to bring harm to anyone but be uplifting.

Josephine Cooper
March 3, 2017 12:10 pm

Linda, I’m so pleased that my comment resonated with you.


Leave a Reply