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Are older women having a media-moment?


 

By Beverley Harvey

julianne moore brand ambassador over 50 image

 

Hats off to lingerie giant Triumph for casting Julianne Moore and Liv Tyler in its Autumn/Winter 2017 advertising campaign.  It’s so refreshing to see beautiful, confident – and at 56 and 40 respectively – mature women in this role, as opposed to the twenty (or even thirty) somethings we are used to seeing.

Both women look absolutely drop dead gorgeous in the ads and for many will be an inspiration and a shot in the arm – proving once again that over fifty doesn’t mean over the hill.  A sucker for marketing, I went on to Triumph’s website to explore the range for myself; there’s no doubt that the new Florale Collection of bras and briefs are stylish and flattering, however with prices north of £50 for a bra, they are a little too extravagant for me personally (except perhaps as a present from my other half!).  You can see for yourself over on Triumph’s website

A bridge too far?

But one woman’s triumph (if you’ll pardon the pun) can be another woman’s faux pas.  Last week, the tabloids put Felicity Kendal under scrutiny for wearing a cropped top and ripped jeans ensemble.  A bridge too far perhaps, for a woman of seventy – however fit and resplendent?

A quick straw-poll among friends revealed reactions were mixed; one woman said ‘if you’ve got the figure, go for it!’ Another friend said ‘it was sad that she seemed to be trying too hard to look young’.  Personally, I think she looked fabulous and I see no reason why anybody should dress more conservatively just because they’ve reached one birthday or another.

Allure of women v girls

Returning to my earlier point about Triumph casting Julianne Moore and Liv Tyler – it seems that advertisers, writers, directors and media folk at large, are waking up to the allure of women vs girls.

It’s been a long time coming.

When I first wrote Seeking Eden in 2015 I contacted a well-known female editor regarding a critique.  I badly needed professional and external feedback as spending the best part of a year making stuff up and creating imaginary friends (otherwise known as writing a novel) can be an insular business and over time, one stops seeing the wood for the trees.

It was a sobering experience and a blow to my ego. One of the reasons my partial manuscript was deemed unviable was the age group of my main characters; a collection of forty and fifty somethings who converge on the brink of their respective midlife crises, in Home Counties suburbia.

Briefly I considered making my cast younger, but talking extensively to friends and family, the general consensus (especially among my forty and fifty something friends) was that they loved Seeking Eden because of the age group of the characters, not in spite of it.

So I pressed on, looking for a publisher and to my joy found Urbane Publications which specialises in breaking new authors and exploring new genres; its founder had no such reservations – instead he saw a market potential.

And no wonder. According to *ONS figures from 2015, there are around 4.6 million women in the UK, aged between 45 and 55.  That’s a lot of ladies! 

Baby boomers and those bubbling just beneath that age group tend to be voracious readers, hailing from a pre-social media era – in short, we like technology but we love books.  So it stands to reason that we want relatable heroes and heroines, doing stuff we do ourselves – which is much the same things as everyone else; fall in (and out of) love, have children, make and lose friends, change jobs and so on.  Our hair may turn grey but our lifestyles do not.

If we step sideways for a moment into telly land, British networks have already made the leap that older women are hot, hot, hot.  Who can resist Gillian Anderson as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson in The Fall, Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood in the gritty and compelling Happy Valley, or gun-toting beat-pounding duo Scott and Bailey?

I am hugely excited about Kay Mellor’s forthcoming TV drama, Girlfriends, tipped to be the hottest must-see since Broadchurch.  Due to air in 2018, the series stars Phyllis Logan, Miranda Richardson and Zoe Wanamaker; all women of a certain age and British acting royalty.

More of it I say.  High octane drama, whether in literature or on screen, should be for everyone, and not just for people under forty.

Seeking Eden, published by Urbane Publications is out now.

[*https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/articles/overviewoftheukpopulation/mar2017 ]

Beverley Harvey

Beverley Harvey is a freelance writer, living and working in Kent with her partner Mark and her naughty terrier Brodie.

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