Oscar Mix-Up Proves Ageism Still Alive

Unless you’re on Mars, you’ve no doubt heard about the mix-up at the 2017 Academy Award show last night. Warren Beatty, 79, and Faye Dunaway, 76, accidentally announced the wrong movie for Best Picture.

oscarTwitter was immediately on fire, calling Beatty stupid, dim-witted, brain dead, senile, and blind. People completely blamed him – and his age – for the screw up and cruel and degrading name-calling ensued.

Later, it was announced that the incident wasn’t his fault after all. The Academy mistakenly gave him the wrong card for Best Actress. Apparently, Beatty saw La La Land’s name on the card and was confused as to why Emma Stone’s name was on it.

As Beatty explained on the show, probably sensing people were going to call him senile: “I want to tell you what happened. I opened the envelope and it said, ‘Emma Stone, ‘La La Land.’ That’s why I took such a long look at Faye, and at you. I wasn’t trying to be funny.”

Some people still blamed Beatty for passing the card to Dunaway to read, supposedly letting her take the fall. But, my reaction was different. I think he handed her the card looking for a second opinion. Dunaway thought he was joking (“You’re impossible, come on,” she said) and read the card.

This morning, some of the press, and people on social media, claimed that Beatty should have asked for help when he noticed there was a problem. Maybe, but I say, give the man a break. Could you think calmly with 37 million people watching? I would venture a guess that a lot of younger people would have done the same thing.

Besides, even the Academy admitted this whole thing wasn’t Beatty’s – or Dunaway’s – fault! And their age had nothing to do with the flub either. (By the way, even if Beatty was totally to blame, it wouldn’t justify all the mean-spirited mocking and name-calling that, in my opinion, was sadly based on people’s lack of respect for the elderly.)

Recently Humana invited me to watch and participate online in a panel discussion they sponsored, Over Sixty, Under Estimated: A Healthy Look at the “Silver” Screen at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles that included baby boomer actress Francis Fisher. During the discussion, the panel made a good point:

These days, if Hollywood ridiculed an ethnic group, the LGBT community, or the disabled in movies, people would be in an uproar. So why do people quietly tolerate the way movies make fun of older people? Older characters in movies have often been stereotyped as irritable, depressed, slow-witted, lonely, sickly, whiny, rude, horny, and foul-mouthed – as if that’s all they had to offer.

In a previous blog, I pointed out that several actors aged 50-plus were nominated in prestigious categories this year in strong roles (it should be noted, however, none of them won last night). I wrote that perhaps we, as active, vibrant baby boomers who have valuable knowledge, experience, and insight that only comes with age, were paving the way for a change in the way people view aging.

However, this faux pas at the Oscar Show and all the ridicule obviously based on Beatty’s and Dunaway’s age makes me think I was wrong. While some cultures honor the elderly, in general, Hollywood seems to be reflecting society’s ongoing disrespectful, negative view of aging.

I realize that during this divisive time in America, many of you stayed away from the Academy Award show because of its political viewpoints. But the one thing we all have in common is that we’re getting older. In fact, we living in a time when the population of people ages 65 and older is expected to triple to 1.5 billion by mid century.

This is a politically neutral blog, but I’d love to hear your opinion. Was Beatty unjustly called stupid because of his age? Do you think the increase in the aging population will change people’s opinions of the elderly? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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14 Responses

  1. Janis says:

    Thank you for this. I too felt that they’d be blamed for the incident, which was clearly a screw-up on someone’s part. I haven’t seen the social media backlash, but I can imagine it’s ugly. So easy to spew viciousness from the safety of a keyboard.

    • juliegorges says:

      Very true. I personally was appalled that social media was so quick to slam Warren Beatty as clueless because of his age. Can’t we learn to respect the elderly and all they have to offer?

  2. Yep, the whole thing was poorly handled in every way possible. I really felt for Beatty because from the look on his face you knew almost immediately the kind of stuff that must have been going through his head, and the fact that nearly a week later the explanations are still making headlines is just stupid. And you’re so right about the issue of ageism and yet every day there are stories about people in their 80s and 90s doing amazing things. One of my closest friends is decades older than me and at 84 she is working, an active volunteer and sharp as a tac. I only hope I have the same energy and enthusiasm for life when I reach that age!

    • juliegorges says:

      Agreed! It was easy to see that Beatty knew immediately that people would assume he made the mistake because he was old and “senile.” That’s why he felt it was necessary to explain himself. My father is 84 and, like your friend, is thriving. Still walks faster than me and is smarter than me as well! Okay, a little annoying, but like you said, may we all age that well. Let’s give the older folk the respect and dignity they deserve! Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Have the Oscars never heard the saying,”Don’t shoot the messenger?” Whoever is given an envelope with a name to read is the messenger and they are going to read what they are given. Great blog with some excellent points.

  4. Sue Kearney says:

    Julie, yes! And from another sector of aging in America: I’m in my 60s and I have to find new housing (big rent increase, so can’t stay here). The rental prices are insane. I have no idea why, but Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are people who I think have heart, and clout, and who could help me if they heard my message:
    • There is so much warehoused, decent housing in the world
    • There are many people like me who have so much to offer and to give in their lives and work, if only they could find a stable roof over their heads
    • There must be a way to bring those two things together.

    If I could only figure out a way to get my message in front of JF’s and LT’s eyes. I don’t know why them, except I saw their TED Talk and I think they have human caring hearts.

    I may address my next video to them anyway, and see what happens.

    Now back to the housing search.

    Blessed be.

    • juliegorges says:

      Just read your blog on your housing dilemma. Rental prices are going through the roof for sure. I’m sure many people can relate. Big hopes that it all works out for you. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  5. Suzie Cheel says:

    Yes we heard about it hear down under- The price Waterhouse guy who was tweeting should be the fall guy- Feel for Warren Beatty he was reading what he was given . Age should be acknowleded not derided. thanks for sharing xxx

  6. I personally didn’t think that either Warren Beatty or Faye Dunaway were in the wrong. In fact, Julie, I admire Beatty for standing up and explaining what had happened with grace and dignity. Twitter can be a harsh place at times and I often ignore the comments, especially when they relate to politics.

    In my culture, age is revered as having wisdom of experience. I have a 70 plus Mom at home and I marvel at her incisive perception of the world and her insights.

    On the other hand, as a Chartered Accountant by training and an Alumni of PWC, I’m thinking more in terms of the impact the Twitter Happy Partner who made the goof-up will have on a pending case where the firm is being sued for the collapse of a well-known Mutual Fund and on their other clients. PWC has taken full responsibility but the repercussions will be felt for a long time.

    • juliegorges says:

      Thanks for sharing your insights, Vatsala. I also thought Beatty handled the mistake in a dignified way and have noticed that other cultures treat their elderly with the respect and honor they deserve. Thankfully, my faith has taught me to do the same. My mother died a year-and-a-half ago and I miss her wisdom and advice so much. My father is 84 years old, still kicking and sharp as a tack.

  7. Joyce Hansen says:

    I like to look at it as with age come wisdom. The older ones are wise enough to know that the younger ones’ haven’t figured that out yet.

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