“Young and hip” is the phrase of the moment, revived to describe a commercially desirable age group.
But does it always succeed? No, and it is not the fault of the twenty- or thirty-something generations. Mainstream commerce has put too much pressure on that demo. Does the phrase make someone like me, over forty, shrink? Nope.
Certain pop cultures (like TV, movies, and music) expect youth to create instant appeal by virtue of being fresh-faced and “new.”
But here’s the rub: Age is no guarantee of being 'with-it.' Case in point: The recent Academy Awards. The Associated Press headline read, “Oscars Go Young and Hip, With Traditional Results.” Oops. Nothing cutting-edge about that.
First I have to say how much I like and admire Anne Hathaway and James Franco. But the second they opened their mouths, I knew it was over. Franco, 32, said, “Anne, I must say you look so beautiful and hip.”
Hathaway, 28, responded, “Thank you, James. You look very appealing to a younger demographic, as well.”
Yes, it was a self-deprecating nod to the kind of audience that this year’s Oscar machine hoped to attract. But it fell flat: Hipsters don’t tell you that they are and they do not obediently read teleprompters.
From the audience, Hathaway’s mom chided her to stand up straight. Franco called out, “How am I doing, Grandma?” It was too cute. To be fair, they did the best they could with the weak script they were handed, and Hathaway was a trooper.
The Hollywood audience, young and old, smiled politely, but jumped to their feet when Billy Crystal appeared. Crystal, 63, has hosted eight times, and could always be counted on to entertain with wit and irreverence.
It goes without saying there are times when “young” is appealing. At the moment, there’s the quirky young character “Flo” in the Progressive Insurance ads. Younger still, that hip baby in the E*Trade commericals? Teenage bloggers have front row seats at fashion shows, and the TV show “Glee”- about high school- is a hit. There’s the movie “The Social Network.” Most of the characters, and actors who played them, were under thirty.
What about the Best Buy TV spot in which Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne (“What’s a Bieber?”) poke mild fun at each other? Clever moments can arise when generations team up.
Need proof that age doesn’t necessarily put the kibosh on an entertainer’s career? Steve Tyler, 62, and Jennifer Lopez, 41, are bringing sexual heat and new life into “American Idol.” Betty White, 89, is experiencing what is probably the most phenomenal couple of years in her career.
Surprisingly for me, the best part of the Oscars was Bob Hope's arrival as a hologram. He hosted the Oscars 18 times, and in a clip from one of those gigs, Hope sallied forth this joke about the assembled nominees: “The suspense is fabulous,” he said. “And all the praying--thousands of voices saying, ‘Let it be me. And if not me--not him.’”
That was the only joke that made my fifteen-year-old laugh. “That’s funny,” he said. “Who is he?”
It used to be that the youth demographic was 18 to 25. Then it was 18 to 30. The New York Times reported on March 1st, that, in the “hipper, younger” department, the Oscars failed to increase viewers in “the important 18-to-49 age bracket.” Does that mean that 49 is considered young and hip now?
Because, sure, there are times when youth rocks. But it’s no guarantee. Because you can be hip—or not-- at any age.
Katherine Ann Samon is the author of four books, including Dates From Hell and Ranch House Style. Her column, "Woman of a Certain Age", about starting over and enjoying life after 40, will appear twice a month on Rye Patch. Katherine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.katherineannsamon.com.