‘It’s so insulting’: Helen Mirren takes an empowering stand against ageism

Nov 17, 2023
In her unapologetic stance against ageism, Mirren remains true to her fearless nature, never hesitating to call out societal wrongdoing. Source: Getty Images.

In a world that often underestimates the strength and wisdom that comes with age, Dame Helen Mirren, the iconic British actress, is refusing to accept the insults of ageism.

The 78-year-old Hollywood legend recently took an empowering stand against the pervasive issue that plagues the entertainment industry and society at large.

Renowned for her exceptional talent and timeless beauty, Mirren expressed her frustration in a candid interview with The Standard where she took particular issue with the phrase: ‘Don’t you look good… for your age’.

“It’s so insulting isn’t it?” she told the publication.

“It is patronising is what it is — and the one thing I refuse to be as I get older is patronised.”

Mirren went on to share how she has steadfastly resisted the relentless pressure to cling to youth in an image-obsessed industry, boldly challenging stereotypes and advocating for authenticity in the spotlight.

“I always made sure that I did theatre and work that was properly reflective — I didn’t want to play 25-year-olds when I was 35, I wanted to play a 35-year-old when I was 35,” she explained.

“Incidentally in life as well — you don’t want to play a 25-year-old in real life when you’re 35, do you?”

Despite her refreshing perspective on the ageing process, Mirren candidly admits that, like everyone else, she faces certain challenges as the years roll by.

“Well, the older you get, the more exercise you have to do,” she revealed.

“It should be the other way around, but when you’re 18 you don’t need to do 20 minutes of yoga in the morning, but when you’re my age you should do 20 minutes of yoga in the morning.”

Acknowledging the challenges that come with ageing, Mirren also embraces the positives, affirming that with each passing year, there is a greater sense of freedom.

“You lose that fear and anxiety you have when you’re young,” she said.

“It drops away, which is fabulous, frees you, and then you accept who you are and stop trying to be someone else.”

In her unapologetic stance against ageism, Mirren remains true to her fearless nature, never hesitating to call out societal wrongdoing.

One memorable occasion in which Mirren made her voice heard was during a tense exchange with Michael Parkinson in 1975.

During the infamous interview, the two British icons engaged in a dialogue that raised eyebrows, as Parkinson questioned whether the future Oscar winner’s “physical attributes” might have posed any hindrance to her acting career.

“Because serious actresses can’t have big bosoms, is that what you mean?” Mirren responded at the time.

In response, the host suggested that her body could be perceived as a “distraction” by some in the industry.

“I can’t think that can necessarily be true. I mean, what a crummy performance if people are obsessed with the size of your bosom or anything else,” Mirren emphatically declared.

“I would hope that the performance, and the play, and the living relationship between all the people on stage and all the people in the audience will overcome such boring questions.”

The interview was widely labelled “sexist” in the ensuing years with Mirren herself referring to Parkinson as a “sexist old fart”.

However, in a recent interview with Radio Times, Mirren opened up about her evolving perspective on the infamous interview.

“I didn’t feel sorry for Parky, but then in a way I did because in lots of ways he was right. My physicality did get in the way of me being taken seriously as a classical actress,” she revealed.

In an acknowledgment of the changing times, she added, “They really do change. And fast. And we can only kick down the patriarchy one brick at a time.”

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