Why Susan Sarandon is the Future
I am obsessed with Susan Sarandon.
Not just as a great actress, outspoken ideologue, mother of Eva Amurri Martino (yowza!), ping-pong enthusiast and all around luminous beauty, but also for how I believe she symbolizes a future world I am REALLY looking forward to living in.
Sarandon’s career started five years before I was born, and in its early stages featured roles in cult classics (Joe, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Hunger), art house hits (Atlantic City and Pretty Baby) and some major Hollywood flops (Lovin’ Molly and The Great Waldo Pepper). Despite working steadily throughout the 70s, she perhaps remained best known then because of an interview Cher once gave in which she proclaimed Sarandon’s frequently exposed breasts to be the best Hollywood then-currently had to offer.
As strange as it sounds today, at that point in her career Sarandon was just a ghost whisper away from being the Jennifer Love Hewitt of her generation. Possibly her lowest point came ironically with what was then her biggest film, 1987s The Witches of Eastwick, where she was originally cast as the lead opposite star Jack Nicholson, only to be contractually forced to accept a much smaller role when—of all people—Cher told the filmmakers it was the only part in the movie she’d be willing to play.
A year later, though, everything changed for her thanks to the film where I first became aware of her existence as a 13 year-old lad in the full throes of adolescence—Bull Durham. At 42, she finally made a lasting, unforgettable impression on mainstream audiences with her portrayal of Annie Savoy, a self-described acolyte of the Church of Baseball, who takes it upon herself each year to “educate” a new disciple from the local minor league ball team in the ways of her beloved game (and sex).
A decade and a half before society decided it was time to popularize crass terms like “milf” and “cougar”, Sarandon suddenly found herself at the forefront of a small group of actresses whose appeal remained undiminished as they entered the age where leading roles traditionally used to dry up and parts like “protagonist’s mother” and “age appropriate wife” were all that was available. Defying this sexist standard, she blazed through the 90s and starred in a string of critical and popular hits, climaxing with her Oscar winning performance as Sister Helen Prejean in Tim Robbin’s masterful Dead Man Walking.
This is all amazing, but the true reason she’s in my head for at least 75-80% of your average day is for the shallowest of all possible reasons—I enjoy entertaining the thought of what it would be like to have intimate relations with her.
“Dude,” I know you’re thinking, “that’s creepy and gross!" But—trust me—I’m going somewhere with this. It might turn out to be someplace creepy and gross, but let’s at least get there first before you judge.
The reason why I think my fantasy is worthy of reporting to you, is because in it I never once entertain thoughts of gettin’ freaky-busy with the young buxom star of Rocky Horror, the vampire lesbian of The Hunger or even Annie Savoy, but always the Susan Sarandon of the here, now and today. The Susan Sarandon who is a year older than my retired father.
While for some younger readers, who have spent their entire lives living in a world of face lifts and Botox, this doesn’t sound THAT strange—I have to explain that I’m old enough that I actually remember when anyone over 60 was OLD. Not just “grandparent” old, but silver-haired, wrinkled, hard candy loving, kinda-racist old people OLD.
To understand what I’m talking about I ask you to consider two different TV shows from two different eras. Murder She Wrote debuted in 1984 and starred Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher, an aging widow whose late-in-life career as a mystery writer found her inexplicably solving murder cases on a weekly basis.
Body of Proof debuted last year and stars Dana Delaney as Megan Hunt, a hot, stylish medical examiner who has a much better excuse to be around dead bodies all the time. The roles couldn’t be more different in terms of style and appearance, yet Delaney, at 56, is only 2 years younger than Lansbury was when Murder She Wrote first hit the air.
When you spent your childhood growing up in a Jessica Fletcher world, certain associations cannot help but be made. That’s why it’s seems so extraordinary (and awesome) to see the women of today break free from this mold. (Just think, in 1967 it was considered completely appropriate to cast 36 year-old Anne Bancroft as cinema’s most iconic “older woman”—Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. I’m 36 now and still occasionally need to provide ID to purchase alcohol.)
But in specific reference to Sarandon, what I find so fascinating about her is that her sex appeal for me hasn’t merely remained consistent as she’s aged gracefully (like, for example, Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda or Raquel Welch—whose epic geriatric hotness is simply the natural result of a lifetime’s worth of smoldering sensuality and dedicated maintenance), but has actually grown considerably with each passing year. The older Sarandon gets, the hotter she becomes.
And she’s not alone. I am such a fan of Meryl Streep that I may be the only person on the planet who actually considers her underrated (my logic is that by referring to her as the greatest actress of all time, people ignore the fact that no male actor can touch her and she’s simply the greatest period), so my judgment may be skewed, but I personally find the Earth goddesses of Mamma Mia! and It’s Complicated way more attractive than the brittle blond ice queens of Manhattan and Kramer Vs. Kramer.
I could spend many more paragraphs listing other examples of this increasingly prevalent phenomenon, but that would assuredly take an already creepy post and send it into the “ick!” stratosphere, so I’ll instead go on to say that physical beauty obviously only plays a role in what’s going on here. It isn’t the whole sexy enchilada.
Clearly talent, life experience, innate indefinable charisma and just a general sense of awesomeness also explain how Sarandon defies our traditional expectations of female sexuality past 60, but I do not believe this is an outlier situation that only involves famous internationally-renowned Hollywood movie stars (or supermodels or singers or anyone else who has a professional interest in causing boners—both of the traditional and lady variety). I firmly believe that Susan Sarandon symbolizes the future—the hot, sexy future.
Part of this is to blame on the fact that so many of us refuse to act our age. Speaking personally my lifestyle has pretty much remained unaltered since I dropped out of university in 1996 (this—more than my actual face—explains why so many underestimate my actual decrepitude), and even those of us who do behave like adults make frequent efforts to avoid looking like one, whether its through diet, exercise, healthy living or an increasingly extensive array of elective surgical procedures.
Many consider this to be a bad thing, but I disagree. The fact is that the goalposts in terms of life expectancy are moving ever onward and as more and more of us can expect to hit 100 (or even, by some estimates, 120) in the future, it makes sense that we reconsider what is appropriate for each of our decades. As 60 slowly moves towards being middle-aged, the notion that it is a point where female sex appeal melts like a Nazi’s face at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark should become ridiculous.
So, considering how much I enjoy considering Susan Sarandon now, in my late 30s, the idea that I will be surrounded by a legion of Susan Sarandons by the time I hit my 60s is one of the better reasons I can think of to always look both ways before crossing the street and to unplug the toaster before trying to dig burnt bread out with a knife.
If that isn’t a reason to keep living,
I don’t know what is.