Acting Held Back by Botox and Face-Lifts: Mary McNamara of the L.A. Times writes:

People should be free to look as they choose, and this town is tough on women — don’t talk to me about Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, they’re British. Would an American woman ever get away with anything approaching Nicolas Cage’s hair or James Spader’s increasing portliness? Of course not.

But television is a visual art, and if people are going to significantly alter the way they look in ways not directly connected with the roles they are playing, it can affect not only their performance but the whole tone of the show.

So you tell me, what is a critic supposed to say when part of the problem with a show is that the leading lady’s face seems incapable of movement or her eyes appear to be moving toward the sides of her head
or her lips just look weird?

Plus: Maureen Ryan at the Chicago Tribune praises McNamara’s article — and older women such as Glenn Close, Mary McDonnell, Dianne Wiest and C.C.H. Pounder, among others, who still look real. Ryan writes:

It must be difficult and scary to pass one’s 30th birthday as a working actress — heck, some starlets are having surgeries well before they turn 21. The pressures to nip and tuck must be intense from the moment an actress gets her SAG card.

Yet there are some terrific actresses whose work has only gotten better with age. For these performers, their characterizations are more deep and affecting because their faces reflect their experiences.

Why Women Now Reign in Spain: “For the first time in history,
unless you believe the ancient Greek myth of the Amazons, a European
country has a government in which more women than men hold positions of
power,” reports The Independent (UK),
which takes a look as the history of machismo and the political and
social changes in Spain since the election of a “feminist” prime
minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

That’s Congressman to You: If you meet U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, 55, a Republican from Tennessee, be sure to call her Congressman. As Helena Andrews of Politico reports, Blackburn prefers it and signs all her correspondence this way.

Some female academics and policy analysts disagree with the choice. “Whenever we blend with the male appellation, we are diminishing the significance of the accomplishment,” said Barbara Kellerman, a professor of women’s and government studies at Harvard University.

Menopausal Zest: Kathie Lee Gifford, 54, says she’s got it. Gifford was recently tapped to jazz up the fourth hour of NBC”s “Today,” and she talks with The New York Times about her return to television.

“It’s continuing to have a voice, to have a platform,” Gifford said.

On Living, and Aging, Gracefully: The Washington Post’s Reliable Sources covers Martha Stewart’s expert testimony on, yes, aging.

The 66-year-old businesswoman was the star witness at yesterday’s Senate Special Committee on Aging because … well, because her mother, Martha Kostyra, lived to a robust 93 (she died last fall). “She did 40 segments on my television programs,” Stewart testified, adding that her mom gave seniors “lots of hope they could age gracefully.” Last year, the TV star founded the Martha Stewart Center for Living at N.Y.C.’s Mount Sinai Hospital in her mother’s honor.

Stewart (navy pantsuit, gray shell, pearl necklace) discussed the problems of a growing elderly population with too few caregivers. She also revealed that she works seven days a week but made time to see mom once a week (sent the driver to pick her up), is writing a handbook for caregivers, and is launching a magazine for women over 50. (Homemade wrinkle cream? A good thing?)

Janet Maslin Reviews “Girls Like Us”: The New York Times reviewer writes:

There is something irritating about the very premise of “Girls Like Us,” Sheila Weller’s three-headed biography of legendary singer-songwriters. Maybe it’s the instant-girlfriend tone of the title. Maybe it’s that at least one of Ms. Weller’s subjects, Joni Mitchell, objected to being lumped into the same book with the other two, Carole King and Carly Simon. Or maybe it’s the euphemism. Her book is about women whose musical careers took off in the 1960s, and all are now in their 60s. They aren’t girls. They’re grandmas.

But “Girls Like Us” turns out to be unexpectedly captivating. And it defies expectations, to the point where Ms. Weller’s grand ambitions wind up fulfilled. “When woven together,” she writes, predictably summoning Ms. King’s image of a tapestry, “the strands of their three separate lives, identities and songs tell the rich composite story of a whole generation of women.”

Helen Yglesias Dies at 92: “Helen Yglesias, whose novels
examined women’s lives in an array of settings and situations — small
towns, radical urban politics, abusive relationships, illness and old
age — died on March 28 in Manhattan. She was 92 and had lived in
Brooklin, Me., until several years ago,” reports The New York Times.

Woven
through much of Mrs. Yglesias’s work is the tension of women juggling
the demands of career and family. Although she worked as an editor at
The Nation magazine in the late 1960s, Mrs. Yglesias, a mother by then,
did not write the first of her five published novels until she was 54.
[…]

“She only received a high school education,” Mrs. Yglesias’s
daughter said. “She managed to maintain a family and a career. She was
an original feminist, before the road was paved.”

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