Twenty-six is the new forty

So, this weekend found me lounging on the couch, putting off scrubbing the gunk out of the corners of my windows by watching The American President (it holds up!) on TV Land, minding my own damn business, when this came on: [youtube=]

Listen.  I get it.  I ain't mad at Sutton Foster; girl's gotta make a living.  I'm tempted to complain about how a fantastic show with positive portrayals of not just females but an all female-lead cast gets booted while this Darren Starr written/produced/directed project is given the greenlight, but I understand how ratings work.  Bunheads was too good, and too underwatched, for this world.  And it's not like the existence of Younger is responsible for the erasure of Bunheads.  The two shows aren't integers in some sort of mathematical equation where the presence of one cancels out the presence of the other.  (I'm assuming that's how math works, anyway.)

Bunheads obsession aside, I just can't with Younger.  I mean, will I watch it?  Duh.  (Please see:  Sutton Foster.)  But I'm setting my DVR with serious reservations.  I swear I was just reading an essay or two about how far women have come in television; I promise that even though I can't recall which blog or podcast or magazine article it was, something out there was recently celebrating how maybe one or two television shows are actually letting older (i.e., anything over 39) women have interesting roles.  I mean, Jessica Lange is the belle of Ryan Murphy's ball right now, and 49-year-old Viola Davis is leading one of this fall's more successful network dramas.  So it's getting better, right?

Here's Wikipedia's summary of Younger's premise:  "Liza (Sutton Foster) is a 40-year-old recently divorced single mother looking to get a job, which proves difficult for a woman of her age. After a compliment from a much younger man, she decides to get a makeover, courtesy of her friend Maggie (Debi Mazar), in order to look like she is in her mid-twenties. Ultimately, she becomes an assistant to Diana (Miriam Shor) in a publishing firm, who pairs her with co-worker Kelsey (Hilary Duff)." (Italics are mine.  I mean, "for a woman of her age"?  Forty?  HORRORS.)

One step forward, two steps back, I guess.

I'm willing to set aside judgment until after I watch a few episodes.  After all, Darren Star's Sex and the City was ostensibly a silly, shallow show about women who love shoes, but it managed to plumb the depths of female relationships, examine real issues faced by modern women, and make it okay to talk about vaginas, at least on cable.  Maybe Younger is going to be like the broccoli you smother in Velveeta cheese sauce so your five-year-old will get a vegetable inside him:  something wholesome wrapped in something not particularly great but kind of delicious, at least to the unrefined palate.

But the marketing of the show has me doubting.  It's worth noting that the show is based on a book by the same name.  I'm not familiar with the book or with its author, Pamela Redmond Satran, but thanks to a Google search, I'm now aware that in Satran's version, Liza (Alice, in the book version) lies and says she's 29.  So, not only is Younger the show a story about an ancient 40-year-old woman who, because of her age (and time spent outside the workforce, but let's face it, MOSTLY because of her hideous age), can't possibly be considered for a job of any kind and therefore claims that she's younger than she really is; but for the folks who bring us this show, 29 evidently isn't younger enough, since Foster's character claims to be 26 in the trailer.

I love that (streaming) television has evolved to the point where a transgender character can be the lead of a drama.  I love that gay characters and same-sex couples aren't an anomaly on television anymore -- in fact, they're allowed to have dimensions and sex lives and even be the centerpieces of some shows.  I love that there are active conversations about T.V. shows and movies that do or don't pass the Bechdel Test, and that audiences are paying attention to which shows bother to portray characters that aren't just Typical White Male Protagonist and/or Antihero.

So it kind of blows my mind when I see the commercial for Younger.  Are we really back here, shuddering in horror at the thought of a woman over 40?  Insisting that to have any validity, to have any sort of story that might draw the interest of the most coveted television demographic, a female character would have to lie about her age and appear younger than she is?  I guess so.  I find it unlikely that we'd see the male counterpart to Younger:  a tale about a 40-year-old man who, having stepped outside the workforce to raise a child, decides to rejoin working America but, because of his age, is not only rejected but considered a "has-been" and is condescended to.  That show? That show would not exist.