Saturday, June 20, 2009


Last night I was watching As Good As It Gets on TV and cringing. Not because it's an awful movie -- although it's certainly no masterpiece. As entertaining as the 1997 film may be, I still can't believe how successful it was, or that Helen Hunt actually won an Oscar (over Judi Dench, Julie Christie, Helena Bonham Carter and Kate Winslet, no less) for playing a shrill variation on Mad About You's Jamie Buchman, a role that inexplicably won her four straight Emmys. Equally unbelievable (still): Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, who are 26 years apart in age, as a couple.

Yeah, yeah yeah, I should be used to older men with younger women. It's been commonplace since the dawn of time. At least, 12 years later, women are finally turning the tables. In films and on TV, cougars rule: Sisters aren't only doing it for themselves; they're doing it with much-younger men. Twelve years separate Sandra Bullock and her The Proposal costar Ryan Reynolds. On 90210, Kelly (Jennie Garth, 37 and more beautiful than she was 15 years ago -- above photo, right) and Brenda (Shannen Doherty, 38, center) tussled over Ryan Matthews (Ryan Eggold, 24, left). On daytime TV, perennial One Life To Live supercouple Todd and Blair are played by Trevor St. John, 37, and Kassie DePavia, 48. Meanwhile, Robin Givens, 44, as Robin Givens, wed football star Malik Wright, played by 27-year-old Hosea Chanchez, on The Game (one of my favorite TV shows, featuring a mostly black and beautiful cast). Earlier this year, thirtysomething Kate Winslet won an Oscar for romancing a teenager, even daring to join him in the bathtub, much like Nicole Kidman did with Cameron Bright, then 11, five years ago in Birth.

Legendary TV producer Norman Lear must have been on to something. On both of his seminal '70s TV series, Good Times and The Jeffersons, the central couples were played by actresses who were some 20 years the senior of the actors costarring as their TV spouses. Sure Isabel Sanford and Esther Rolle looked great for their age, while Sherman Hemsley and John Amos didn't (yes, folks, black does crack), but the casting was nonetheless groundbreaking -- though most viewers weren't even aware of the age differences.

Nowadays, it's hard to miss. Demi Moore, the ultimate cougar, might be an incredibly sexy 46, but she still looks old enough to be Ashton Kutcher's, um, aunt. Ditto Madonna versus Guy Ritchie, and every guy she's been with since -- and, for that matter, before (excepting Warren Beatty and Sean Penn). I'm not sure what this all means, but I definitely get it. Younger guys rock. Not only do they drag around less baggage than boys twice their age -- they're fearless, enthusiastic, ridiculously pretty and, as a huge plus to successful women, less prone to ego tripping. Burned by love over and over, vintage guys play it cool. Too cool. Twentysomethings dive right in. I should know. My guy, more mature than any man I've met in years, just reached legal U.S. drinking age three days after I turned 40.

Does that make me a panther?
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