Monday, March 05, 2007

the curse of the middle-aged woman

Well who doesn't despise those middle-aged women? They aren't hawt babes any more, so they can't hang out with hipster young dudes. They just putter around, doing chores, hanging out in sububurbia, enjoying unhip girly shit that really sucks, like soap operas and romance novels. I avoid those stupid cows like the fucking plague.

But wait - I'm 46. I guess that makes me a middle-aged woman.

Some middle-aged women like music, theatre, other arts. But the arts don't like middle aged women, not judging by two recent comments in "liberal" media outlets The New Yorker and The New York Times.

First the New Yorker - I got into it a year ago with their music critic Sasha Frere-Jones over this:
During a performance at Madison Square Garden last August, the sixty-four-year-old singer and songwriter Neil Diamond asked everyone in the audience to turn to a neighbor and say, “I love you very much.” Several thousand people, many of them women over the age of forty, did as he requested, but some giggled after saying the words. “Why are you laughing?” Diamond asked. “Love is not funny.”

It was pretty clear to me that he mentioned women over forty to make a point about Neil Diamond - that in spite of his audience he was actually pretty hip. When I wrote to him, he actually admitted that Diamond's publicist or whatever asked him not to mention the over-40 women.

Women over 40 are the antithesis of hip - or good art for that matter.

Then there's the fact that the theatre world is petrified that it's becoming too feminized, hence the eternal search for an angry young (straight) man to be the new Mamet on the part of the middle-aged male theatre critics - and the vast majority fall into that demographic, leaving out John Simon who would skew the average to about 90.

And as I blogged earlier, many people in the theatre world think a woman is old and desperate once she hits 30.

So it was no surprise to read this a recent NYTimes:
But Jon Steingart and Jenny Wiener, who founded Ars Nova in 2002 and now run it with Jason Eagan, say the financial model — which at first seems insane — makes sense if you understand their focus on new works, new artists and new audiences. Many companies aim for one or two; Ars Nova aims for all three at once.

“A lot of not-for-profit theaters are driven by middle-aged women buying $100 tickets,” Mr. Steingart said. “But you can’t build a younger audience that way. And you can’t support younger artists if you charge $50 a ticket, because no one knows who they are. Our goal is to be as competitive as we can to a night at the movies. Even before we converted to not-for-profit status last year, it was never a commercial venture.”

Now if it was just about the $100 tickets, the issue would be not-for-profit theatre being driven by the upper-middle-class. But it isn't merely about the money. It's because middle-aged women are soooo unkewl.

Well what do I expect? We live in a patriarchy and even people who believe themselves to be hipster artistes can't possibly be expected to examine their bullshit assumptions.

So I sent Steingart and Weinter an email. I doubt they'll write back, but it will be fascinating if they do. It's not like I burned any bridges by questioning them on their attitudes - I had no chance to have my plays produced by them anyway - I'm a middle aged woman and therefore a useless old unhip cow. What could I have to say that could possibly be of interest to anybody but maybe other useless old cows?

UPDATE: March 7, 2007

Well I got a response from Steingart, and it was a pretty good response and very polite, but only led me to more questions:

Thanks for your response. And while I can accept that you did mean economics, I still have to wonder... do not-for-profits really create programming for middle-aged women?

If theatre organizations are so concerned about women, why is it that the vast majority of playwrights produced are male? Are you telling me that middle-aged women just prefer to have men write their plays for them? The male dominance of theatre is all the fault of middle-aged women? What, exactly, do you consider fare that satisfies this homogenous group, the millions of humans who qualify as middle-aged women?