Did New Girl actress Megan Fox, soon to be turning 30, just step in the sticky wicket of being ageist? As a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Fox was discussing how 30 — a milestone birthday — always seemed to be so “old” when she was younger.
Ellen, jumping in the conversation, agreed. The talk show host volunteered that when she was younger, “I would think somebody 50, 60 years old was, you know, just like…”
And then came Fox’s zinger. “In a hospice?” the young actress rushed to finish Ellen’s sentence for her, perhaps not realizing that DeGeneres is 58.
“I’m just saying!” Fox added, trying to recover. “When you’re young, that’s what you think.”
DeGeneres, pro that she is, defused things with,“I wouldn’t go that far, but certainly close to going to a hospice, yes.”
OK, so was it funny? Sort of, maybe, barely — more likely it’s a signal to take a bathroom break or see what else is on the telly.
But was it harmful? Not on the scale of ISIS or Donald Trump harmful, but still a wince-able moment in the same way that “adorable” grandmas and talk about those silly texts your mother sent make older people cringe.
It’s a microaggression, a seemingly harmless expression often made without malicious intent that nonetheless speaks to our underlying attitude about people as they age. And ultimately, these microaggressions do cause harm. They perpetuate stereotypes that cost older workers jobs when they are perceived to be technologically illiterate; they make older women feel invisible; and they create an “us” and “them” mentality that is the underlying cause of all the “isms” whether it be racism, sexism or ageism. Yes, ageism — probably the last prejudice in America to go unaddressed.
So, presumably Megan Fox knows that 50- or 60-year-olds aren’t exactly lining up for hospice care. Presumably, she was attempting to make a joke. But would she have felt as comfortable exaggerating — for the sake of comedy — some stereotype about a minority group? Of course not.
Take it from someone who never trusted anyone over 30.
BEFORE YOU GO
Actresses Told They Weren’t Pretty Enough