Monday, June 18, 2007

Age of Love: Why, Mark? Why?

Age of Love, NBC's "great social experiment," is essentially a giant forum which perpetuates stereotypes of older and younger women under the guise of shattering those stereotypes. It is complete and total trash, and my heart goes out to every 40something contestant involved in this humiliating exercise. Okay, now that I've been a responsible feminist and gotten that out of the way, we can get to the dirt.

The show features Mark Philippoussis, an Australian tennis player and total hottie. (Yeah, FYI, I'm an enormous tennis fan and have had a crush on Mark Philippoussis since, like, forever. He's even cuter in person, in case you were wondering.) His tennis career peaked in the late 90's before being hampered by injury. He made a comeback back in 2003, but hasn't really been in the picture in the past couple seasons aside from a couple wildcard entries and early losses, contrary to the show's claim that he's "at the prime of his career." NBC has it right that he's a playah with the ladies, though--he supposedly cheated on his girlfriend with Paris Hilton! All of that said, I'd still claw any of these chicks' eyes out for a chance with Mark. The accent! The body! The great seats at tennis tournaments! Sure, people might mock our 1-foot-plus height difference, but Mark and I would just laugh it off. ...Ahem. Anyway. According to NBC, Mark "has everything...except someone to share his life with." (And two working knees and an active tennis career.) Apparently, Mark is looking for his future wife--the mother of his children. Riiight.

And now, we meet the contestants in their 40's. Ranging from 39 (heeey, waitaminute!) to 48, and with varying levels of plastic surgery, the ladies are all relieved that there are no "teenyboppers" present. The interviews are somewhat horrifying. Every single one is like, "I'm successful, happy, awesome in every way, and I love my life, but...OH MY GOD I'M GOING TO DIE CHILDLESS AND ALONE! MY OVARIES ARE DRYING UP AS WE SPEAK! HEEELP MEEE!!!" The stench of desperation, it is pungent.

Mark says he's always dated younger women. In fact, the last woman he dated was ten years younger than he is. So if he's thirty, and didn't just break up with her...the last woman he dated was a teenager? Right. Moving on. As the show repeatedly emphasizes, Mark would prefer "younger women in their 20's." I smell trouble! Or is that just the stench of desperation still lingering in the air?

One-by-one, on a romantic...rooftop at night...the women introduce themselves to Mark. Lynn, a 40-year-old makeup artist, is pretty cute. Mark seems a little thrown when she tells him she's 40. God, this is going to be painful. Kelli, a legal assistant, is also 40, and at least brings up the term "biological clock" in an interview in the context of hating it. Still, somehow I don't think that's the last we're going to hear of biological clocks. Jayanna, a 39-year-old mortgage officer, seems very nice. Jodie, a 46-year-old VP, looks way younger than her age, and Mark is very gracious and sweet about it. However, he's beginning to see a pattern.

Maria, a 42-year-old photographer, points out the stigma of an older woman dating a younger guy, and says "if the men can do it, I'm gonna do it." Right on, Maria. Angela's up next, a 40-year-old property manager. She married young, and is now divorced. She looks really young and sweet—more natural than some of the others. Mark is totally sweating. Jennifer, an assistant to the Lakers’ owner, asks Mark to guess her age. DANGER! DANGER!!! After an uncomfortable few moments of hemming and hawing, Mark guesses 37…too young, Mark! Keep it believable. Jennifer is 48. And has been under the knife a little, I’d imagine. She asks if he’d like to date an older woman, and he reflexively says yes as his eyes widen, his eyebrows raise, and beads of sweat practically drip down his forehead. Poor guy. This is how god punishes playahs and Paris Hilton-doers.

Mark sits down with the girls next to a fire…on the roof…and admits to them that they weren’t quite what he was expecting. He looks incredibly uncomfortable as they unsuccessfully try to put him at ease. He sits down for one-on-ones (and sometimes one-on-twos) with some of the women. Some have been married, some have kids—Angela has been married twice, and has a 21-year-old son. Kelli is pretty sure that she’s got the upper hand here, and repeats the bit about Angela’s grown child in the guise of a compliment ("She SO doesn't look young enough to have a 21-year-old!"), just to rub it in. Yeah, now that hottie’s in sight, there’s a little less camaraderie. Funny how that works. Kelli isn’t happy to be sharing “the guy [she’s] supposed to be dating.” Um, yeah...does she not understand how these dating shows work? Because she may be in for a bit of a disappointment if she thinks it supposed to be all "Kelli and Mark going on a picnic!" "Kelli and Mark taking a walk on the beach!" "Kelli and Mark eating dinner by candlelight!"

Mark says he's starting to think seriously about dating an older woman (albeit one that looks like a plastic version of a younger woman, if these are the choices) as he gets to know the contestants. He specifically mentions clicking with Maria. By the end of the interview, he calls age “a number,” and is looking forward to getting to know the women better. But then, um, other Mark (Could we not find a host with a different name from the contestant, NBC?) comes in and spoils the fun—apparently not all the women will get to go on a date with Mark before the first elimination. Gasp! Horrified faces all around! Well, they would be horrified if they weren’t all so botoxed, anyway.

Mark and Mark sit down for a one-on-one. Host Mark tells Mark that he’ll find out on the first date which women can keep up with him, before having to eliminate one of them. Mark calls for Jayanna, and invites she, Lynn, and Maria out on a date. He throws out a bunch of phony reasons why he picked each of them in his interview, but they’re clearly the youngest-looking of the bunch. Mark is looking for someone adventurous, and what better way to determine that than a date in which they…rappel down the side of a building? O...kay. I though they were going to be sky diving or something. However, this is going to be particularly rough on Jayanna, who is afraid of heights.

Meanwhile, the slut-copter is making its way to the house, and is filled with shrieking, egotistical, mean, scantily-clad 20-somethings. As a fellow 20-something female, I feel my kind is not being well-represented.

Back to the rappelling. The 40-somethings seem pretty nervous. It actually looks like mad fun to me, but I guess that’s why I’m a 20-something, right? Maria has a good time with it while Jayanna watches on, looking like she’s about to puke. Lynn is a bit of a scaredy cat about it, but nothing like Jayanna, who is panicking. You know, if she doesn’t take it too far, this could work in her favor—the whole “brave but vulnerable angle,” overcoming obstacles because she wants him sooo bad. She ends up having a good time with it, and (as predicted) Mark is impressed. In the end, he’s impressed with all of them, and he’s learned “not to judge a book by its cover.” He says that age has been “thrown out the window.” Cut to…

The 20somethings hula-hooping in bikinis at their new digs. Well, no one can say this show doesn’t accurately represent the two age groups. I was just doing some bikini hula-hooping this very evening, right before my naked trampolining. And cut to… The 40somethings cleaning and doing needlepoint. Jesus H. Christ. As an added detail, the 20something apartment is trendy and colorful, while the 40something apartment is pretty much entirely white and pale blue. Subtlety, thy name is NBC.

Mark and the women prepare for the first elimination. Mark calls the 40something digs, and asks to see Angela, Lynn, Jodie, and Jayanna. He’s really nice about the age thing when they all get up on the roof, admitting that it threw him for a loop, but saying they made him feel so comfortable that it’s “completely out of [his] mind.” He talks to Angela first (who is wearing a dress that’s shorter than I would feel comfortable in, by the way, which I feel only emphasizes that she's a 40-year-old trying to look 18), saying that she seemed a bit shy the night before. However, he asks her to stay. Lynn’s on the chopping block next, and Mark asks about a heart necklace she was wearing during the date. O..kay. He also asks her to stay. He talks to Jodie next, and says that while he really enjoyed their one-on-one conversation, he’s feeling more of a friend vibe with her. Ouch. She gets the cut. Now her dress, I love. He still calls Jayanna up in order to tell her that she blew him away on their date, and asks her to stay. Jayanna may be an evil master of dating show strategy. I picture her in the basement, feverishly watching The Bachelor on DVD while bathing in collagen-firming cream and stem cells.

Mark repeats that he doesn’t care anymore that the contestants are in their forties, and have ovaries that are desiccating by the minute. Thanks, NBC! The twist would have really lost its impact without that last anvil. Then, just before the end of the episode, Host Mark shows up to break the news that (Dun dun DUUUUNNN) …there are young, hot babes in the house! Next week: The 40somethings react to their young, hot competition.


vance said...

Ha, well the good news, is that we wouldn't be competition. The guy did nothing for me! ha!

Liz said...

Yeah, well, you haven't seen him play tennis in person! ;)

Anonymous said...

Liz, your Age of Love commentary was hilarious!

Liz said...

Thanks much! I had pretty incredible material to work with, to be fair :)

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