In 2010 Disney released Tangled, a retelling of the Rapunzel story, and in 2012 Universal Pictures released Snow White and the Huntsman, a retelling of the Snow White story.
Both contain beautiful young women whose mothers are no longer around: Rapunzel’s mother is alive but thinks her daughter dead and Snow White’s mother has died. Both also contain beautiful older women who want to preserve their beauty: Queen Ravenna sucks the life force out of young women and Mother Gothel brushes Rapunzel’s hair using the magic in the hair to keep her young.
What can Queen Ravenna and Mother Gothel tell us about attitudes towards older women and health and how this will impact our future?
What is interesting from a future history perspective is that the older women and the younger women are competing in beauty and youth, despite the fact that the older women are at least a generation older (Mother Gothel is actually centuries old – previously sustained by the power of a magic flower) than the younger women. Twenty years ago nobody would have ever thought that the two generations would be competing. Today, however, there are vast numbers of women in their forties and fifties who are healthier and more beautiful looking than women who are young enough to be their children. In part this is thanks to diet and healthier lifestyles. In part this is due to social attitudes of what it means to be old or young.
Looking ahead to the future we are all expected to live longer and more healthily, at least in richer nations. Young women will not just be competing with women their mothers’ age but also their grandmothers’ age (see this link to a 75 year old competitive body building grandmother). As intergenerational romances and marriages become common place it will shift from being an eye raising curiosity to having a serious impact on public policy and the economy.
As intergenerational romances and marriages become common it will shift from being an eye raising curiosity to having a serious impact on public policy and the economy.
Imagine what would happen to pension schemes whose primary beneficiary was 60 years older than their spouse: not only would they be liable to pay the primary beneficiary for their extended lifetime, but would also be required to pay out the spouse for an additional 60 years. This would not be economically sustainable. This would then require the definition of marriage to be one of a man and a woman “of the same generation” or scrapping of the ability for the spouse to draw on the pension of their deceased spouse. Both options are clearly bad for those involved in these intergenerational relationships – the first choice smacks of the debate about gay marriage and the second choice could result in millions of impoverished widow(er)s.
Today youth trumps age, but in 2030 when Disney releases “Mother Gothel”, perhaps it will be the cougar who kills the young doe.
In the movies Snow White defeats Queen Ravenna, who turns into a shrivelled prune, and Rapunzel defeats Mother Gothel, who also turns into a shrivelled prune. Today youth trumps age, but in 2030 when Disney releases “Mother Gothel”, perhaps it will be the cougar who kills the young doe.