About two months ago, someone in a Facebook group to which I belong – one I really love – made a comment about which hot women in horror are worth your time, eventually commenting that if you wanted “hot” Jamie Lee Curtis, you needed to go back and revisit the older Halloween (1978) installment. The comment took a few of us aback (expressed privately, as attempting to speak to this person is as effective as pissing in the wind), and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Here we are, 40 years on from the inception of the character Laurie Strode, and some of us are still focused on how young, perky and bangable the female lead displays. Which brings us to a conversation that’s currently being revisited in cinema in the age of, well, the aging woman: how their aging is presented in modern society, how we see them, and how we define attractiveness.
Here’s the thing about ageing: traditionally, women are told that once you’ve reached a certain age, you’re no longer desirable. Maggie Gyllenhaal was famously told she was too old to play the wife of a 55-year-old man at the ripe old age of 37. Conversely, Monica Bellucci made headlines for being the oldest Bond girl, with some expressing surprise that Daniel Craig wants her back for his final Bond performance. Hell, Amy Schumer went so far as to deconstruct the precise moment when a woman goes from fuckable to not (hats off to our own Dan Pollitt for steering me in the direction of that gem – I want to buy Patricia Arquette ALL of the drinks now). For years, women have been told that they’re past their prime once they hit the magical age of 40.
The thing is, though… that’s changing. Exhibit A: Helen Mirren, who looks fucking FINE in a bathing suit. The advent of Stiffler’s Mom in the American Pie (1999) brought forth the term MILF, a near-mythical creature consisting of someone old enough to be your mother who could teach you a thing or two in the sack (as a mother of two tweens and approaching 40, I’m getting eyeballed for this role). In fact, the notion of a cougar has reached fetishization levels in some circles, with young men happily pursuing women who would rather focus on their established careers than wait around for a proposal and fulfillment of the ticking biological clock; they’d far rather get the hot dick action than sit around waiting for someone to put a ring on it, and are seen as more take-charge and therefore more attractive. In other words, society is starting to see women as having distinctive pros once they’ve passed the age of 30; while still overwhelmingly sexual in nature, women are no longer disappearing after they’ve hit the magical age of 40. We’re still considered sexy once we’ve moved past the perky-breasted ingénue. There’s something sexy in this knowledge, expanding attractiveness beyond the pretty 20-year-old to include a worldly, confident woman who’s got some tricks up her sleeve.
Which brings us back to Jamie Lee Curtis. Jamie Lee represents this shift in action. In the original Halloween (1978), we witnessed Laurie the Hot Babysitter take on Michael Myers, the virginal babe who became the most notable blueprint for the Final Girl formula in horror: fully clothed, innocent-looking, young and attractive. However, the actress grew her sex symbol status with roles in Trading Places (1983) and True Lies (1994), transitioning from lust-worthy Final Girl to lust-worthy leading lady. In 2002, she posed for More magazine in her underwear – GASP! – without makeup, endearing her to women and young girls who admired the “don’t give a fuck” quality – the same low-maintenance quality women are told to embrace so that we’re not giant pains to the men in our lives. She’s continued to be beautiful, aging gracefully while telling us that expensive skincare is a crock of shit designed to get women to pour money down the drain. And now, with David Gordon Green’s 2018 retcon of the Halloween franchise, we get to see another dimension to the Laurie/Jamie Lee entity: the woman who survived and fights back. The retcon becomes something to which so many of us are quietly and not-so-quietly disclosing: many of us suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we live in fear, and we’re taking steps to make sure that both ourselves and our loved ones are kept safe while reclaiming power from our attackers. As a PTSD sufferer, watching Curtis battle the demon of always looking over her shoulder (it never goes away – it gets better, but it never stops) is one that resonates with someone who still sleeps with a hammer by her bedside. Seeing a woman who went from sexpot to survivor only makes her more attractive for me, especially as she’s allowed herself to age in a way that’s more accessible to us. When I look at Curtis onscreen in the recent Halloween, I see someone age-appropriate. I don’t see an actress that’s attempted to halt time and now looks like a busted Madam Tussaud’s wax figure. The depth that she’s given the character, when combined with her authentic appearance and the evolution of the character, makes her a three-dimensional person with whom we can identify; we can see this person amongst us, and so she’s less of an unattainable poster girl and more of the woman that lives near us. Seeing Curtis represent these facets of womanhood only makes her all the more attractive to both me and quite a few of the people I know – men and women. She’s successfully taken the character from the beautiful, naïve girl to the kickass woman in her 60s who will beat your sorry ass in. As sidenote, she’ll look fine as hell while doing it, with a wave of white hair and a figure for which most of us would kill in our freaking 30s. That makes her sexy at any age, and elevates her from a pretty young thing to life goals.
Listen, if you want to drool over the 1978 version of Curtis, no one is going to stop you, but you’d be selling yourself short. 2018 Laurie is going to be so much more than 1978 Laurie. Yes, the 70s version is young, perky and inexperienced, but the 2018 version… that’s the one who knows some tricks. That’s the one who’s learned how to be comfortable in her body. And that’s the one who, at the end of the day, doesn’t have time for little kids who focus on the only one aspect of the puzzle. If you’re going to survive, link up with the one who knows what they’re doing, and bask in awe. Don’t be afraid to say that person is attractive, because – and I’m going to be a pig for a minute – Curtis has never reached her Last Fuckable Day. This woman would love a chance with 60-something Curtis over her younger counterpart any day of the year.