Younger from TVLand is a big hit with me. I enjoy it tremendously. It’s funny. The actors are outstanding at their roles. But the social criticism at the heart of Younger makes me sad.
Before I get into the reasons I find the show so sad, I want to acknowledge the cast. Sutton Foster is Liza, a 40 year old woman who has to pretend to be 26 to get hired for even the lowliest job in her industry (publishing). Debi Mazar is Maggie, her roommate and friend. Miriam Shor is Diana, her idiot boss. Nico Tortorella is Josh, her much younger boyfriend. Hilary Duff is her co-worker Kelsey. Peter Hermann is Charles, another of her bosses.
1. Too Old for the Job
The premise of the series is that a 40 year old woman is too old to hire. No matter her experience, her skills, her intelligence. Her age makes her unusable. The message is only someone young, modern and hip is fit to employ in a world that moves at the speed of social media. That’s just sad.
2. Constant Lying
Liza lies to everyone. Her roommate knows the truth, her much younger boyfriend knows the truth (eventually). But her co-workers, her family, her friends, her bosses do not know. She has to watch every word that comes out of her mouth, lest she reveal something that a 26 year old woman would not say. She has to pretend to love immature crap like getting drunk and wearing too-short skirts. She has to pretend not to be a mother and never mention the child she loves.
As anyone who’s lived their life as a lie can tell you, it’s exhausting, it’s terrifying, and it’s just sad.
3. Old Friends are the Enemy
Anyone who knew Liza-before, anyone who knows her previous life, even her 20 year old daughter: they are the enemy. She’s afraid to see or talk with anyone who knows the truth because of what they might reveal to the people standing around her who think she’s 26. She can’t be happy to see old friends. She can’t enjoy doing things with old friends. All of her adult life has become a terrifying secret that must be kept hidden. That’s just sad.
Yes, I Know
Yes, I know all these sad things about Younger are the point. Our ageist society marginalizes based on ageism in myriad ways each day. This show uses humor to point out what a stupid and moronic -ism ageism is. Ageism is one of the last -isms to have a social justice movement going for it. Maybe once we conquer racism and sexism, society can take on ageism with more impact. I hope so. And shows like Younger may help us get there. That’s not sad at all.