To me, The View feels like the ultimate indulgence. Perhaps that’s because of its daytime slot and I’m afraid that watching TV in the middle of the day proclaims, “Yes, I am lying on the sofa watching TV and not working all day.” The show also rarely fails to entertain me, with its heady mix of actual important issues, silly celebrity interviews, and random smatterings of musical performance, style tips, and cooking segments. It’s what I wish mainstream women’s magazines were.
But it also happens to have a revolutionary aspect as well. Only American Idol rivals its racial diversity (whoa, three people of color on a four-person judging panel?) and no TV show rivals its diversity in age and race. Of the five regular co-hosts, four are over 40. Three are well over 50. Two are over 70, y’all. Did you realize Joy Behar is 70 and Barbara Walters is 83?
What’s extra-special about this combination is that the format of the show allows the women to revel in who they are — their age, their race, their background, their unique personality traits that have nothing to do with any of those factors. It would be tough to create TV characters this multi-faceted. Whoopi Goldberg is a tomboy-dressed 57-year-old who makes no secret that she loves sex, loves men, and hates marriage. Joy Behar makes jokes about menopause, but only recently got married — and clearly loves her husband. Sherri Shepherd talked about her own celibacy before getting married two years ago; she also talked about her ex-husband’s devastating affair and having “a lot of abortions” when she was young. Elisabeth Hasselbeck brings the young-mom perspective in addition to her much-maligned Republican perspective. Barbara Walters is a journalistic icon, but she gives us glimpses at her personal life as well, from her heart surgery to her regrets about how she handles motherhood.
What’s truly astounding is that they do all this while still debating political issues of major consequence, and attracting interview subjects of the ultimate level of importance — anybody who wants to be president better sit on this couch. Make fun of these ladies all you want, Saturday Night Live. They’re showing us that women of any age and color can be sexual, funny, serious, crazy, right, or wrong. And their 15 years on the air shows America will not only accept them, but love them for it.
Read the rest of this guest blog series on older women on TV, Women of a Certain Age.
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