Family

A viral tweet makes a great point about who gets to be 'old' in Hollywood.

What Marisa Tomei's portrayal of Aunt May tells us about being a woman over 50 in Hollywood.

A viral tweet makes a great point about who gets to be 'old' in Hollywood.

Marisa Tomei is the youngest actor to take on the role of Aunt May in a Spider-Man movie.

Tomei as Aunt May in "Spider-Man: Homecoming." Photo from Sony Pictures Entertainment/YouTube.

Not everyone was a fan of the decision to cast Tomei, who's 53, as Peter Parker's Aunt May, with many critics saying she was too young for the role, which has traditionally been played by actors significantly older. When Rosemary Harris played Aunt May in 2002, she was 75 years old; in 2012, when Sally Field took on the role, she was 66.


In an interview with the New York Times, Tomei addressed some of the concerns she had about being cast as a "dowdy widow," saying she was "horrified" and "crushed" to learn which character she had been cast as, once she was shown an illustration of Aunt May in the comic books.

"I don’t want to be coming from an ageist point of view about that, at all. It was my own personal cross to bear at that moment," Tomei clarified. She even considered going "full-on silver hair," for the role, but later learned that the goal was actually to cast May as a sort of "big-sister" to Tom Holland's Peter Parker.

But that begs the question: Just what is a 53-year-old woman "supposed" to look like, anyway?

Twitter personality Calvin Stowell blew some minds when he shared this tweet, pointing out that Tomei is older in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" than Rue McClanahan was at the start of "Golden Girls."

I know, right? Pick your jaw up off the floor.

When "Golden Girls" premiered in 1985, McClanahan was 51 years old. And while she was the youngest of the four main cast members by more than a decade, the show's premise could best be described as the adventures of a group of older women. (To be fair, when Tomei filmed "Spider-Man: Homecoming," she was also 51, but still, it's a really interesting comparison.)

Some misinterpreted the point Stowell was trying to make, seeing it as an attack on McClanahan's appearance. But that's certainly not what he meant.

"It was more of a dig at Hollywood for casting someone 51 to be a geriatric retiree than competing their looks against each other," he writes in a Twitter direct message. "I love them both."

Actresses in Hollywood aren't given the chance to really get old. They're either young or they're old, with no in-between.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Tomei touched on this, saying, "Well, I only got to be old very recently. The industry has decided I’m an aunt-type now. I’m like, is this the way it gets broken to me?"

Hollywood seems set on pushing women from the role of hot, young leading ladies straight to senior citizen status. And even then, women over 50 are often forced into a binary choice between hot or dowdy. It's all a byproduct of both the industry and society's sexism.

Tomei attends the "Spider-Man: Homecoming" world premiere. Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images.

But there is room in between. There is room for women in their 50s in movies to be portrayed like Tomei, McClanahan, and everyone in between. And there are a lot of great, diverse actresses in their 50s still making waves, such as Andie MacDowell, Angela Bassett, Catherine Keener, Jane Lynch, Julianne Moore, Diane Lane, and many more.

Sure, the casting of a progressively younger May in each film raised a few eyebrows, but in the end, Tomei's casting was actually a pretty great fit, reframing Aunt May as Peter Parker's actual aunt rather than his great aunt.

Until it's no longer "the industry" making these sorts of distinctions, there will always be an issue. But for now, this seems like a step in the right direction.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less
via Travis Akers / Twitter

A tweet thread by Travis Akers, a Navy Lieutenant with 17 years of service, is going viral because it shows just how sweet children can be and also points to an overlooked issue facing military families.

In the early morning of April 12, Akers tweeted a photo of himself and his seven-year-old son Tanner who he affectionately calls "Munchie." Akers was moved because his son set his alarm clock so he could get up early enough to hand him a pocket full of Legos before work.

Tanner wanted to be sure his father had something to play with at the Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida. "This was my daily morning trip to base, departing my house at six am for work," Akers told Upworthy.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less