As a middle-aged woman you’re either a boring housewife or a bitchy boss dreading being old and alone, unless you are a lesbian artist in Brooklyn. I love Younger, but it doesn’t get the 40-something women right in season 1.
I love Younger, I just want to make that clear. I binged it in two weeks this summer until I had caught up on season 5. Although hooked from episode one, I actually think the show got better with the seasons. The fourth season was just one big, hilarious roller-coaster of a romantic comedy. They evolved the story and the characters and season 5 was equally brilliant.
He actually sees Diana the way I wish the writes of the show did: “You’re this high-powered executive with this fierce style.” Unfortunately they seem mostly to see that pathetic, lonely middle-aged woman who choose her career, scarified her personal life and now has to pay for it.
Going back to season one, it’s mainly captivating by Liza pretending to be younger without loosing her maturity. Liza never desperately acts like a 20-something. It’s more about how she talks and the way she dresses, not what she actually says and how she acts. It’s the generational disparities that entertains and feels totally true and relatable for me, a woman in her 40s, although the age difference of the characters is not more than 14 years.
All this said, I do have a problem with how the other 40-something women are portrayed in the beginning of the show. Except for being unpleasant, condescending and desperately afraid of competition, Diana is all about saying and doing pathetic stuff single, lonely, middle-aged women apparently do, like in a very teenage way pine for the Empirical owner Charles Brooks. It does not come off as funny to me at all. It does not feel like the writers care about Diana, to me it feels like they are ridiculing her.
It does not feel like the writers care about Diana, to me it feels like they are ridiculing her.
The same treatment is given to all other middle-aged women that are not Liza or Maggie. Liza’s old friends from New Jersey are all boring dorks, because that is apparently what housewives are. They cannot even dress nicely and to fit in Liza has to put on the most boring striped shirt and cardigan to fit in. Also trying to appear progressive they couldn’t be more dorky as when letting Liza know that it’s totally cool that she has hooked up with the lesbian artist: ”I watch Ellen every day”
In episode 2, Liza Sows Her Oates, her same Jersey friend is exploring hip Brooklyn restaurants with her husband and it’s clear that they do this trying to be hip themselves, but we can totally see they aren’t. She also immediately wants to hook Liza up with someone, because of course that would the norm in that world, to be a part of a couple again.
Maggie gets to demonstrate how cool she is. She doesn’t care about rules.
In episode 3, IRL, Maggie gets to demonstrate how cool she is. She doesn’t care about rules, for instance those about prescription medicin. Diana on the other hand gets to demonstrate just how undesirable women in their 40’s are, by commenting on dating: ”You have no idea how it’s out there for a woman my age. It’s tundra.” In her world the rules seems to be unbreakable. Later in episode 8 on the same subject: It’s like renting out a fabulous apartment where a murder took place. Everyone is spooked.”
Funny though, there is this very young man who conned himself into a date with Diana because of her very fancy bag that he wanted to see. He actually sees Diana the way I wish the writes of the show did. ”You’re this high-powered executive with this fierce style” he says admiringly. I love this scene. Unfortunately they seem mostly to see that pathetic, lonely middle-aged woman who choose her career, scarified her personal life and now has to pay for it.
That line has everything — age paranoia and severe coquetting.
In episode 5, Girl Code, Diane is at her worst pathetic self. She acts very superior and condescending towards Liza, ”I need you to be on your game today, Liza. Then raise you game several levels to my game”. She is pathetically pining over Charles, happy to hear that his marriage is on the rocks and smile towards him like a school girl. Later on she asks Liza for advice on how to sit when having a work lunch with him. ”When I put the chin in my hand, do I look riveted? Or like I’m holding a pastry bag of chin skin?” That line has everything — severe age paranoia and childish coquetting.
Although working in publishing she suddenly is not even a reader, pretending to have read a book to impress and so jealous of Liza who has read it and is comfortable to talk about it. All this is done in a way where Diana gets no redeeming qualities. She has no chance of romance and she is not even the better one at her job. Again, the writers don’t seem to care for her, she is just there to make Liza look good. I find it hard to watch.
Diana is OLD, we should never forget that.
What is noticeable in episode 6, Shedonism, is that with Charles entering the scene as the Empirical boss, Diana suddenly is not the main boss anyone, she is an employee, and at the same time this shift happens she also becomes a somewhat less ridiculed character, which is kind of sad. Not that she is not as ridiculed, but that it happens because she is not the top boss anymore. The higher the rank a woman has, the more she can be demonised. Diana is still a bitch though and still she is not cool enough to arrange a launch party that does not look like 2003. Diana is OLD, we should never forget that.
In this episode we get introduced to a 40-something female character even worse than Diana. Annabelle, the author of Shedonsim, pretty fast turns out to be a coke-taking, sex-crazy egomaniac. She wants to be young, having a ”young” party with young people. She is almost molesting Josh in front of Liza and everybody. Diana looks like an angel in comparison. Josh understands what is happening. ”I figured out what her problem is. She won’t act her age.”
It’s really about a woman clearly terrified of getting older and being alone. The ever-looming threat it seems to a 40-something woman without children.
Liza defends her, women in their 40s can feel lost, but the thing is that Liza is never that desperate about acting like a 20-something. As mentioned before, it’s more how she talks and dresses. And when it comes to Annabelle, it’s really about a woman clearly terrified of getting older and being alone. The ever-looming threat it seems to a 40-something woman without children (unless you are a lesbian artist in Brooklyn). The good thing about the episode is actually how Diana emerges as a better person.
In episode 7, Broke and Pantyless, Diana actually does her first nice thing, giving Liza that early Christmas bonus when she is in desperate need of money for Caitlyn’s tuition. We finally get to see that there is something more to Diana than the insecure, bitchy boss, and it’s nice. Later in episode 10, she is the one discovering that The Scarf writer is a copycat. Even if she did it because she is envious, she at least get to show that she is good at her job. Still Diana continuous to be insecure, condescending and slightly threatening towards both Liza and Kelsey. Other women are always the competition, at work and in romance.
In episode 7, Broke and Pantyless, Diana actually does her first nice thing.
Another rather pathetic women is that wife of Anton Björnberg, who starts hitting the woman she thinks her husband is sleeping with, in the middle of the lunch restaurant. But OK, that was actually a funny scene. Maybe because that she rambles on in Swedish and I am Swedish adds to the fact of me liking it so much.
To sum it up, except for Liza and Maggie, the other women in this age are portrayed as either boring or bitchy, and always pathetic. They are being ridiculed more than they get to be funny. Liza is a cool 40-year old mainly because she pretends to be 26 and lives and dresses the part. At first Liza’s new friends are sceptical towards Maggie, but when they understand she is a lesbian artist living in Brooklyn, she is automatically cool too. The rest of 40+ women on the show just get to be hopeless clichés. And yes, stereotypes are useful when creating comedy, but it has to be done with some class and cleverness, otherwise you get caricatures.
Stereotypes are useful when creating comedy, but it has to be done with some class and cleverness, otherwise you get caricatures.
Then in the last episode of the season, The Old Ma’am and the C, something happens. Cheryl Sussman appears as Lizas old colleague who tries to blackmail her. She is also 40-something woman and she is not afraid to tell it like it is to Liza: ”By the way, I have two children and I never stopped working. That’s what nannies are for.” Cheryl is bitchy and funny, not pathetic and clearly not allowing herself to be ridiculed. And that is the difference.
Although Younger is starting to get it, it takes until season 3 before I start to take Diana to heart and she gets to be a fully rounded woman — someone to sympathise with even when life is not always sympathising with her, someone you feel that the writers care about and who is not only there to laugh at.
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Read also about Pauline: Younger’s Pauline: The woman who loves playing the martyr
And of course, 10 reasons I love the show: Top 10 Charles & Liza moments in Younger season 5