Ageing Disgracefully: gendered recognition of age-inappropriate
behaviour in celebrity war reporters
Dr. Tim Markham, Birkbeck, University of London

This paper starts from the premise that recognition of professional and other
kinds of authority depends on the embodiment and performance of field-specific
dispositional practices: there’s no such thing as a natural, though we often talk about
journalistic instinct as something someone simply has or doesn’t have. Next, we have
little control over how we are perceived by peers, and what we think are active
positioning or subjectifying practices are in fact, after Pierre Bourdieu, revelations
of already-determined delegation. The upshot is that two journalists can arrive at
diametrically opposed judgements on the basis of observation of the same acts, and
as individuals we are blithely hypocritical in forming (or reciting) evaluations of the
professional identity of celebrities. Nowhere is this starker than in the discourse
of age-appropriate behaviour, which this paper addresses using the examples
of ‘star’ war reporters John Simpson, Martin Bell and Kate Adie. A certain rough-
around-the-edges irreverence is central to dispositional authenticity amongst war
correspondents, and for ageing hacks this incorporates gendered attitudes to sex
and alcohol as well as indifference to protocol. And yet perceived age-inappropriate
sexual behaviour is also used to undermine professional integrity, and the paper
ends by outlining the phenomenological context that makes possible this effortless
switching between amoral and moralising recognition.

Imitations of Lives: Ageing, Celebrity and Performance in The Trip
Dr. Mike Allen and Dr. Janet McCabe, Birkbeck, University of London
This paper focuses on the BAFTA award-winning television sitcom series, The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as fictionalized versions of themselves touring some of the best restaurants in the north of England. What was meant to be a romantic tour through a bucolic landscape for Coogan and his fictional younger American girlfriend, Mischa, becomes re-routed as a middle-youth male road trip, after she leaves him shortly before the journey 
begins, and he asks Brydon to accompany him in her stead. The trip around Lancashire,
Yorkshire and The Lake District juggles sightseeing and food tasting with an
increasingly poignant meditation on ageing and its relationship to masculinity and
the male body, fame and performance. Our paper aims to explore these relationships,
centring on an analysis of Coogan and Brydon, after a wine-fueled lunch, competing
overwho can do the best impersonation of the different ages and moods of Sir
Michael Caine.

Auteur or Celebrity? Franco Zeffirelli
Prof. Mary Wood, Birkbeck, University of London
The filmmaker and designer, Franco Zeffirelli, is recognised for his spectacular mise en scène and professional mastery in the spheres of international cinema and opera,yet is critically despised in Italy, particularly for his support of Silvio Berlusconi and controversial opinions expressed in the press and internet. Is he an auteur, a celebrity director, or mere celebrity? How has he maintained a constituency into his 80s?

“Get Off Your Asses For These Old Broads!”: Elizabeth Taylor and Her
Later Work in Television
Dr. Susan Smith, University of Sunderland
This paper explores Elizabeth Taylor’s significance as a highly charismatic and
enduring example of ageing female celebrity who continued to maintain a high profile presence in the media spotlight long after the major phase of her movie career was over.  Her ability to do so is particularly notable given the cultural investment in her younger, glamorous image and, indeed, the paper begins by considering how thepotency of that earlier persona has figured in some of the more pejorative mediaportrayals of her later celebrity. By way of contrast, it will move on to address Taylor’s capacity to articulate an ongoing, still evolving sense of selfhood in her later years and, in doing so, will examine the neglected role that the actress’s work in television played in negotiating her transition
from Hollywood movie stardom to older female celebrity. Using her performances in Return Engagement (1978), ThereMust Be a Pony (1986) and These Old Broads (2001) as its focal point, it focuses on her work in television movies that are explicitly concerned with the notion of the ageing female star making a comeback and the ways in which these can be read self-reflexively in relation to the star’s own return to the screen.

‘Glorious, Glamorous and that Old Standby, Amorous’:
Diane Keaton, Ageing Female Stardom and Romantic Comedy
Dr. Deborah Jermyn, University of Roehampton
There is a light-hearted scene in the 2007 movie Mama’s Boy, in which protagonist,
Jan Mannus, a widowed single parent, goes on the first date she’s had in years, with motivational speaker and sometime jazz singer, Mert Rosenblaum (Jeff Daniels).  In a local club he serenades her with the Ella Fitzgerald (and Frank Sinatra) classic, as she looks on coyly: ‘You’re just too marvellous for words’ he tells her, ‘Like glorious, glamorous and that old standby, amorous’. It is a gently amusing exchange which savours the flirtation between this nascent couple and delivers one of the fundamental pleasures of romantic comedy: the awkward but beguiling phase of early courtship. ‘Romcom’ aficionados will find it all faintly and reassuringly familiar. And yet in other ways, the scene is quite unexpected, quite atypical of Hollywood; for our heroine Jan is a ‘mature’ woman, played by the
then 60 year-old Diane Keaton.  It has long been observed that mainstream
cinema is no friend to older women stars or audiences. Yet this is just one of a
number of recent romcom roles in which the mature Keaton comes to the helm.
Looking particularly at Something’s Gotta Give (2003), this paper asks, what does
Keaton’s recent career and the late blossoming (or revival) of her romcom persona
have to tell us about the contemporary Hollywood film industry; about the romcom
genre; and about the place of older female stars within all this? 

Nothing Less Than Perfect: Female Celebrity, Ageing and Hyper-Scrutiny in 
the Gossip Industry
Dr. Kirsty Fairclough, University of Salford
From Perez Hilton to Lainey Lui, the figure of the gossip blogger no longer exists
on the periphery of celebrity culture. The ‘bitchy’ personas that celebrity gossip
bloggers espouse are now firmly embedded within mainstream media and the gossip
industry consistently scrutinises female celebrities in terms of how well, or not,
they age. Much of this scrutiny is centered on narratives of cosmetic surgery. This
paper examines such narratives and discusses the ways in which the construction
of the ageing female celebrity and the state of endless transformation which is so
revered in neo-liberal and postfeminist cultures operates in the gossip industry,
suggesting that the notion of continual self-maintenance through consumption
has become a necessity in a society that rewards continual corporeal change. It
is concerned both with how representations of ageing as a gendered construct in
celebrity culture and the discourses of hyper-scrutiny surrounding female celebrities
and cosmetic surgery, operate as a tool of postfeminism, invoking particular models
of the feminine self. Here I propose that the primary function of the celebrity gossip
industry is the hyper-scrutiny of the female celebrity, where they are examined in
terms of how effectively they lock into prescribed notions of postfeminist beauty
norms and where the invisibility of ageing is a fundamental component.

Nicole Kidman: Back to Nature
Prof. Pam Cook, University of Southampton
In 2010, amid reports that her career was in deep trouble, Nicole Kidman rebranded
her image. She adopted a ‘natural’ look featuring the red hair of her younger
incarnation and, after years of denial, admitted to using Botox but claimed to have
given it up. Her performance as a grief-stricken mother in Rabbit Hole (2010), for
which she received a best actress Academy Award nomination, was applauded by
critics, not least because her Botox-free forehead was perceived to be once again
capable of expressing emotion. The turnaround in Kidman’s fortunes coincided with
a backlash in the industry against the use of anti-ageing procedures such as Botox,
and a wider discussion about the pressure on actresses to look young. I shall look
at Kidman’s ‘return to nature’ in the context of the demands of contemporary
commodity stardom and the tension between naturalism and artifice in her persona
and performance. I shall consider the strategies she utilised to survive the impact of
ageing on her career and the contribution of her postcolonial Australian background
to her recent evocation of an identity based on pastoral ideals.

Age Disgracefully: Brigitte Bardot at 75
Prof. Ginette Vincendeau, King’s College, University of London
This paper will explore the issues arising from images of the ageing Brigitte Bardot
(b.1934) in the early 21st century. Despite giving up her film career in 1973, Bardot
has remained an international media icon to the present day. As a result debates
around her ageing are alive (as well as virulent) in the press and on the Internet, and
I will examine them around three main tropes: the comparison with her glorious
youthful looks as 1950s sex kitten and 1960s sex goddess; the recurrent comparison
of her ‘disgraceful’ approach to ageing (‘letting herself go’, refusing surgery) to that
of ‘graceful’ contemporary Sophia Loren; the amalgams made between her looks and
her political positions as both animal activist and explicit holder of far right views.
While Bardot’s uninhibited approach to her politics and her looks are a continuation
of her youthful trailblazing insolence and outspokenness, she also offers a fascinating
case study for our culture’s revulsion at the sight of the ageing woman.