It's not just that Lady Gaga, a legend in her own right, held fellow legend Liza Minnelli's hand as the two were on stage together. It's not just that she clearly reveres her, and made sure that the audience showed their admiration and respect for Minnelli as well. And it's not just that Lady Gaga specifically requested that Minnelli present the Best Picture award with her, according to PEOPLE.
The shared touching moment is going viral because of how it's making everyone feel, absolutely. But it's also going viral because it's a true testament to how the industry (and society as a whole) should treat older women. And given how much Liza Minnelli has contributed to said industry throughout her entire life—from the moment Judy Garland gave birth to her until now, 76 years later—she deserves every bit of the respect shown by Lady Gaga. And she, as well as all older women, deserves that same respect from everyone.
It's going viral because it's rare to see that level of respect, kindness, and admiration toward older adults (in this piece, I'm using the term "older adults," which is preferred by the aging community as opposed to terms like "elderly").
"You know how I love working with legends," Lady Gaga said during the presentation. "And I'm honored to present the final award of the evening with a true show business legend."
At one point, Minnelli was sorting through her notes and said, "I don't understand." Things became quiet for a brief moment, but the mics picked up the off-script exchange.
Lady Gaga assured her with a hand squeeze: "I got it."
Minnelli responded with a hushed, "I know."
It's that simple moment of kindness—free of all condescension—that is making the entire internet tear up with emotion.
Ageism is the act of stereotyping and/or discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age, and it can be both casual or systemic. The term "ageism" was coined in 1969 by Robert Neil Butler to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism.
According to Ageing Equal, older women face both ageism and sexism in their lives and are more likely to encounter ageism in general. Older women of color and those in marginalized groups are even more likely to face sexism, ageism and even violence.
In Hollywood, older women who aren't named Meryl Streep or Judi Dench lose roles in favor of younger actresses, because show business definitely values youth and appearance (hello, toxic beauty standards) and uses those things as a bargaining chip for professional power. It's frustrating, it's sad, and it's an uphill battle.
This just makes moments like this between Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli—where a powerful younger adult treats an older adult with respect, admiration worthy of such a legendary career, and love rather than pity, condescension, or jokes—all the more important. We love to see women lifting up other women, no matter their age or background.