Forget 20, Forget 30. 40 Is Hot!

Messing, who recently turned 40, will return in her role as the first wife for the second season of the USA Network series "The Starter Wife." She will also be part of the ensemble cast that includes Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes and Jada Pinkett Smith in the upcoming film "The Women" by "Murphy Brown" creator Diane English.

Lee attributes the onscreen 40-something shift to the success of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and the movie "Sex and the City." Four of the women in "Housewives" are over 40. "They are not playing the mom to the sexy kids or the over-the-hill mom," Lee said. "They are actually playing the lead characters. They showed a lot of people that women over 40 don't all have to be Florence Henderson."

Success of Sex and the City

"Sex and the City" was also a turning point. "It was a moment when people woke up and said, 'Oh, women go to the movies too,'" said Lee. "All the actresses are 40 or older. For the studios to realize that women want to see an exaggerated version of their own lives is huge."

But before someone declares it the year of the older woman, Pozner cautions that the driving force behind all these shows and movies and advertisements with women in their 40s is an advertising industry that is looking to make more money by selling products.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Messing's show "The Starter Wife," which has written Ponds products into the show, Pozner said. She points to one scene that has Messing examining her wrinkles in the mirror and debates whether a Ponds wrinkle cream would actually help her or not.

"I caution against seeing this as more than a trend or fad," said Pozner. "We are more age and more image obsessed than ever before."

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