Ageism is alive and well; we all know it. In Hollywood, it exists in a very large, brightly-colored, music-themed, kinda way.
We’ve seen some improvements over the last couple of years; Wonder Woman, Atomic Blonde, Rogue One, and Hidden Figures are just a few female-led films that were also box office successes. That being said, women are still under-represented on film. And, this is not new news.
“with fewer scripts, fewer lines and screen time, and dwindling bank accounts; ageism thrives”
A study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University from 2015 uncovered that females made up a mere 12% of protagonists in the top-grossing films of 2014. Not only is the percentage paltry, the women are also younger than their male counterparts on the screen; the majority are in their 20s and 30s. Men over 40 accounted for 53% of characters whereas women that age represented 30%. This imbalance has serious implications for the availability of female authority figures on screen.
Further analysis by Clemson Economists Robert Fleck and Andrew Hanssen verified what most women actresses over 40 already knew – with fewer scripts, fewer lines and screen time, and dwindling bank accounts; ageism thrives.
Fleck and Hanssen looked at IMDB data on domestically produced films from 1920 to 2011. What they uncovered was that first, there has never been gender equality in Hollywood (what a surprise). As a matter of fact, men have taken upwards of three-quarters of the roles in film. Not only do females get fewer roles of substance as they age, they get less and less dialog.
“The reality is that most women are older than 20-something when their mothers are facing aging and end of life illnesses.”
Hearing about Sharon Stone’s latest blatant disregard of the conventional Hollywood mantra of ‘cast a 20-something whenever possible’ put a big smile on my face. She was offered a lesser role in the romantic comedy, All I Wish, out in theaters March 30. She was asked to play the mother of the film’s 25-year-old protagonist. Her response: ‘No, thank you.’
She pitched the filmmaker Susan Walter a different angle. At 60, Sharon decided it would be more interesting, for both her and the audience, if she played the daughter. The reality is that most women are older than 20-something when their mothers are facing aging and end of life illnesses. Casting Stone as the daughter who has to deal with her sick aging mother adds a level of authenticity for me. I am excited to see this glimpse, of what I hope will become a sea change in the characters we as women will get to enjoy on the big screen.
In my opinion, male dominance, thus far, has been out of touch with the audience. When I researched the demographics of the moviegoing population, I discovered that women buy half of the tickets sold each year. Makes sense; doesn’t it? It’s about time that the women on-screen align with the women we see in our mirrors every day.