Moderated by SAG Award winner and Emmy nominee SHARON LAWRENCE.
Co-produced by Robyn Rosenfeld.
Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially “normalized” of any prejudice, and is not widely countered – like racism or sexism. These attitudes lead to the marginalisation of older people within our communities and have negative impacts on their health and well-being - W.H.O.
"When I first went into the movies Lionel Barrymore played my grandfather. Later he played my father, and finally he played my husband. If he had lived I'm sure I would have played his mother. That's the way it is in Hollywood. The men get younger and the women get older." - Lillian Gish
“Viewers never really know what an older woman, say 50 or 60 or 70, should realistically look like,” she tells Teen Vogue. “This precludes women from having any positive role models for aging.”
casting processes are influenced by tried and true stereotypes that are deeply entrenched in our culture.
goes up and down the flagpole -- what stories get told, who gets to tell them. It's actors, writes, directors, editors, it touches everyone.
Within our industry: Ageism affects us all. It can determine who gets to write, to act, to direct. It determines who gets to work and simply cash a paycheck.
Within our culture: It dictates what stories get told, whose voices get heard; it dictates what goes into our cultural vault for posterity.
Within ourselves: Whether we’re black or Asian or gay or transgender, whether we’re young or older, we need to see real, accurate reflections of ourselves onscreen. It is a validation of our existence within our culture. Without it…we’re invisible.
Photo-shopping with casting. Younger actresses are often cast in older roles, but when a 24-year-old woman is cast in the role of a 34-year-old, not only has an age-appropriate actor been overlooked for the part, but the audience now gets a distorted view of what a
34-year old woman should look like. How does this Hollywood view of reality effect our real-world reality?
"We get to work because we are chosen. And that choice is often skewed by prejudices."
– Kathy Griffin, Panel on Ageism
Gish's observation about the way Hollywood operates (women age, men don't) is as true today as when she said it. And she wasn't the only one, or the first. Half a century earlier, Sarah Bernhardt likened actresses to bottles of champagne – used up and discarded. Just recently,
Of course, the story endures not just in Hollywood where the stories are made, but in our culture at large – partly because Hollywood reflects our culture and also because Hollywood is part of it. And to change that story, we need to change the stories we tell. Or at least tell more of them.
GINA DAVIS MODEL:
"I'm a writer. But I still need permission to work."
– Kathy Griffin, Panel on Ageism
"I'm actually speaking up for the very first time, although I'm nervous. I've been told my whole career, 'If you speak out about this, some 80-year-old guy who controls the studios is never gonna hire you and you're gonna be called a troublemaker."
– Kathy Griffin
Ageism in Hollywood:
During the planning phase of the panel, I was surprised by the number of industry people – many of them veterans of the business –who asked me why I was planning it. Why did it even matter? My answer usually was: it matters because you think it doesn't matter. It matters because our distorted perceptions of age and aging often make growing older something to be ashamed of. It matters because these perceptions decide who gets to work and get paid. Or not. Our distorted perceptions of age and aging
Growing old isn't like catching a cold...it can't be avoided. Yet that's how we treat it yet there's no vaccination for it despite endless infomercials shelves are stocked to the ceiling with "treatments" for it. Therapeutics. Weaponry. Injections, procedures, laster creams, vampire facials, gels dyes, armaments that help us "fight" this aging and wage a lifelong battle against the onslaught of its inevitability.
And yet there were skeptics. And to the skeptics I met while making all the phone calls required to put this event together, I'd invariably point out this pointed truth: Look. We're getting older. Right now. By the time we finish our call, we'll both be five minutes older than we were when we said "hello". And to you, reading this right now, I'll point out (although not as pointedly since we've only just met, that by the time you finish reading this paragraph you'll be a full 30 seconds older than you were when you started. The clock is ticking. The sands in the hourglass are being funneled downward.
Why do resist this ticking and gravity? As a culture, why don't we fully understand, let alone embrace, what aging is? What is our perception of it? What does it mean? Why do we resist this understanding? Is it fear? Hubris? Shame? And why do we work so hard at denial? to deny something so fundamental to our lives and to living? And what is Hollywood's role in – if any – in countering the prevailing and prejudicial narrative around age and aging; how can we help remove the stigma from something so profoundly natural and basically to every single person? That was the goal of the panel, to find practical answers to some very existential questions. But an evening that began as a brainstorming session about what we as storytellers can do to change ways of thinking turned into a very existential and honest discussion as soon as soon as the first story was shared. And the next. And the next. And we had our answer: it's the stories.
Sharing those stories and anecdotes (and antidotes) wound up being both the point and the power of the panel; similarly, it's the reason for this site. So, please, take a look around and share your own observations, thoughts, experiences (and antidotes) with us. We want to hear your story. We're all living and existing on this planet at the same time, and that's no small thing. Any perceptions of substantive generational differences amongst us are just that: perceptions, biases that have wormed their way into our culture and our brains and the giant brain of our culture. They're stories. The great thing about stories is that there are lots of them; we can tell new ones, stories that haven't been told, ones that can serve as rewrites to some of the outdated ones. Or at least give them nuance. Our stories can be the instruments of change. It's the stories.