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  • Dave Barry


Ageism in Hollywood is an old story. As one of the last acceptable "isms", it's proving to be a stubborn obstacle both behind and in front of the camera with a new study, just published today, underscoring just how little this diversity issue is discussed and, as a sad consequence, how little progress has been made. According to the study, "there is typically a sell by date for women characters, where access to on screen roles declines after 40 years of age."

This has always been a thing. A rudimentary Google search can find quotes from Lillan Gish, to Bette Davis to Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren. My own research on Sarah Bernhardt found her comparing actresses to bottles of champagne: used up and tossed aside. She made that comparison over 100 years ago.

This latest study suggests that things aren't improving despite incremental sporadic progress in other areas. "The numbers for women 45 years of age or older continued to lag, particularly for those from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. While girls and female adolescents were at or near proportional representation in 2019 movies (44.4% and 49.2% respectively), a very different story emerged for young adult women and those 40 years of age or older. Among 21-39 year olds, women only filled 38.8% of speaking roles (see table 4)."

According to the Initiative's study, "the findings were even more dire for women 40 years of age or older, as they only held a quarter of those cast within this age range. Worse still, the percentage of women 40 years of age or older on screen shows very little deviation across the 13-year sample (see table 5)"

Clearly, there's still a lot work to be done. And a first step would be to really hammer home the fact that ageism is, like all the other "isms" out there, an issue of diversity.

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