Researchers, Writers And Actors Highlight And Tackle Ageism In HollywoodJanuary 21, 2013 | By administrator
Over the last five years, Hollywood actors have become increasingly verbal about ageism in the industry, in some cases joining forces to address disparities and increase opportunities for older adults. Reports from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative have highlighted the prevalence and portrayal of characters age 60 and above. Partnering with Humana in 2016, the Initiative continues to unveil the fact that seniors are not only underrepresented on screen but also misrepresented.
In a 2018 report, Still Rare, Still Ridiculed: Portrayals of Senior Characters On Screen in Popular Films from 2015 and 2016, researchers led by Stacy L. Smith found little had changed between 2015 and 2016 with respect to the depiction of seniors in popular films the researchers examined.
With respect to ageist comments, the trend continues and investigators caution that the implications may extend beyond laughs and into the health space. Like the prevalence of tobacco use in film and television, negative age-related stereotypes may fuel more medical consequences than anyone might have initially predicted.
James Bond: New Release Date Costs ‘No Time To Die’ A Box Office Record
Why ‘Batman Begins’ Still Contains The Best Sequel Tease Of All Time
‘Artemis Fowl’: Hollywood Keeps Making The Same Franchise-Killing Mistake
“These results are in line with our previous research on films from 2015, Academy Award-nominated movies, and even popular television series. Across these studies, it is clear that ageism is an acceptable aspect of story-telling. However, for senior viewers, these comments may have adverse effects. Priming of negative age-related stereotypes among seniors has been linked to unfavorable health outcomes such as cardiovascular reactions and memory activities.18 Though writers may intend to poke fun at aging by comically exaggerating stereotypes of older characters, the effects may not be funny at all.” (Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, Smith et al, 2018).
Ageist comments by older celebrities, even when self-directed and humorous, can also contribute to this negative line of thinking. Whether these comments are propelled by discomfort, akin to the school kid who makes fun of himself before anyone else can, the fact of the matter is that every time the big or small screen captures a stigmatizing comment about aging, it is like everything else, magnified for the masses to consume and digest.
As the 92nd Academy Awards approach, trends appear to continue with older actors standing a better chance of being recognized for a supporting role than a leading one. Actor in a leading role nominees included only one actor 60 or older (Jonathan Pryce, 72). Actor in a supporting role included 4 of 5 nominees (Tom Hanks, 63, Joe Pesci, 76, Al Pacino, 79, and Anthony Hopkins, 82). For women, the trend was similar and worse, with no nominees age 60 and above for actress in a leading role and only one nominee (Kathy Bates, 71) for actress in a supporting role.
Women have been become some of the most visible players in changing the ageist narrative, including Oscar winners Meryl Streep, 70 and Nicole Kidman, 52 who have taken on a different kind of role in their affiliation with The Writers Lab. Launched in 2015, and founded by Kyle Stokes and co-founders Elizabeth Kaiden and Nitza Wilon, The Writers Lab is a screenwriting lab for women writers over 40. Supported by Streep and Kidman, The Writers Lab 2020 is produced by New York Women in Film & Television with co-founders Kaiden and Wilon. Its mission is to increase the number of stories written by female storytellers over the age of 40, not demand female-driven storylines:
“The Writers Lab is dedicated to developing narrative feature screenplays written by women over the age of 40. We feel it is critical to nurture the voices of mature women that have not been heard and are in danger of being lost entirely. We look forward to a new landscape where the female narrative is in equal proportion to the male narrative, and where shared stories strengthen our ties to one another and empower younger generations.
We are committed to female storytellers, yet we do not limit our search to stories about women. The Writers Lab seeks well crafted scripts, in all genres, exploring universal themes, using a full range of cinematic tools.”
The 2020 Writers Lab Contest registration opened this month and runs through March 2020. Winners will participate in an intensive workshop with accomplished female screenwriters and mentors.
Nicole Kidman emphasizes the need to acknowledge the power and viability of mature women storytellers in her 2018 SAG Awards acceptance speech.