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The Female Perspective: Ageism AND Sexism Rears It’s Ugly Head in Hollywood…Again

Welcome! This is a Tri-weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

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*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc.


Recently, in an interview with TheWrap magazine, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal discussed ageism and sexism in Tinseltown, revealing that she was turned down for the part of being a love interest to a 55-year old man- Gyllenhaal herself is 37. Oh yes, clearly she is a hag at this point.

Maggie Gyllenhaal arrives at the 40th Anniversary Gracies Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Maggie Gyllenhaal arrives at the 40th Anniversary Gracies Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

It’s no surprise that Hollywood treats female actresses differently than males. It’s been happening since any of us can remember. In fact, a study conducted recently stated:

A study of the top 265 earning actresses and actors in Hollywood films between 1968 and 2008 released last year by the Journal Of Management Inquiry revealed actresses are paid less as they get older, with wages increasing steadily through their 20s and dropping rapidly after 34. Meanwhile, actors’ salaries do not peak until 51 years old and do not decrease with age. ~Huffington Post

Basically, if you are an actress over the age of 34 you are out of luck in terms of getting paid the same as your male counterparts (unless you are Meryl Streep, that woman is unstoppable!). So why is this a badly kept secret that the actresses themselves seem to do nothing about? Sure, they speak out about it in magazines, but are they doing something about it to make studio’s pay them what they are worth? Or, are they fearful that by taking a stand against a studio, they may never work again? I’ll never pretend to understand Hollywood and the weirdness that goes on there (why they keep “rebooting” films is beyond me, don’t people have new ideas anymore?) so I’ll keep this brief, my confusion is about the fact that a woman like Gyllenhaal, a talented actress, who is at 37, too old to be the lover of a 55 year old man. If anything, she might be too young! It’s a bizarre situation and I give her a lot of credit for being able to discuss it gracefully.

“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” Gyllenhaal said. “I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

Good for you!

As I read more about the study I mentioned earlier regarding the pay rates of women actresses versus men, I couldn’t get angry, anger is the wrong emotion to feel here. What I feel here is sadness. Sadness that this is what Hollywood has become. This is why getting a Superhero movie starring either Wonder Woman or Black Widow is nearly impossible, this is why we can’t have nice things!

According to the study, “Men’s well-worn faces are thought to convey maturity, character and experience. A woman’s face, on the other hand, is valued for appearing young.”

No wonder young girls starve themselves to death or try to surgically enhance themselves to the point of danger (the Kardashian lip situation rings a bell here), Hollywood rarely takes responsibility for what young girls (or even boys) do to themselves in order to look “right” for the movies. The fact is, when you look back on the “good ole days” of movies, people looked NORMAL, women had curves for pete’s sakes, they had all different hair colors and cuts. Nowadays we see a lot of the same thing, straight hair and skinny ladies. Now, I’m not hating on the skinny gals (or straight hair), I love them just as much as my curvy ladies, but what I’m saying here is that we need INDIVIDUALITY these days, not a bunch of Stepford Wives.

Apparently these lips are worth disfiguring yourself for. Go figure.
Apparently these lips are worth disfiguring yourself for. Go figure.

I feel that even as I type this it’s a waste of my time. Hollywood isn’t changing- well, not entirely.

Maybe I’m actually wrong about that, the recent Mad Max: Fury Road film is a good example of how an action movie has become something more, something feminist. Maybe those are the little changes that will eventually effect BIG change?

Only time will tell for sure on this one and even though I sound hopeless, I do actually have some hope for the future of women in film. Maybe at some point Hollywood will see that it’s okay to show an “older” woman on screen and no one will die. People won’t turn from the theater in fear or disgust. Maybe I have to be patient and wait this out.

Even the 70s Stepford Wives were more individual than some ladies today!
Even the 70s Stepford Wives were more individual than some ladies today!

What do YOU think? Will Hollywood every change? Are older actresses appealing? Sound off in the comments!

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