Whoever says age is just a number is probably not a 35-year-old to 50-year-old actress trying to snag a gig in Hollywood.
And that age gap doesn’t exclusively apply to unqualified or inexperienced actresses – it applies to the Maggie Gyllenhaals, the Julianne Moores and the Sally Fields who are turned away from meaningful and intimate film roles for a hefty 15 years of their life because… we don’t know.
In retrospect, Maggie Gyllenhaal is at the beginning of the spectrum, Julianne Moore has just emerged from the age-affiliated black hole, and Sally Field has been on either side in a matter of years – ever wonder how Sally Field was an exceptional actress to play Tom Hanks’ love interest in the 1988 comedy Punchline, but it was only a short six years later when Fields had transformed into Tom Hanks’ dying mother in Forrest Gump?
You’d think that Hanks and Field would physically age the same amount in the same exact amount of time, but somehow Hanks remained the same age while Field grew 30 years older – science is funny that way, isn’t it? No, it’s not. But Hollywood is.
Julianne Moore is 53-years-old and while she has an impressive list of film roles she’s occupied, it seems like her Hollywood presence is coming to life just now. This year, she won an Oscar for her heartbreaking performance as Dr. Alice Howland, a middle-aged woman succumbing to early onset Alzheimer’s disease. At least in that film, fans were keen to the idea that 50-years-old is too young to die (hint hint, Forrest Gump).
Before Still Alice, the last Oscar-nominated film Moore was in was The Hours in 2002. Moore was 40-years-old, so it was only 13 years later until Moore would be wanted for another critically acclaimed film role. She was essentially tossed into the Hollywood black hole before she would readily emerge again as a desirable Hollywood actress.
Amy Schumer might have had a legitimate argument when making her YouTube video starring Patricia Arquette, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tina Fey.
The renowned actresses essentially basque in their last day in which they’ll be sexually appeasing to men and film audiences in general before sending Dreyfus off in a boat to go “home.” Funny yes, but also eerily not far from what we’re seeing in real life.
In the bit, Tina Fey joked “If you shoot a sex scene the night before your birthday, everyone’s like ‘Hurry up, hurry up, we gotta get it before midnight’ because they think your vagina’s going to turn into a hermit crab.”
Kidding? Maybe not so much.
And most recently, Gyllenhaal is voicing her disdain for the entertainment industry who has dubbed her too old to fit a role in which she would be married to a 55-year-old man. Gyllenhaal is 37.
“It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.” She continued, “There are things that are really disgusting about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time.”
And maybe Rebel Wilson did lie about her age, shaving off about five years (the Pitch Perfect star is 35 after claiming she’s 29). But maybe Wilson can’t afford to lose five years of business and five years of income. Women are consistently caught in this double bind of expected to remain transparent and representative of the everyday woman, but is the everyday woman rejected from her husband when she grows too old to be sought after while men remain sexually attractive for an entire lifetime?
And in turn, this Hollywood representation of ageism could directly cause life to imitate art, with men cutting off their dating options of women who are no less than 15 years their junior, or in Gyllenhaal’s case – 18.
And then there's Meryl Streep who is somehow able to defy all ageism theories. But for every one Meryl Streep, there are handfuls of Jack Nicholsons, Robert DeNiros and Clint Eastwoods who haven’t suffered the black hole of being irrelevant for 15 years of their acting career. Can we bluntly agree that Nicholson, DeNiro, and Eastwood have significantly aged? Which is awesome for them, but why can’t it be awesome for women too? Let’s age together!
As this conversation comes more to the surface, thanks to those like Schumer and Gyllenhaal, relatable women and film audiences will be anxiously awaiting to see if women and men can meet in the middle and occupy film roles that are authentically accurate.