When actresses are only one year older than their onscreen ‘sons’, we know Hollywood hasn’t worked through it’s fear of a female “acting her age”.
Dear Russell Crowe,
We need to talk. You see, for a long time now, I’ve been a big fan of your work. But recently you’ve made a few comments which have left me feeling cold.
I’m referring, of course, to the recent interview you did with Australia’s Women’s Weekly, where you criticised ageing actresses for failing to reflect their ageing on-screen, adding, rather naively, that “if you are willing to live in your own skin, you can work as a (female) actor” and that “the best thing” about the film industry is “that there are roles for people in all different stages of life”.
As this earlier post on Mamamia points out, most ageing actresses will disappear silently from screen while their male counterparts continue to score winning roles. Only a rare handful of women will survive the transition and of them, many will be typecast: the year Meryl Streep turned 40, she was offered three parts, all as witches.
Even worse, of the roles that are written for women over a certain age (such a mother or grandmother), will often still be awarded to actresses so young that they could never realistically have given birth to the actors depicted as their children. Consider the following:
1. In The Graduate, Anne Bancroft was only 8 years older than her on screen daughter, Katherine Ross.
2. In Mean Girls, Amy Poehler was only 7 years older than her onscreen daughter, Rachel McAdams.
3. In Little Miss Sunshine, Toni Collette was only 12 years older than her onscreen son, Paul Dano.
4. In Star Trek, Winona Ryder was only 6 years older than her on-screen son, Zachary Quinto.
5. In The Fighter, Melissa Leo was only 11 years older than her son played by Mark Wahlberg.
6. And in Alexander, Angelina Jolie was just 1 year older than her on-screen son, Colin Farrell.
But there is a bigger issue here. You see, aside from the limited roles that are both written for, and portrayed by older women, buried within your assertion that women should ‘act their age’ is another: that women should also look their age. And it is this idea -that women should resist surgical intervention and ‘grow old gracefully’- which causes women in Hollywood to face such an impossible double bind.
With very few exceptions, those who age without Botox or other interventions tend to disappear from view (and relevance) or else they are held up as a garish spectacle for the public to marvel at. Just ask Renee Zellweger.