September 02, 2004

age bias

I was chatting with Tiny Coconut yesterday, and we started talking about the immense and absurd age bias in the film industry. She wondered why it exists. I wonder too. I have some thoughts, but no answers.

Partly, I think, it's a young industry because the conventional wisdom for the past few decades is that young people go to the movies. Who knows what a twentysomething will pay money to watch? Another twentysomething. False reasoning, of course. But pervasive.

Partly, too, actors have expiration dates. Past a certain age and they're relegated to playing the mom or the kindly neighbor. Well, okay, more true for women than men, but nevertheless, this is a town seeking new blood. Constantly. Vampires on the prowl, looking for fresh flesh to devour.

And partly as the people in power get younger and younger (see above), they're most comfortable with their compadres. I remember taking a meeting with a development executive at a high powered production company. Somehow we ended up talking about college. She seemed to assume I too had just graduated. I went along with it but I felt a little dirty afterwards. I suspect if a grizzled older man walked into her office, she would have squirmed right off her chair and cut the meeting short. Who gets the jobs, then? The one who can schmooze about keggers and the latest hot band or the one who has kids in college but who knows her way around the three act structure and then some?

It's a screwed up system, of course it is. We learn as we get older, we learn from experience, the school of hard knocks, whatever. We have more chops and more to say. If you toss all that out the window because you're scared of a few gray hairs? Well, it's no surprise movies have gotten so bad.

Posted by Tamar at September 2, 2004 09:02 PM

You're right, ageism is a strange issue these days, and it is pervasive throughout all industries. They recently instituted a mandatory retirement age at the University where I teach. It seems discriminatory to me but the Union voted it in, said they had no choice, something that could be compromised. Michaelangelo is said to have commented on his death bed that "It is a pity I am dying when I am just beginning to learn my craft."

Posted by: Leya at September 4, 2004 03:31 PM