Gabrielle Carteris, the president of actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, is on the front line of the battle against age discrimination in Hollywood.
Carteris recently made waves in the industry last month when she decided to push for a law banning the publication of birthdates and ages on electronic casting sites such as IMDB.
Thanks to the backlash against diminishing roles for older actors and the vocal support of Carteris for a new law concerning ageism, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law into effect last month forcing subscription websites used by casting and entertainers to remove age information on performers’ profiles if asked.
Though this may seem like a trivial matter to those outside Hollywood, performers over the years have suffered critical career damage thanks to the revelation of their ages, especially women. In an industry that continues to lower the age range of the women it casts, frequently casting 25-year olds to play leading ladies against 55 and 60 year old leads, age revelation becomes a major problem.
As Carteris herself put it in an article she wrote for “The Hollywood Reporter”, “My role on Beverly Hills, 90210 could not have happened for me today, plain and simple. I would never have been called to audition for the part of 16-year-old Andrea Zuckerman if they had known I was 29. Electronic casting sites did not exist in 1990; today, they are prevalent and influential. And they affect casting decisions even when casting personnel don’t recognize their unconscious bias.”
How bad has the problem become?
According to TIME magazine, female actresses now see their careers peak at age 30, after which they get a sharp drop in job offers, while male actors continue to see plenty of jobs offers well into middle age, with their careers peaking at age 46.
Carteris’ support for this law could help many actresses extend the longevity of their careers, as casting directors and producers will at least have to go off of how old performers’ could look, rather than actual ages.
Though this is a great first step towards fighting age discrimination in Hollywood, it is the first of many strides that need to be taken. Performers, especially female actresses, need to have a better range of jobs to choose from, and screenwriters and directors should start thinking of casting more age appropriate couples in their movies, so older actresses are leading the cast right alongside the older male actors Hollywood now seems to favor.