You don't have to look long or hard to find Hollywood ageism in action, unless, of course, you're looking at the men. Male actors continue starring in lead roles in action films no matter how old and gray they get, always with pretty young things at least two decades their junior on their arms. Even removing men from the equation, mother-daughter pairs are often played by actresses less than a decade apart in actual age. As Hollywood sees it, women don't matter once they begin to lose their looks — and their menstrual cycles.
In the April issue of Vogue Australia, Cate Blanchett reveals she's had enough of Hollywood's sexist double standard regarding aging. She insists women of all generations want to see representations of themselves on-screen, and the movie industry needs to take note. "Female audiences are driving the change, I think," the 46-year-old actress explained. "Women don't stop consuming cultural product once they stop menstruating."
Menopause and all its hormonally induced body changes have long haunted women both in and out of Hollywood with a promise of a loss of femininity. Features change, waists thicken, and women cease to be thought of as sexual creatures. As Tina Fey quipped in Bossypants, male directors only cast women they deem "f***able," and post-menopausal women are seen as anything but.
Of course, try telling that to Angelina Jolie.
This morning, in an op-ed piece for the New York Times, Angelina Jolie made good on her promise to keep the public informed of her battle to keep cancer out of her body, following her controversial double mastectomy two years ago. Having lost her mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer and learning from her doctor that her blood work showed elevated inflammatory markers, the 39-year-old actress made the call to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes prophylactically removed, throwing her body into premature menopause.
"I feel feminine, and grounded in the choices I am making for myself and my family," penned Jolie. The filmmaker acknowledged she will experience physical changes but calmly continued, "I feel at ease with whatever will come, not because I am strong but because this is a part of life. It is nothing to be feared."
Hopefully Blanchett and Jolie's words don't go unnoticed by the higher-ups. Hollywood needs more women, full stop. More women writers and producers and directors calling the shots, creating roles for women of all ages — played by women of all ages. In the meantime, at least these two women have given a voice to a too-often overlooked film-watching demographic.
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