Is 2023 a curfew moment for midlife and older women?
After years of midlife and older actresses being overlooked, they are now at the forefront of this year’s awards season. Could attitudes towards ageism be changing in Hollywood?
Ageism sure is a global challenge. Something GrandNanny is keen to combat. But ageism is rife in contemporary, Western societies, and no more so than in the Hollywood film industry. People aged over 50 are categorised, divided, and disadvantaged. But older women are disproportionately disadvantaged compared to men. 2023 could be the year we see a change though.
The most recent awards season suggests a shift in the status quo with three Hollywood actresses over 50 winning awards. We hope their notable success is the trigger for a wider shift in our perception of midlife and older people. And, that their success challenges the idea that success has an age limit.
Ageism in Hollywood
Is Hollywood really that ageist? According to Oscar-nominated actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, the answer is yes. At age 37 she was told she was too old to be the love interest of a 55-year-old actor. Maggie’s situation turned out to be symptomatic of an ingrained ageist attitude, particularly towards women. Meryl Streep also came forward and shared that she was worried she wouldn’t get any film roles after turning 40. Meryl Streep’s fears weren’t unwarranted. The role offers dried up for Geena Davis after she turned 40. In fact, the only film she made during her 40s was Stuart Little, leading her to establish the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media. Naomi Watts, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nicole Kidman, Cameron Diaz, Viola Davis, Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett, and Emma Thompson have all voiced their experience of ageism and critiqued its implications of sexism and inequality. Helen Mirren went so far as calling ageism in Hollywood “f***ing outrageous”.
The experiences of renowned Hollywood actresses over 50 are backed by research. Analysing data from IMbD shows that at 30 women get 40% of leading roles, but at age 40 this drops to just 20%. Women in Hollywood also reach their peak earning age at 34, while men reach their peak earning age at 51.
Women in Hollywood receive more roles than their male counterparts early in their careers. At 30 this reverses. The number of roles offered to women starts to steadily decline, but men receive an increasing number of roles until they reach 46.
“Old age presents a set of challenges that intensify the pressures already placed on women who work in the public eye”, says Sally Chivers.
Whilst we can’t make you a Hollywood star, by joining us as a GrandNanny, you can help us challenge these ageist attitudes!
Is 2023 the turning point for older women in Hollywood?
The theme of this year’s awards season appears to be: new beginnings are possible at every age. Sheryl Lee Ralph, who has worked in Hollywood since the 1970s, received her first Golden Globe nomination at 65. Angela Bassett, previously dubbed ‘underrated’ was nominated for her first Golden Globe this year at age 64. After decades in Hollywood, Jennifer Coolidge won her first primetime Emmy and Golden Globe at age 61 for her performance in The White Lotus. Michelle Yeoh, who openly shared that her job offers were getting smaller as she got older, won her first Golden Globe at age 60.
The GrandNanny team was delighted to see these talented women in their 60s sweeping up the awards and challenging narratives on age. Michelle Yeoh smashed her fight scenes, Angela Bassett was triumphant as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Jennifer Coolidge’s comedic timings and instincts in The White Lotus left us in stitches.
British Vogue sums it up perfectly: Hollywood’s Over-60s prove there should be no age limit to success. Older women in Hollywood are sending the message that you can experience success at any age. And that you should fight back, keep going, keep taking chances, and don’t write yourself off – even if other people do.
Here’s to more new beginnings for women in their 50s, 60s and beyond… we’re here for it.
If you’re thinking about a career renaissance, we can help. You can find success (whatever that looks like for you) and fulfilment in giving childcare with GrandNanny.
GrandNanny is a social enterprise that aims to help midlife (and above) people get back into the workforce and utilise their experience to provide childcare to local families. GrandNanny champions older job-seekers finding fulfilling and rewarding work, as well as improving age-empathy in children and combating ageism in wider society.