Monday, February 15, 2016

Supplemental Post #5: Ageism for Heroines in Hollywood

While watching North by Northwest, one of the things that struck me in the most unfeminist manner is that I was surprised at the age of the heroine Eve Kendall. Although undeniably talented, beautiful and very much one of Hitchcock's icy blondes, the actress Eva Marie Saint is older than the heroines we currently see on screen today. What struck me doubly was that at one point Eve Kendall stated she was a 26 year old working woman, when Eva again didn't look the age. When I checked, Eva Marie was indeed about 35 years old at the time when North by Northwest came out, and must've been around the same age when the movie was filmed.

This seemed incredibly evolved from a modern media point of view. Of course it would've been best for the 35 year old actress to play an unashamedly 35 year old character, but it's still more than we see today. Today, not only is it difficult to see women in their mid-30s as the main, sexy actress in a film, but it's even more difficult to see someone in her mid-30s playing the part of someone almost ten years younger. While that may be the case for television, as 28 year old actresses play 18 year olds and warp our view of how teenagers really look, todays leading vixens for the big screen are turning barely 30: say, Scarlett Johansson (31), Megan Fox (29) or Blake Lively (28). Their careers are probably also about to decline because of it.

While on the Ellen Show, Megan Fox even commented on how being nearly 30 disagrees with her ( She makes a face when Ellen brings it up, and then comments about how when she was younger, being 30 sounded so weird and old, and the idea of approaching 50 or 60 sounded like she'd be ready for hospice care. The article with the clip doesn't fail to point out that that's the sort of attitude that prevents older people from being seen as valid as their younger counterparts. Not to mention, that's the same attitude that feeds Hollywood's machine for pretty young things and which will one day soon ruin Fox's careers after she crosses the age line. We can see it in the ridiculous script descriptions which Ross Putnam posts in @femscriptintros (, with introductions for women often along the lines of "undeniably beautiful". "30s, beautiful but pissed", "mid-twenties, of indeterminate ethnicity, an ice-cold beauty" or even "20s, a neighborhood girl with fuck me eyes for him".

Actresses like Megan Fox or Blake Lively are also women cast mainly for their looks and their youth,  like the majority of female actresses today, without regard to their talent as they accessorize films with male superheroes protagonists and multiple explosions. When the films do attempt to show depth, some like in Black Widow's case resort to an old trope of a woman discovering she is infertile. Many of the characters lack the complex nature of Eve Kendall's character and relationships, and although not as central as a character like Bette Davis' Charlotte Vale or Joan Crawford's Mildred Pierce, Eve Kendall is still smart, strong, conflicted, courageous, and a milieu of other adjectives which lack in today's female characters, especially supporting ones.

What happened to the days when female actresses could be cast great roles past their 20s? Will they ever come back, and possibly even evolve into characters that are in their 30s and 40s and sexy, successful, happy and don't have their entire self worth linked to whether they can bare children or not? Because we certainly don't see male characters weeping over that issue.

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