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Ageism in Hollywood: A systemic problem, or simply the Free Market speaking?

Christopher Harris

I find myself increasingly being drawn towards investigating issues where people are attempting to use Government to address and resolve issues that, in my opinion, are things that should fall solely under the purview of the Free Market. Take for example, a 2011 lawsuit filed against the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and it’s parent company Amazon.com, by actress Huong “Junie” Hoang. In her complaint filed in federal court, Ms. Hoang claimed that because IMDb insisted on revealing her age on her profile, it harmed her career, causing her to lose opportunities because “In the entertainment industry, youth is king.”  In April 2013, a jury decided that Ms. Hoang did not have a valid case, and decided not to award her the $1 million she sought in the case.

I also ran across this recent video article from Forbes Magazine entitled, “A Legal Battle To Combat Ageism in Hollywood” that asked the question, “Can ageism in Hollywood be tackled in court?”.

I’m a little confused as to why this is something that is being battled in court? Maybe I’m wrong, but from where I sit, this seems to be much more of an issue to be handled by the Free Market, and through social pressure, more so than through force imposed by Government. I mean, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Aniston are in their late 40’s.

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How long do you think it would take to figure out that Sandra Bullock, Salma Hayek, and Halle Berry are in their 50’s?
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They all look phenomenal for their age, and in many cases, they put women to shame who are literally half their age…but their age is their age. The world moves and grows because of competition, and they are competing against women who are much younger than them for a limited number of roles.

Instead of looking at women as the sole “victims”, maybe folks should stop and think about the fact that every role that “old men” take…they are “taking” roles away from young men!

For example, look at the Top-15 highest box office grossing males in Hollywood. Here are their names, ages, and the number of $100 Million “Blockbuster” movies they have starred or been featured in.
Tom Hanks (age 60) – 19 movies
Samuel L. Jackson (67) – 18 movies
Morgan Freeman (79) – 17 movies
Tom Cruise (54) – 17 movies
Jonah Hill (32) – 14 movies
Jon Favreau (49) – 14 movies
Adam Sandler (50) – 14 movies
Eddie Murphy (55) – 14 movies
Hugo Weaving (56) – 13 movies
Ben Stiller (50) – 13 movies
Will Smith (48) – 13 movies
Steve Buscemi (58) – 13 movies
Harrison Ford (74) – 13 movies
Gary Oldman (58) – 12 movies
Jim Carey (54) – 12 movies

Then, there are guys like Sean Connery (age 86), Jack Nicholson (79), Al Pacino (76), Robert De Niro (73), Samuel L. Jackson (67), Denzel Washington (61), Johnny Depp (53), and Robert Downey Jr. (51), who are all mega-stars, who continually get prime roles, and can easily be accused of “taking roles away” from the young guys out there…but you don’t see or hear about young Actors complaining about being discriminated against because of their youth.

Here is the bottom line, and folks need to recognize this butt naked honest truth!! If older Actresses were more marketable…then maybe they would be marketed more!!

There are only four (4) Actresses in Hollywood who have “starred” in ten (10) or more “Blockbuster” movies. Meanwhile, there are thirty-one (31) Actors who have done so. Here are their names, ages, and the number of $100 Million “Blockbuster” movies those Actresses have starred/played in:
Bonnie Hunt (age 55) – 11 movies
Cameron Diaz (age 44) – 10 movies
Julia Roberts (age 48) – 10 movies
Helena Bonham Carter (age 50) – 10 movies.

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**Of those four ladies, Bonnie Hunt is the “poorest” one, with a net worth of $20 Million.**

To round out the Top-Ten Actresses with “Blockbuster” movies, you have Judi Dench (81), Jane Lynch (56), Emma Watson (26), Anne Hathaway (33), Dana “Queen Latifah” Owens (46), and Jada Pinkett Smith (45).

If you want to know why Hollywood has this whole “Ageism” thing going on, ask yourself this really simple question. “How often has my husband/boyfriend/father/brother/son been excited to leave the house and go see the latest movie STARRING Helena Bonham Carter, Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts,  Bonnie Hunt, OR ANY movie STARRING one of the Top-Ten grossing Actresses?!?!?!”

There is your answer for the whole “Ageism” thing??

If you want to see more of a particular demographic represented on the big screen, then show and prove that there is a market demand to see that particular demographic represented on the big screen more often. However, the simple fact of the matter is, half the population has little to no desire to watch these Actresses perform. It’s nothing personal, it’s just Free Market at work. So please, quit running to Government to fight all of your battles. That’s like bringing a flamethrower to a squabble between toddlers. Nothing good is going to come from that.

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