Ageism in Hollywood and beyond: ‘Is it so horrible for a woman to be older than a man?’

Sadly, I was not shocked to hear the news that beautiful, sexy Hollywood movie star, Maggie Gyllenhaal was deemed too old by Hollywood producers to play the ‘love interest’ of a 55 year old man.

“I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

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Even outside Hollywood women face the ageism barrier, particularly when it comes to their romantic and sexual relationships.

I was in a loving relationship with a man only a few years younger than me, yet while I was living in India (which admittedly has a long way to go on gender equality in many areas) our age difference was often commented upon despite the fact that there were hundreds of men in the community with women who had the same, and even greater, age difference. It was also often assumed that I had pursued the younger man, when in fact it was the other way round.

Fortunately, European films are slightly better when it comes to representing women in terms of age, appearance and so on. Although even French-Italian actress and style icon, Isabella Rossellini felt compelled to ask the question “Is it so horrible to grow old?” when an audience member suggested that advances in special effects technology could keep an actress forever young onscreen.

The day that women over the age of 30 are not represented as ‘old’ and ‘past it’ by mainstream media; when 40+ year old women are cast (regularly) as the lovers of a 20-30 year old men, AND it is seen as normal, is the day when women might finally be getting some genuine equality on the age issue.

Until then, Hollywood film fans will have to look forward to more movies like these 17 Movies that Show Ageism is Alive and Well in Hollywood.

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