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No Shocker - Hollywood is Sexist and Ageist

by Melissa Silverstein
February 17, 2011 4:55 AM
8 Comments
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I spend a lot of time talking about the plight of women directors, but make no mistake it is just as bad for women writers. The latest statistics show that only 10% of the top 250 grossing films released in 2010 were written by women. That in no way counts the movies written about women, these are just the movies written by women.

But is is hard to get people to be honest -- at least in public -- about how women are treated in Hollywood, at least in public. Now long-time screenwriter Tracey Jackson (The Guru and Confessions of a Shopaholic) has divulged a few dirty secrets about how hard it is for a woman of 50 to get a gig as a screenwriter in Hollywood in her memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place - Why Fifty is Not the New Thirty.

This past weekend there was an excerpt in Salon and in it she talks about how she had become so desperate it got for her that she started pitching films like "Dan Parker: Attorney at Paw." Yikes.

Here's her comment about being a fifty year old female screenwriter:

There is something about this that is surprising yet com­pletely predictable at the same time. In Hollywood thirty is con­sidered eighty, especially where women are concerned. This attitude tends to affect actresses first, but the second group on its hit list is usually writers, particularly those who write comedy, a genre not very friendly to women to begin with. So, being a female comedy writer, I should not have found it so much of a shock when I suddenly found myself jobless, with few prospects in sight.

Hollywood is one place where experience, especially for women, is devalued. She's right. When she was 40ish and writing Confessions of a Shopaholic (which got made) and The Ivy Chronicles (which didn't) she was already old by Hollywood's standards. That sucks. Look at David Seidler the writer of The King's Speech - the guy is at least in his 70s and he is being greeted as the second coming. Granted, he wrote an awesome script and will probably win an Oscar, but he has a bunch of crap on his resume too. (He's probably not announcing that the credit right below the King's Speech on imdb is Kung Fu Killer.)

I feel bad that after 20 years she can't get a gig, and I fully believe that a woman should be able to make commercial crap just like any guy. And yes, probably a younger woman or man is going to get the writing gig on the next Shopaholic movie if there is one. But honestly, for me, I am much happier in a world without Confessions of a Shopaholic Part 2. Maybe Ms. Jackson will take this opportunity to write an indie, and maybe she'll even write it to star some women her own age.

That's a movie I'd see.

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8 Comments

  • Emily Abt | February 20, 2011 12:23 AMReply

    Love the pink list idea!

  • Elisabeth Fies | February 19, 2011 10:30 AMReply

    This article reads very "blame the victim" to me. Don't assume she doesn't have a dozen wonderful Oscar-caliber screenplays sitting in her closet because no one will read them. All the working screenwriters I know do...and they can only get paid work from Hollywood on sequels and board game movies.

  • Lila | February 19, 2011 9:22 AMReply

    If we don't let mature people work in the industry, we're not going to be able to make mature products. I'd like to see lots more films being written and made by mature people, because quite honestly I'm tired of having most of what I see and hear being the opinions of, or the kind of brainless dross that caters to, people who are inexperienced, usually selfish, and generally immature.

  • diane Meier | February 18, 2011 11:51 AMReply

    Completely agree - but -- what are we going to do about it?

    We're a reasonably articulate, proportionally dominent segment of a seriously significant audience.

    We have wallets and voices and pieces of paper and computers and phones - smart and otherwise. So - we're armed and dangerous.

    But first we've got to have a plan.

    Come on, guys - surely we can begin to move the needle on this stuff if we act together...

  • dusthim | February 18, 2011 6:46 AMReply

    I think it is unfair to castigate this woman's film; at least she got one made.
    There was a large lawsuit which attacked many of the studios for not hiring
    writers over 50 in the TV industry. And, there are many more older women characters on TV as a result. Can't we do the same with Hollywood/screenwriters?

  • Sally | February 18, 2011 4:40 AMReply

    Well the problem is that it usually takes at least ten years to learn how to write and have a shot at a career. So if it's game over by 30/40, that's not a very long shelf life.

    It's no accident that the King's Speech is doing so well financially. The screenplay is fantastic. You cut out the over 40 set and you lose the best writers (male or female) and end up with crappy unwatchable films...that lose money.

  • melanie | February 18, 2011 4:11 AMReply

    This is why we need to start the Pink List!!

  • Jesse Westbrook | February 17, 2011 10:22 AMReply

    Not only sexist and ageist, but exploitative and manipulative of everyone else. It mirrors the economic, political, and psychological conditions of America. They say all they want to do is make more money, but in fact, they conduct and read surveys according to their own strong biases. "They" includes me, since I work incognito in the Industry....At least we don't jail the bodies of fimmakers, like Iran and China. We just jail their creativity and minds, and allow them to live very luxurious lives....It's just the international anti-human condition.

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