Why Aren’t Women Allowed to Age On-Screen?

Source: IMDb

When Nicole Kidman accepted the SAG Award for her critically acclaimed turn in HBO’s “Big Little Lies” last January, the Oscar-winner and industry veteran praised her colleagues for instigating change, while also imploring those who run the studios to continue investing time and money in the stories of women who’ve reached middle age.

“[H]ow wonderful it is that our careers today can go beyond 40 years old because 20 years ago, we were pretty washed up by this stage in our lives. That’s not the case now,” she said. “We’ve proven — and these actresses and so many more are proving — that we are potent and powerful and viable. I just beg that the industry stays behind us because our stories are finally being told.”

“It’s only the beginning and I’m so proud to be part of a community that is instigating this change, but I implore the writers, directors, studios, and financiers to put passion and money behind our stories,” Kidman added. “We have proven we can do this. We can continue to do this, but only with the support of this industry and that money and passion.”

Yet, while prospects for women over age 40 have begun to expand, many face the same level of typecasting that’s come to define the maturing female’s career. While many are relegated to nothing more than supporting roles, others find themselves playing one-dimensional wives or mothers that contribute very little to the given film’s basic plot. Despite the fact that women — especially those with decades of life experience — are complicated, emotional, and endearing, these dynamic humans rarely star in stories of their own.

While marriage and motherhood might be part of the mature woman’s narrative, such factors often become the defining elements of the given character’s story. Judging by Hollywood’s vision, women lose their identities once they become wives and mothers. They’re devoid of any individuality and exist only to support the ambitions of their partner or child. If said woman hasn’t tied the knot or given birth, she’s portrayed as an outlier — a so-called “spinster” that’s fixated on snagging herself a husband and having a baby before her biological clock becomes a ticking time bomb that renders her undesirable by society’s standards.

Source: IMDb

Even though it’s 2018, for some reason we still assess a woman’s worth by whether or not she’s fulfilled her duty as the vessel for another life. And, if a woman has aged beyond her childbearing potential, she’s cast aside, essentially proving that society believes mature women aren’t “sexy” because the act of intercourse could never lead to new life. Thus, those women over 40 must maintain a certain aesthetic in an effort to retain this youthful appeal.

Men, of course, are allowed to age on-screen because, while actors are revered for the name they bring to the project in question, women are valued for their face, first and foremost. Only the beloved few — Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, and Judi Dench, for instance — have managed to overcome the age hurdle and find success on the other side. Even when men have lost that handsome, boyish appeal, they find new life, as male maturity often leads to more serious roles (although their love interests rarely age in unison). For men, their résumé sustains their reputation, while actresses are assessed by nothing more than their headshot.

Hollywood needs to stop fixating on sex appeal and start focusing on substance. Few films offer an intricate, complex look into the lives of mature women. For years, we’ve been forced to accept Hollywood’s caricature of the average woman, yet this trend has only hindered the way we perceive women in real life. We’ve been conditioned to expect wives and mothers to maintain a pristine exterior regardless of their actual age, which only contributes to the unrealistic beauty standards we must battle every day. Perhaps, if women on screen looked and behaved like the women we meet every day, we’d be more accepting and intrigued by those whose stories have yet to find an outlet. There’s so much untapped potential, after all, so let’s heed Kidman’s plea and put the passion where the people are.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

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‘Baby Boom’ at 30: Why the J.C. Wiatts of the World Still Can’t “Have It All”

Source: IMDb

When Baby Boom was released in 1987, public perceptions of the working woman were steadily improving. According to Pew Research Center, only 30 percent of Americans polled at the time believed women should return to their traditional roles in society — wife, mother, and homemaker — while 66 percent disagreed. Yet, while Americans were more accepting of ambitious women in theory, in practice, many continued to adhere to the antiquated gender roles that plague society to this day.

For J.C. Wiatt, played by Diane Keaton, life was all about work and climbing the corporate ladder. As the only woman in the boardroom, J.C. had essentially disguised herself as “one of the boys” until an unexpected inheritance landed in her lap — her distant relative’s orphaned daughter, Elizabeth. While J.C. attempts to juggle her newfound motherhood and manic management career simultaneously, the strain ultimately drives her to abandon city life for an old fixer-upper in Vermont’s countryside.

Once J.C. gains her footing, however, she creates an immensely successful baby food brand that causes the very colleagues who essentially chased her from her office to come crawling back on hands and knees for a piece of the proverbial pie. Yet, while J.C. holds all the cards, including the opportunity to return to an increasingly lucrative corporate job, she declines the offer, as she recognizes that her professional pursuits would rob her of precious moments shared with the daughter she’d come to love as her own.

Despite J.C.’s smart decision, her situation highlights the sort of sacrifices women must make daily regarding work-life balance. Although her story took place 30 years ago, modern society has done little to ease the burden thrust upon mothers. Women are expected to fulfill all child-rearing and familial obligations, regardless of their professional status, while men pawn off parenting duties so they can focus on “providing” for the family they rarely see. Gender stereotypes continue to impede female ambition, as women must often choose between having a family and advancing their career, unlike their male counterparts.

Source: IMDb

In 2008, Pew Research Center conducted a study to explore why so few women have risen to the top ranks of American politics and business. While both men and women (32 percent vs. 37 percent respectively) agree that women’s family responsibilities don’t afford them the time necessary to run major corporations, those seeking political careers face even greater hurdles. Twenty-seven percent of those polled said women’s family responsibilities don’t leave time for politics, while others agree that women who are active in party politics are held back by men (43 percent) and that women are discriminated against in all areas of life including politics (38 percent).

J.C.’s story has a happy ending, of course, as such movies usually do. She established an alternative way to support her family, she gained new perspective and purpose, and she found love in the arms of the local veterinarian. But even J.C.’s triumphs are merely relative compared to what so many women must forfeit in return. Society expects women to raise the next generation, but then shuns those who opt out of the workforce to care for their children. No matter how hard women try to satisfy everyone’s standards, they’re trapped in a perpetual lose-lose situation that will never improve unless we alter how we view mothers overall.

After her initial reluctance, J.C. soon discovers how rewarding motherhood can be. She comes to recognize that success isn’t always measured by paychecks and fancy titles. However, American society has yet to adopt these same realizations.

Critics are correct when they say women can’t have it all, but it’s not because they are incapable of juggling responsibilities. (Any mother would agree that juggling is just one of their many talents.)

In this case, society deserves the blame.

We can claim to value family above all else, but until we begin actively putting personal priorities ahead of professional obligations — until we start gauging success by how much love we have, not how much money we’ve earned — society will never be able to reassess how it views motherhood deep down.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Reality TV Exploits Real-Life Drama — and Viewers Are to Blame

Everyone who’s ever watched multiple seasons of any given reality show knows that the producers are following some semblance of a script. Take the “Bachelor/Bachelorette” franchise, for instance. Each season features one set of archenemies that must ultimately endure a ‘dramatic’ two-on-one date. Sure, personalities are likely to clash when living in close quarters with strangers, but this level of conflict always comes around like clockwork. Throw in some whacky professions—such as Free Spirit, Chicken Enthusiast, and Tickle Monster, for example—and you’ve got yourself some entertainment value.

But, as viewers begin to grow weary of the tiresome cycle, producers have become desperate to spice things up now and then. When Kayleigh Morris of “Big Brother” was forcibly evicted recently, the star brought attention to how eager producers are to manufacture drama, even if it’s at the expense of the cast’s reputation.

Morris told Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace of The Sun that it’s “really frustrating, as I had so many happy times in the house, but only the bad parts were aired, which I guess is the nature of the beast, but still…” Reality TV surely offers an opportunity to achieve fame and fortune for those who maintain their dignity, but those who’re targeted as villains live on in infamy, nothing more.

Nothing, however, compares to the fiasco on the set of “Bachelor In Paradise.” While the summertime offshoot never garnered quite the audience of its parent series, producers have tried to up the ante each season by cultivating the most controversial cast members of seasons past. For the upcoming incarnation, Corinne Olympios (Nick Viall’s season) and DeMario Jackson (Rachel Lindsay’s season) were set to reprise their ‘roles’ for some fun in the sun. But, just days into filming, everyone was sent home so investigators could look into claims of sexual assault involving the two stars.

Prior reports claimed that both Olympios and Jackson had been drinking excessively throughout the day, and that an encounter may have taken place while Olympios was too intoxicated to consent. Since then, officials have concluded that no such assault happened, allowing the show to resume filming ahead of its August premiere date. Olympios retained representation in order to get to the bottom of this matter, while Jackson has been dealing with the ramifications of being portrayed as a rapist, guilty before proven innocent.

While I’m not one to disregard assault allegations, for I don’t doubt that there could’ve been foul play, I can’t help but wonder if ABC will use this incident to boost its audience—and viewers are to blame.

Essentially, viewers are the addicts and producers are our enablers. When excitement from the typical drama fails to satisfy our cravings, showrunners must find new ways to draw the audience back into the fray. Each hit must be more extreme than the one prior to ensure our satisfaction. We sit on the sidelines, complaining about how reality TV has gotten out of hand, yet we still tune in to gawk as the drama unfolds.

Of course, while I’d hope that this particular case wasn’t manufactured—for the sake of assault victims everywhere—I’m positive that ABC will use this story to lure viewers, old and new, as the premiere date draws near.

However, we have the power to condemn such exploitation, and doing so takes little effort. Next time you see a Kayleigh Morris-like outburst, just change the channel.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

 

Does John Mayer Deserve Another Chance to Reinvent Himself?

Source: John Mayer’s Instagram

Back in the early ’00s, everyone in the Fairfield, Conn. region was eager to brag about their John Mayer connections. For instance, his father was my mother’s high school principal. Cue the “It’s a Small World” chorus. But when Mayer made mention of his racist body parts during that Playboy interview, Connecticut’s favorite export went from fame to shame in the blink of an eye.

Now, with the impending release of his new studio album, “The Search for Everything” promises to be Mayer’s remorseful reentry into the world of pop music. He regrets what he’s said and done in recent years and he’s ready to make amends. As he recently told The New York Times, his “GPS was shattered, just shattered” and he’s prepared to right his course and redeem his reputation.

However, for those in the limelight, second chances aren’t easy to come by, especially for someone who purposely went into self-induced exile to escape his own mouth.

Mayer told The Times that this attempt to reconnect with the pop scene reminds him of George Clooney. “There’s a guy who can make art house films and then just decide that he’s going to be in a blockbuster. I remember thinking to myself, O.K., I’m going to basically come out of retirement from blockbusters.”

But even blockbusters can’t become blockbusters if people aren’t willing to forgive and forget. Fans of Mayer’s music itself will be easy to win, but regaining the respect of the general public might not be quite that simple.

Does Mayer deserve this second chance? In short, yes.

While I certainly don’t condone his actions, it’d be hypocritical to shun his comeback before he comes back. You see, it seems unfair that men have ample opportunity to recover from their misdeeds—see Robert Downey, Jr. and Hugh Grant for reference—while women, such as Lindsay Lohan, have found it more difficult to break from their bad girl image. But dismissing Mayer’s seemingly earnest attempt would make me no better than those who shame women for far smaller offenses.

If Mayer truly means well, he should have no problem regaining the public’s approval. But if he screws up again, there’s no telling how vicious the media will be. He’s treading that thin line between love and hate, but since I still love his early work so much, I’d hate to see his (or anyone’s) potential go to waste.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

10 Actors Who’d Be Perfect for Future Disney Live-Action Remakes

Everyone’s buzzing about the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” remake. But, while critics debate whether it measures up to the original or not, many have already begun speculating which Disney classic will get the live-action treatment next. Future producers and executives, here are some names for your consideration:

Octavia Spencer as Merryweather from “Sleeping Beauty”

Merryweather’s both strong-willed and adorable, much like Spencer herself!

Jacob Tremblay as Christopher Robin from “Winnie the Pooh”

Tremblay’s got the boyish charm necessary to make Christopher Robin more nuanced than ever before.

Emma Stone as Jessie from “Toy Story 2”

From her innate sense of humor, to her expressive eyes, Stone could bring the crazy cowgirl to life without flaw.

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Find out who else made the cut here!

We All Know Why They Announced the New “Bachelorette” Early

Fans of ABC’s “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” are accustomed to the formula by now. Producers allow the current season to play out. Then, shortly after the finale—sometimes during the ‘After the Final Rose’ broadcast itself—they announce that one of the show’s most recent rejects will headline the next season.

Of course, while current “Bachelor” Nick Viall wasn’t rejected by “Bachelorette” Jojo Fletcher, his two prior appearances on the show, plus his “Bachelor in Paradise” stint, made him the prime candidate. (Or ABC knew he’d never leave them alone unless they financed his own “journey” to find love—one or the other.)

Yet, despite causing much drama during both Andi Dorfman and Kaitlyn Bristowe’s seasons, Viall’s own adventures have been rather bland by comparison. ABC was probably banking on ratings gold, but even Chris Harrison can’t claim it’s the “most dramatic season ever” at this point.

That’s probably why ABC announced Rachel Lindsay will be the next “Bachelorette” an entire month before the finale—and long before her own “Bachelor” elimination, oddly enough.

When ABC revealed its choice, critics were thrilled that producers made this diverse casting decision. (She’s the first black lead in the show’s 20+ season history.) Bachelor Nation sighed one collective “FINALLY!” into the void, and that was that. But deep down, it’s not hard to see why ABC bucked tradition and made this announcement before Viall and Lindsay’s inevitable break-up: They wanted to boost Viall’s ratings!

By announcing Lindsay’s upcoming role before her exit this season, producers were able to redirect viewers’ waning interest from this season’s lackluster lead to next season’s groundbreaking star. Even those who’d become bored with Viall’s relatively by-the-book season gained renewed interest because they wanted to learn more about Lindsay.

Producers claim this announcement came earlier than usual in an effort to cast an exceptional array of men, but it’s obvious that they wanted people to invest in Lindsay’s “journey” long before those limos pull up in front of the “Bachelor” mansion next season. Viewers witnessed her heartbreak after the overnight dates and now viewers cannot wait to see Lindsay pursue love on her own terms.

ABC will do whatever it must to keep this stale series fresh. In this case, their strategy just might work.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)