There is one thing for certain that most everyone seems to agree on: Age discrimination has existed and continues even to this day in Hollywood. How to combat it? That’s about where most of the agreement ends.
SAG-AFTRA, Hollywood’s biggest actors union, believe the key is making the ages of people working in the industry much harder to find. And it’s why the union was a major support of California Assembly Bill 1687 that would force Internet Movie Database to remove ages of actors and crew people upon request.
In a filing opposing IMDb’s constitutional challenge to the law, the union cited a number of cases where actors and others working on television and film were overlooked, simply because they were too old. Maggie Gyllenhaal once complained she was rejected for a love-interest role with a 55-year-old actor, because at 37, she was deemed to be too old.
A study last year cited by SAG-AFTRA’s attorneys showed that less than 26 percent of female characters in television and film are over the age of 40, while for men, it’s nearly 75 percent.
And others beyond actresses also suffer. The older writers get, for example, the less employable they seem to become, the union claims. Making ages easily attainable on sites like IMDb simply enables such discrimination to continue, the union claims.
Probably even worse for IMDb is that the union claims the Amazon-owned website has approached its lawsuit with “unclean hands,” claiming that despite the law banning ages from IMDb going into effect at the beginning of the month, the website has yet to comply by removing ages.
Even the AARP – a non-profit advocacy group for people over 50 – is stepping up against IMDb. In a “friend of the court” brief, AARP said age and birthdates are not considered public information, citing court cases that prohibited government agencies from releasing ages of government workers. However, the advocacy group said the same principles would apply even to a private company like IMDb.
“A state may protect individuals’ privacy interests by prohibiting the involuntary disclosure of their age or birthday without offending the First Amendment. Protecting the unwanted disclosure of private information by a commercial employment service is especially important for entertainment industry workers, such as IMDb subscribers.”
A federal judge in the case has yet to make any substantial rulings on IMDb’s challenge of the California law, but the first major hearing is set for Feb. 16 in San Francisco.
IMDb sued California in November, claiming the law requiring them to remove age information from its website to be unconstitutional. California government officials responded by claiming the lawsuit violates sovereign immunity.
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