Add ageism to the list of Hollywood's problems

New research claims of 1,250 roles in 'Best Picture' nominees, 33 were played by women over 60

Add ageism to the list of Hollywood's problems

Michael Keaton (centre) was the only actor aged over 60 to lead any of the films analysed [YouTube]

In perhaps unsurprising news for an industry so obsessed with youth, a new study claims that the Hollywood film industry has a serious problem with ageism.

As carried out by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the research reveals that among the 25 feature films nominated for ‘Best Picture’ at the Academy Awards in the last three years, less than 12% has characters with names or speaking roles for people aged 60 or older.

In total, of the 1,250 characters analysed in the 25 movies, 148 were identifiable as being over 59 years of age, with only 33 played by women. Beyond age and gender, the study also found that 90% of the characters were white, none was Latino, and none was LGBTQ.

Furthermore, only one film in the 25 nominated had a senior playing the lead, with Michael Keaton doubling up on both Birdman and Spotlight, both of which took home the Academy’s biggest prize on Oscar night.

More diverse diversity

“When we think about diversity, we often talk about including the usual suspect of race, gender, sexual orientation, people with disabilities, but age is often left out of the conversation,” study author Stacy Smith told Variety.

“It’s a missed opportunity for Hollywood. These are people with disposable income and time on their hands to view and stream and download films.”

After repeated years of the #OscarsSoWhite scandal, in which no other races than Caucasian were nominated in acting categories, the Academy voters have found themselves in a more pluralist place in 2017, though the lack of older actors in the films nominated is surprising given that the vast majority of Oscar voters is over the age of 50.

The silver lining

A positive to take from the USC study is that the number of female roles in films has begun to increase, despite other studies claiming the opposite; more than a third of speaking parts in the ‘Best Picture’ nominees are played by women. 2017 will also prove to be a year for greater diversity, with Moonlight and Hidden Figures vying for ‘Best Picture’, both considered strong contenders to steal the La La Land limelight on February 26th.

“These findings suggest that Hollywood is capable of making and recoginising the merits of films that reflect the reality we see off screen,” the USC study says.

“However, there is still more to be done to ensure that the portrayal of seniors in movies matches the world we inhabit.”

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