Hollywood hiring practices are so blatantly sexist that the ACLU has requested state and federal agencies launch an official investigation into the entertainment industry. But in case you were still wondering, Wait, maybe sexism in movies isn’t so bad or I’m sure it’s not a problem for movie stars, just for up-and-comers, well, here is a really fun needle you can use to burst that blissful bubble.
In an interview with The Wrap, Maggie Gyllenhaal revealed that she was “told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55” which is to say, a man nearly two decades older than she is. “It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”
Anyone paying attention to the pairing of men and women in movies shouldn’t be too stunned by this still appalling information. Vulture quantified this all-too-common phenomenon two years ago, “Leading Men Age, But Their Love Interests Don’t,” charting how male stars like Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford and Johnny Depp are routinely cast opposite female love interests 20 years their junior. The opposite setup rarely occurs, unless an older woman scandalously shacking up with a younger guy is the entire point of the movie, as in Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman in The Boy Next Door.
Why is this the case? When men make most of the decisions, male fantasies — or some extremist version of cis, straight, white, male fantasies — are what get portrayed on screen. In 2013 and 2014, only 1.9 directors of the top-grossing 100 films were directed by women. So schlubby, stoner bros find love with lithe, lovely blondes, and male action heroes who still remember a time before the internet continue to seduce and score costars young enough to be their daughters.
In silver lining news, Gyllenhaal is one of a handful of high-powered actresses to speak publicly about the double standards of the industry. Anna Kendrick told Glamour that she’s currently considering a film “where I have to wait for all the male roles to be cast before I can even become a part of the conversation. Part of me gets that. [But] part of me is like, ‘What the fuck? You have to cast for females based on who’s cast as males?'” Cate Blanchett quipped to Vogue Australia that “women don’t stop consuming cultural product once they stop menstruating,” in response to a question about whether women in Hollywood too old to be considered sexy by men are forgotten.
And Amy Schumer, truthteller of our times, premiered this season of her show with a sketch called “Last Fuckable Day,” in which Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette all toasted the end of what media deems the end of their sexually attractive years. When Schumer’s character asked, “Who tells men when it’s their last fuckable day?” everyone laughed. “They’re fuckable forever. They could be a hundred, nothing but white spiders coming out, but they’re fuckable.”
Then Arquette says she didn’t book a commercial for AARP “because the director said I was too old to play Larry King’s wife.”
Such a good joke.