If there's one bright side to all of the problematic aspects of Hollywood, it's that it gives us no shortage of things to talk about. There's the underrepresentation of women in film production (and women on the screen, especially hanging out with other women). There's the underrepresentation of people of color. And now this Sex and the City actress is bringing yet another Hollywood shortcoming to the forefront of our minds: Kim Cattrall is talking the sidelining of older women.
Youth and American culture has always been in an interesting relationship. We commodify it. Every beauty product promises to make you look years younger, reduce wrinkles, hide those imperfections that would reveal you to be older than some unfair cut-off point between acceptable and old. Unlike in other cultures, where with age comes wisdom, in America it's more like with age comes worthlessness. It's even more true in the media. After all, what's the most coveted demographic for television shows and movies? 18-24.
Cattrall is looking to take her own step toward changing that stereotype. She is executive producing and starring in a Canadian remake of a BBC series called Sensitive Skin, which deals with a woman going through a mid-life crisis and her slightly dysfunctional family. She plays a former model who is aging out of the times when she was admired and worshipped for her looks, dealing with all of the internal and external complications that come with that.
"Do you know how it feels to be 54 and marginalized?" she snapped in a rant in 2011. "It doesn't get easier as you get older."
Whether she was just having a bad day or whether working on the show has helped her feel more in control of the situation, Cattrall took a more sedate stance on Hollywood ageism when she discussed Sensitive Skin in a keynote talk on Monday. "Women my age have very much to say," she said. "But unfortunately this business doesn’t recognize that."
She has a point. Maintaining a career past a certain age in Hollywood is treated like an accomplishment rather than an expectation. We look at people like Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep and are continually shocked that they are 58 and 64 respectively, because most of the stories being told on the silver screen these days concern 20 somethings playing teenagers. There seems to be a glass ceiling of adult stories that Hollywood is willing to tell before they believe that no one will watch it and it's a glass ceiling that only a few shows, like Golden Girls, have managed to breech.
Whether Sensitive Skin is a hit in Canada or not, this is a discussion that Hollywood needs to be having. The Justin Biebers and Lindsay Lohans of the world are teaching us about the consequences that fame and youth can have on each other. How about throwing some focus on the other end of life and reminding Americans that getting old is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of?