With the topic of sexism in the movie industry continuing to become more prevalent than ever, an increasing number of prominent voices are speaking up on the matter. Veteran actress Emma Thompson recently contributed to the conversation, publicly condemning the astonishingly sparse state of female film roles, holding little back.
In an interview with Radio Times, Thompson wastes no time in letting it be known that she thinks very little of what the industry is currently offering female actresses. Oddly, as much as attitudes towards women have evolved over the years, she says things have worsened in this particular arena. According to Thompson:
I don’t think there’s any appreciable improvement, and I think that, for women, the question of how they are supposed to look is worse than it was even when I was young. So no, I am not impressed, at all. I think it’s still completely shit, actually.
Thompson’s comments are rooted in the idea that actresses continue to find themselves fighting for roles that are primarily dependent upon how their exterior comes across. Whether that image pertains to an aesthetic of beauty or even something unflattering, the prevalent idea is that the movie industry rarely casts women for roles based primarily on the qualification of their actual ability to effectively play the part in question. Thus, for women, the idea of even a generic role is a rare phenomenon. For example, an ass-kicking femme-fatale character CAN’T be anything but stunningly sexy. Even a seemingly innocuous female character role like, say, a scientist, is more likely to be filled by a leggy twenty-something starlet.
Consequently, the industry creates very few options for actresses old enough to have spent time evolving their craft, since such actresses would not fit Hollywood’s superficially sexualized mold of how a woman is supposed to look. As Emma Stone recently learned with the controversy surrounding Aloha, that can manifest in race, as well.
For the 55 year-old Thompson, this aspect of the industry is actually far worse than it was when she was a young up-and-coming actress. Solidifying this claim is the recent public conversation surrounding the age gap between male leads and female love interests, which has come into focus in a number of instances. In fact, an annual report conducted by San Diego State University provided statistical proof across Hollywood that the number of male leads increase as they get older, while their female counterparts are, oddly enough getting younger.
Maggie Gyllenhaal allegedly learned this lesson the hard way. She recently revealed how she lost a part due to the rather shocking reason that the 37-year-old actress was believed to be too old to play the love interest for the film’s 55-year-old leading man. While she declined to divulge details on the context of that particular role, it is nevertheless a rather vexing situation. Helen Mirren also reiterated that point, identifying the continually younger love interests provided for the "more geriatric" lead of the James Bond franchise as a primary offender.
For Thompson, the phenomenon has left her altering her process for picking roles, as she has publically stated that she tends to avoid big studio productions, lest she fall into the trap that plagues aging actresses who have invested themselves into a craft that, over years, seems structured to yield little in return. However, having added powerful thoughts to the conversation, her known gravitas has surely contributed positively.