Some people would argue that the film industry has a problem with ageism when it comes to women. However, despite the pandemic, 2021 will be remembered as the year that mature women finally became visible to Hollywood, as well as popular on British screens.
From Frances McDormand to Youn Yuh-Jung, actresses over 50 stole the show at the recent Oscars. What’s more, at the BAFTA TV Awards 2021, Helena Bonham Carter, Claudia Winkleman, Rakie Ayola, Golda Rosheuvel, Sophie Okonedo – considered the grandes dames of the British TV industry- have not only stolen the attention of the media on the red carpet with sassy and colourful style but they also showed to everyone that confidence is the best dress you can wear, no matter what your age.
According to the Telegraph: “Out of concern for future roles, or fear of ending up on worst-dressed lists, they rendered themselves joyless; interchangeable. What’s interesting is that so many of the looks embraced by the 50-something set likely would have been dismissed as ‘too mutton’ for them to consider wearing in the past.“
However, even though there are more midlife stories of resilience, passion, reinvention and courage on the screens, there is still quite a lot to do to turn the tide.
“There are few films made about women who are trying to remain in love with the same person 20 years on, and all the beauty and the challenges that might involve – says Ella Alexander, Harper’s Bazaar’s Deputy Digital Editor-. Little is said about the resilience of women who have managed to keep their children alive while nursing terminally ill parents. Or the brave, brilliant women who every day stuck two fingers up to what society expected of them, who never married the wrong man but stayed single“.
Last year, a study by the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media found out that female characters over 50 are four times likelier than men to be depicted as senile or frumpy and twice as likely to be shown as physically unattractive or large-bodied. They are also 69.5 per cent likelier to be shown as sickly and seven times likelier to be portrayed as housebound.
It’s time to change the narrative.