Baby Boomers are now 52 and up. That means that at least 40% of our population is over 50 and most of them are women. It only makes sense that women over 40 should be represented in at least 40% of our entertainment choices...right? Not at all. In the now famous quote from Meryl Streep, she reminds us that, “Once women passed childbearing age they could only be seen as grotesque on some level." This was in response to Streep turning 40 and having 3 offers to play witches in just one year.
Thanks to media producers like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon we are beginning to see women like Judith Light in Transparent and of course Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in Grace and Frankie. Both of these series have strong female voices in the likes of Faith Soloway and Marta Kaufman as writers and producers.
As Jessica Chastain reminded us at the Cannes Film Festival, the only way to get more women on the screen is to get more female voices behind the screen. Writers, producers, directors, etc. who understand both the power and the beauty in the feminine voice through all ages will bring about this change. Only then will women portray the true women's narrative and get out of the trap of stereotyped love interests and "witches".
The Writer's Lab, a screenplay development program specifically for women over 40, is Streep's way of supporting women's voices on the screen. With her generous funding, women will be able to submit ideas and scripts and receive support in the development process. The Sundance Festival also has the Women at Sundance initiative to support women filmmakers in all aspects of the industry.
What can we do?
Women make up over 50% of the population. Together we can make almost anything happen. As consumers of entertainment, it is up to us to find and support entertainment that speaks to us as real women in the real world (unless of course you're into fantasy, then real women in the fantasy world). Start to notice when the female voices don't seem as authentic as they should. See films written and directed by women. Take notice, listen, watch and demand that we are represented authentically.
The Baby Boomer effect on the fashion industry has brought models like Linda Evangelista (42) and Pia Gronning (58) to magazine covers and ad campaigns. We want to make our purchasing decisions based on women like us. Now it's time to take that same energy to the entertainment industry where just 4% of the top money-making films are made by women directors.
Let's do it ladies.