Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

March 20, 2016

DOOLITTLE | It’s Not the Years, It’s the Mileage: Ageism and Sexism in Hollywood

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I have already gone through the seven stages of grief for Indiana Jones. In the eight years since the lackluster reception and, if I may say, gratuitous backlash to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I had accepted that my favorite cinematic character was dead and buried, interred until the inevitable reboot resurrection returned the whip-cracking archaeologist to the silver screen. Shia LaBeouf pre-not-being-famous-anymore had been set up as the likely standard bearer, or perhaps Chris Pratt would pick up the fedora, but someone had to replace Harrison Ford, who had long expressed a disdain for returning to popular roles.

On Tuesday, Disney and Steven Spielberg announced that they were going ahead with the long-gestating fifth Indiana Jones movie, to be released in 2019. Of course, this was to be expected: When Disney bought out Lucasfilm in 2012, they acquired the entire Star Wars saga and the ability to print money, but also the rights to any future treks for the globetrotting acquirer of rare antiquities. What came as a complete shock, however, was the revelation that Harrison Ford himself would be stepping into the boots at least one more time. Moviegoers rejoice! With a clear production plan, we can safely assume that this glorious news will actually come to fruition. One problem.

Harrison Ford is old AF.

Seriously, this guy will be 76 when this movie is scheduled to release. He doesn’t seem that old because he wears earrings and crashes airplanes into golf courses every other week, but he is. He gets crotchety with teleprompters. He broke his leg trying to get into the Millennium Falcon. I hear he asks for the senior discount at movie theatres. Remember when Sean Connery played Harrison Ford’s dad in The Last Crusade? He’s only 12 years older than him — granted, Sean Connery looked 75 for 40 years — and he retired 13 years ago! Ford’s not simply old, but terribly reckless and possibly thrifty. Can we assume this movie will be made even though, as former Arts Editor Kaitlyn Tiffany put it, “HF will definitely be dead by then”? Maybe Disney is doing this for the insurance policy, some femme-fatale in a modern-day Double Indemnity.

There comes a time in every actor’s life when they need to take a step back and ask, “Is it believable for my flabby old man hands to throw a Russian terrorist out of Air Force One?” I could never ask Harrison Ford to stop acting altogether, but to continue making action films exclusively seems like a bit of a stretch, no? Eventually the tired, grumpy expression and overall paunchiness of old age ruins the immersion of swinging over chasms and piloting starships. Harrison never made the leap to playing typical old guy parts, and at this point I doubt he ever will, because he’s not really old, just his body.

I cannot help but think about whether or not we’d even be having this conversation if Indiana Jones was a woman (and how cool would a female Indiana Jones be?!). Of course a 73-year-old actress would be too old to play the lead in an action movie, no question about it. Older female actors are required to make the leap into typical old woman parts — main character’s mom, stuffy spinster — or face unemployment, unless you’re Meryl Streep. Not everyone is asked to star in Ricki and the Flash.

For some reason, Hollywood believes that 73-year-old men are still smuggling rathtars across the galaxy and getting nuked in fridges, but 73-year old women are sitting around and slowly getting dementia or while the men in their life do far more interesting things. Actors have the luxury of picking their roles to suit their interests; if Harry wants to star in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Prunes, he can, for his starpower wills it to be so. These roles simply don’t exist for older women.


Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

I am reminded of the infamous comments Russell Crowe made last January, when he told reporters, “To be honest, I think you’ll find that the woman who is saying that is the woman who at 40, 45, 48, still wants to play the ingénue, and can’t understand why she’s not being cast as the 21-year-old.” Crowe, who you may remember as the one mediocre singer in Les Misérables, has always strictly abided by his own age when it comes to casting, like when he played real-life boxer James J. Braddock in Cinderella Man — who, in 1935, became heavyweight champion at age 30 — at the very accurate age of 40. Or when he played real-life mathematician John Nash from age 18 to 66 in A Beautiful Mind, all from the tender age of 36.

It’s honestly asinine to think that female actors should have to observe some arbitrary age limitations based on, let’s face it, unabashed sexism in the industry, while male actors get to play far under their age on a daily basis. I needn’t even bring up the claims that leading men age while their female love interests seem to remain the same age, but I will anyway. Harrison Ford is one of the worst offenders, consistently co-starring/making out with actresses 10 to 20 years his junior. Sure, he had youthfulness during his Star Wars days, but even then he was 41 when Return of the Jedi came out and Carrie Fisher was only 27. That just makes the entire romance seem kinda weird now.

I’m just tired of seeing old men romp around with their wrinkles and have all the fun, Expendables-style, refusing to let it go, while women age out of Hollywood by age 50. Honestly, I actually have some respect for Sly, who has let go of Rocky the boxing champion who beat Apollo Creed and the communists and embraced Rocky the sad old man who wears fedoras and has cancer. That’s more akin to what actresses his age get to play, so it’s only fair.

Sean Doolittle is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]Pulp FictSean runs alternate Mondays this semester.