Monday, 21 June 2010

You're showing your age

Everyone knows the first rule of etiquette - never ask a lady her age. Problem is, in these modern times, where whole world's your gynaecologist (especially if Perez Hilton's on the case), age is the least of your worries.

Nonetheless, some folks in Hollywood are getting hot under the collar about the fact that audiences might get wise to the chicken neck it's hiding. As a consequence, one of the world's most popular websites,, is coming under fire for showing artists' birth dates.

Performers and behind-the-scenes talents are up in bingo-winged arms about their true ages being revealed, not only to fans but also other industry bigwigs. It's a fair point - Lancome might be able to make Julia Roberts look younger than her niece Emma, but it's much harder to airbrush a birth certificate.

In essence, sites like IMDb are holding up a figurative mirror to these glamorous stars, and they don't like what they see in it. Interestingly, the Huffington Post chose to illustrate their coverage of this story with a screen grab of Demi Moore's page on IMDb - which lists her birthdate as '1962'. Although it's not clear whether that's BC or AD.

Age discrimination legislation is now commonplace around the world, and was introduced to safeguard workers against agist hiring policies. Technically, employers aren't supposed to ask prospective employees their age, and candidates are advised to leave their birth date off the CV.

According to the various film-making guilds, Hollywood's workforce suffers from an industrial prejudice that favours 25-year olds. The way they see it, listing someone's age on their profile page exacerbates the problem and makes it easier for unscrupulous producers and casting directors to disregard talent that's the wrong side of forty.

It's a particular problem for writers, who are expected to convincingly convey the lifestyle of people several decades their junior. One writer, Paul Levine, commented "Not that anything ever overt was said, but not one time was I interviewed by my someone my own age. I was always interviewed by people 20 to 30 years younger. It could be a problem if a show runner or his or her first lieutenant has scripts piling up, and they were trying to figure out who to interview. Looking at a credit list, if one writer is 35 and the other is 52, they're going for the 35 year old."

Unfortunately, the talents could get their own way and have their birth date expunged from IMDB, but it won't really change the underlying problem. They say you're only as good as your last job, and if your last job involved Abbott and Costello, you're going to be hard pressed convincing anyone that you're still in your flirty thirties.

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