I don’t go seeking out those Facebook “what fill-in-the-blank are you” quizzes. Even I have better things to do with my time. But if they look amusing enough, yes, I’ll take them. And one the other day was “what actress would play you in your life story?” I dutifully clicked my way through it. In my thirties. No, the actress who would play me doesn’t have an Oscar. (Though isn’t that what they’re supposed to be telling you?) No, I don’t want to pick a Spice Girl that I most resemble; what’s wrong with you people? And it came back with Meryl Streep.
I blinked. Hadn’t I clicked no Oscar? And I had. But Meryl Streep. Who is also, it’s worth pointing out, not exactly in her thirties. So what the hell, I tried it again. Giving several different answers. And I should be played by . . . Meryl Streep. The thing I didn’t change? My age.
Actually, I went on a bit of a rant about this, and I’m not sure where. I went poking around for actresses considerably closer to my age. There are more than a few, and not just because there are no adult actresses as much younger than I am as Meryl Streep is older. (Her first Oscar nomination was two years after I was born, after all.) Cate Blanchett. Kate Winslet. Hells, Jennifer Lawrence is closer to my age. Not Dame Helen Mirren, but certainly quite a lot of other women.
So what? This is all brought to mind by two things I read this week. One was a comment on The Dissolve’s article about the Razzies shortlist. Roswulf said, “Theron’s short-listing demonstrates the depressing lack of lead female roles in major movies. The Razzies are forced to mention every reasonably famous actress in a reasonably mediocre wide release, just to make up the numbers within their sad, petty understanding of badness.” Now, I didn’t see the movie in question, because I hate Seth MacFarlane so very, very much, but I still wouldn’t say the observation is wrong. I get that nominating Tyler Perry for Worst Actress is supposed to be funny, as was nominating Adam Sandler for both Worst Actor and Worst Actress for Jack and Jill. (The fact that it isn’t is a different indictment that we’ll get to another day.) As was, I guess, nominating a drag performance by John Candy in 1991. This seems to be a pattern—drag performances get Razzie nominations as women. And female singers acting get Razzie nominations and usually win.
And then there’s Russell Crowe, who thinks the problem is that actresses aren’t willing to play characters their own age. I don’t know if anyone has broken down the numbers to him, but you know, there’s a pretty decent documentary, not a great one, called Searching for Debra Winger about how hard it is to be an aging actress in Hollywood. Okay, so Meryl Streep isn’t in it. But Frances McDormand is, and you can’t accuse her of trying to play the ingenue still. Or, indeed, ever. They’ll both tell you, though—it’s hard out there for a woman.
Hey, did you know that Jennifer Connelly, who’s played Russell Crowe’s wife twice, is six years younger than he is? Not much of a gap, I know. (Now, there’s the Oscar-winning actress I wouldn’t mind playing me in a movie; she’s only six years older than I am.) And to give him his due, he’s actually had a few romantic leads in his films who are older than he is. On the other hand, they average about five years younger. Weird but true; I found like four of them born in 1969. And while the ones who are older than he is acted opposite him in his most prestigious films (and The Quick and the Dead), let’s also acknowledge that his most prestigious films were well over ten years ago.
The numbers are bad. As male leads get older, their love interests stay the same age. Sean Connery’s career is older than Catherine Zeta-Jones. Woody Allen has, thank Gods, stopped casting himself as the romantic lead in his movies, but the last time he did, he was more than thirty years older than his female costar, Téa Leoni. I like Johnny Depp, but his wife in Transcendence was two when he was in Nightmare on Elm Street. Penélope Cruz is eleven years younger than he is. Marion Cotillard is twelve years younger than he is. And Mia Waskiowska, if you consider Alice to be the Mad Hatter’s love interest? Born while 21 Jump Street was on the air.
Oh, it’s not a new problem. Consider what Margo Channing says about her husband in All About Eve–“Bill’s thirty-two. He looks thirty-two. He looked it five years ago, he’ll look it twenty years from now. I hate men.” And let’s face it, time wasn’t kind to the careers of women like Bette Davis, either. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? could get made because no one was willing to cast either Bette Davis or Joan Crawford in anything serious. And Bette Davis was hard up enough to do Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
Okay, yes. My reaction to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appearance on the Razzie shortlist was, “Oh, right, he made a movie this year.” If they hadn’t pointed that out, I might have forgotten entirely. Other than that, though, I’d heard of all the nominees. This was not true for the female nominees. Walk of Shame? They remade Endless Love? Nicole Kidman was in a movie this year? I suspect they’re just sad that there wasn’t a big drag performance they could stick in there to bulk up the numbers a bit. But no, that’s okay, Russell Crowe. Everything is fine for women in Hollywood.