could removing actors' ages from imdb combat hollywood’s ageism?

New legislation in California hopes to address discrimination faced by aging actors.

by Wendy Syfret
26 September 2016, 4:25pm

Winona Ryder playing a much older version of herself in Edward Scissorhands. Image via Youtube.

The entertainment industry's issues with ageism are well documented, insidious, and difficult to address. But over the weekend some progress was made when California Governor Jerry Brown signed a piece of legislation that requires entertainment sites to not disclose an actor's birthdate.

From the beginning of next year, entertainment database sites like IMDB will need to remove references to an actor's age. To be clear, this is only for pages that allow subscribers to post information about themselves to attract employment — the rest of the internet will be free to obsess over dates.

The move has been widely supported among the actor's union, and was initially championed by former SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard. When he passed away in March, his successor Gabrielle Carteris took up the cause. In the days since the legislation passed, she's said she believes it will, "help prevent age discrimination in film and television casting and hiring." The change hasn't been universally supported, though. Some critics have called it a suppression of free speech, and a top level response to discrimination.

Pre-internet, age was a rather fluid concept in Hollywood: from Joan Crawford to Sandra Bullock, actors often added or subtracted years to make themselves more appealing to casting directors. Those who support the change argue that it will allow them to be judged more fully for their work and performances, and not have to worry about being dismissed for parts they may be perfect for. 


Text Wendy Syfret