A letter from the editor, Lesley Jane Seymour
Unfortunately, sexism is not new to Hollywood. Back in 2015, Patricia Arquette created a tsunami of outrage when she referenced the scandalous fact that most female actresses are paid significantly less than their male counterparts during her acceptance speech for the Oscars. “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” she said. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” The wonderful bare-faced Frances Mcdormand brought down the house during this year’s Oscar broadcast when she asked everyone to ask for an “inclusion rider” in their contracts so that there would be both gender and racial equality in future productions. Sexism explains why the movie industry keeps churning out dumb movies about superheroes meant only for our teenaged sons—Hollywood’s most coveted audience. And why it ignores a vibrant, movie-loving audience like us! As Little Miss Sunshine writer, David T. Friendly, noted in the June 19, 2011 edition of the Hollywood Reporter, before the all-female cast of the hit Bridesmaids blew past the $100 million mark in just 23 days, “getting female-driven comedies to the big screen has been as hard as selling Disney an X-rated movie.”
Now throw in ageism–which is so rampant in Hollywood that you regularly see Gumby-like faces distorted by over-use of injectables or the sad, unrecognizable visage of Kim Novak at the 2014 Oscars. Ageism is so noxious that even a gifted star like Meryl Streep admitted she was shocked to be working at 60 by being “given great, weird, interesting parts well past my ‘sell-by date’.”
When I took over More magazine in 2008, it had established a habit of putting an actress’s age on the cover. This middle-finger to the taboo of aging was a draw for readers, who often wrote in saying it made them feel great that so-and-so “was 51–and still looked great.” But it also meant that the Hollywood agents who’d adored me when I was Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire—where I could put their aspiring newbies on the cover—now treated me like I had head lice at a hat party. I was particularly confounded when superstars would declare they “loved turning 40” on the cover of a fashion magazine, but would decline to do a More cover because as one agent put it to me “she isn’t quite ready for that yet”—as if More was the last stop before the glue factory. Finally, one agent friend explained that aging actresses faced real financial danger because in the majority of contracts, leading men would demand that their scripted love interests “be at least 15 years–or more–younger”! I took age off the More cover.
For that reason, I hope you’ll applaud women like Caytha Jentis (see interview below), who are fighting the good fight to keep women of all ages visible on the screen. I laughed out loud while watching her video series called “The Other F Word” because she captured many hidden moments in our real lives. She even showed me a clip of an upcoming episode which includes a former magazine editor reinventing herself as an Uber driver who picks up her former assistant as a client. Let the laughter begin.