Hollywood’s Band-Aid for Age Discrimination in Hiring

hollywoodThere’s more than a hint of unreality about a California law intended to deter age discrimination in the film industry.

A bill recently signed into law  by California Governor Jerry Brown  allows actors to demand that their ages be removed from leading casting web sites, such as Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

As if the information isn’t easily discoverable in other ways and venues.

The sad reality is that reading a posting of the age of an actor on IMDb is one of many ways that potential employers can ascertain an individual’s age. And removing age from IMDb’s database will be an inconvenience, at best, to a casting agent who is seeking an actor’s age.

What about the date of a writer’s first screenplay credit or an actor’s first role in a television show or movie? Should this information also be deleted from the Internet? What about Wikipedia, which includes the ages of actors?  It is easy to estimate the age of most actors just by looking at their face.

Where does it stop?

Banning the publication of an actor’s age is not an efficient or effective way of deterring age discrimination in hiring.  That’s because the problem isn’t a number on a web site but implicit bias and prejudice. That’s what needs to be addressed.

Things will change when audiences complain or boycott a production in which a young women plays the romantic lead for a male who is 20 or 30 years older.  Things will change when age discrimination is recognized and condemned.

Another problem that is somewhat unique to Hollywood is that federal courts have overwhelmingly refused to interfere with “casting” decisions, even in so far as  “casting” weather personalities on local television shows. No judge wants make a producer hire Betty White to play the part of Annie.

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