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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Should an actor keep his or her age a secret?

You may have heard about the actress, known at this point only as “Jane Doe,” who is suing IMDB for revealing her age on the site. It’s not just a matter of vanity, CinemaBlend.com notes:

One thing she intentionally did not include in her profile was her real age and birthday, concerned that those revelations might hurt her chance of landing certain roles. She was understandably upset when that info subsequently popped up on her profile anyway, revealing, as the suit puts it, “that the plaintiff is many years older than she looks.” The suit claims the revelation of her real age will hurt her career on two levels: potential employers might decide she’s too old to get roles she looks young enough to play, but she looks too young to play roles in her actual age range.

This is even more damaging to IMDB:

Moreover, the actress is alleging that the age info was obtained by IMDb by doing record searches using the credit card she used to pay for her membership.

If the actress did not supply her age, then the IMDB certainly had to find it out some other way. Does the site have investigators who run down the ages of actors? That’s really creepy.

Anyway, now it’s gone beyond this one actress. From AFP:

LOS ANGELES — Two powerful US actors’ groups condemned the main movie industry website over its policy of giving artists’ ages, saying it was facilitating discrimination in the business.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) spoke out days after a US actress lodged a $1 million lawsuit against Amazon, which owns the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

“An actor’s actual age is irrelevant to casting. What matters is the age range that an actor can portray,” the two groups said in a statement.

“For the entire history of professional acting, this has been true but that reality has been upended by the development of IMDb as an industry standard used in casting offices across America.”

It noted that IMDb and IMDbPro publish the dates of birth of “thousands of actors without their consent, most of them not celebrities but rank-and-file actors whose names are unknown to the general public.

“When their actual ages then become known to casting personnel, the 10+ year age range that many of them can portray suddenly shrinks, and so do their opportunities to work.”

This seems perfectly reasonable.

On the other hand, one way to overcome the age discrimination actors often face — especially women actors — is to have everyone’s ages known. If everyone who can play 30 is actually 45, then nothing will really change, will it?

Of course, it wasn’t up to the IMDB to make the decision to reveal everyone’s ages, and the invasion of privacy side of the matter is of enormous concern. But if we take that part of the issue out of the equation:

Should an actor keep his or her age a secret? Does revealing ages work only if everyone reveals his or her age?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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