Teresa Mathew
July 22, 2015 7:15 am

Emma Thompson recently told the Radio Times that she believes sexism is even more prevalent in the acting industry today than it was when she started out. And while part of that may have to do with the age in which she began acting—the ’60s and ’70s gave rise to second wave feminism in Britain—it’s pretty depressing to think that the industry has gotten no better than it was in the bygone era that gave unmarried women the right to use birth control.

During her interview Thompson had strong words for the way women are treated in the profession. “I think it’s still completely s*** actually,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any appreciable improvement and I think that for women, the question of how they are supposed to look is worse than it was even when I was young. So, no, I am not impressed at all…when I was younger, I really did think we were on our way to a better world and when I look at it now, it is in a worse state than I have known it, particularly for women and I find that very disturbing and sad.”

Thompson was likely referring in part to her role in her latest film, The Legend of Barney Thompson, in which the 56-year-old actress plays a 77-year-old prostitute. She admitted that the casting was “a bit ageist,” but that “it was a wildly comedic role” she couldn’t resist.

Ageism, particularly for women Hollywood, is being called out more and more. A prime example: Maggie Gyllenhaal was told that, as a 37-year-old actress, she was too old to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man. And, of course, there’s Amy Shumer’s skit “Last F**kable Day ,” in which Julia Louise-Dreyfuss, Tina Fey, and Patricia Arquette have a party to celebrate Julia’s “last F**kable Day,” (the day when the media deems an actress is no longer, well, f**kable), It’s a cutting and comedic criticism of how actresses are no longer valued once the industry has determined they have lost their sex appeal (something that men apparently hold on to forever).

Thompson is a heavyweight in the industry; she’s widely loved in Britain and America, and has been heralded as one of the best actresses of her generation. So she’s using that star power to start some conversations, especially with those who could benefit from her expertise. “I get behind as many young female performers as I can,” she continued, “and actually a lot of the conversations I have with them are about exactly the fact that we are facing and writing about the same things and nothing has changed, and that some forms of sexism and unpleasantness to women have become more entrenched and indeed more prevalent.”

Instead of blaming actresses for taking roles that pair them up with older men or make them seem older than they are, the onus needs to be placed on the acting industry itself. The fact that the industry has gotten no better and has actually gotten worse over the last three decades is a disturbing testament to the fact that directors, casting agents, and media executives could all use a little more Sense and Sensibility.

(Image via Disney)

Related:

Everything I need to know, I learned from Emma Thompson

The latest Beauty and the Beast casting news

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