How old are you? What? Really? Oh, okay. See, here’s the problem—you can’t lie about your age anymore! No more shaving five, ten, fifteen years off of your real age. I know, I know, it hurts, doesn’t it? But there’s nothing to be done because on June 19th, 2020 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals maintained a lower court’s ruling that a California law barring websites like IMDbPro from publishing actors’ ages is unconstitutional. The original legislation sponsored by SAG-AFTRA, AB 1687, requires subscription-based entertainment casting/hiring databases to remove paid subscribers’ date of birth from its websites upon request. This is a whole lotta gobbledygook, but the bottom line is IMDb has the right to publish your age once a profile is created in your name. Ouch!  

Obviously, this puts actors who can play a wide range of age groups at a distinct disadvantage. You might be 38 years old but can easily play characters in their mid-twenties. However, with your biological age posted on IMDB for the whole world to see, casting directors, producers, and creatives might be less inclined to call you in for a graduate-school hedonist or a fearless punk rocker. Conversely, at 38 years of age, the decision-makers might also be less apt to cast you as an esteemed professor or corporate CEO, as late-thirties could be construed as too young for those particular roles. 

In her assessment of the case, Judge Bridget S. Bade wrote, “Unlawful age discrimination has no place in the entertainment industry or any other industry. But not all statutory means of ending such discrimination are constitutional. Here, we address content-based restrictions on speech and hold that [the law] is facially unconstitutional because it does not survive First Amendment scrutiny.”

But SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris disagreed vehemently. “We’re very disappointed by the decision, but it changes nothing about SAG-AFTRA’s commitment to change IMDb’s wrongful and abusive conduct. Neither I nor our members will stop speaking out until this outrageous violation of privacy used to facilitate discriminatory hiring ends,” Carteris said. 

This particular ruling seems to impact the working actor, or those who’d like to become working actors, much more than movie stars and celebrities. Nobody in Hollywood really cares that Keanu Reeves is actually fifty-five-years old. Or that Halle Berry is 54. Or how ’bout Joseph Gordon-Levitt? He’s forty years old and looks like a college kid. The A-listers have a host of opportunities and projects to pick from.

But the unproven actor, the up and comer, the diamond in the rough, the indefatigable scrapper needs every advantage available to book jobs and to get on set. Becoming a successful actor is, in large part, a numbers game; the more auditions one attends, the greater the odds of booking the spot. So, narrowing the possibilities through age discrimination can have a real impact on actors’ goals, ambitions, and ultimately their careers. And it can be argued that a person’s age is really nobody’s business. It’s no secret that ageism in Hollywood has been a longstanding issue for actors and actresses alike.

But think about how popular and influential the Netflix series Outer Banks has been this year. The teen adventure drama found itself in Netflix’s top-ten shows for weeks on end. But guess what? Those kids are not teens. Chase Stokes, the show’s centerpiece and star, plays a seventeen-year-old lovestruck boy, but he’s actually 27 years of age. Now, his age didn’t seem to preclude him from auditioning and getting the gig, but it very well could have. As well, the other cast members are in their early twenties, even though they portray high schoolers. 

That being said, in defense of IMDb and other theatrical databases, they’re trying to print accurate information about the talent they feature. And posting an actor’s age might keep everyone in the industry more honest. Besides, it can be rather obnoxious when actors play parts they’re obviously too old to pull off. That kind of casting can take the audience out of the moment in record time.

So, what do you think? Should actor databases have the right to post an actor’s age? Or should they mind their own darn business?

 

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