January 31, 2018
Hollywood’s age cap on conventional female attractiveness has always been unfairly low when compared to male actors. Netflix appears to be disrupting this industry norm as well.
It just launched a 13-episode reboot of Norman Lear’s long-running 70s-80s sitcom, “One Day at a Time,” co-starring 87-year-old Rita Moreno as an “old-school” Cuban-born mom who hardly looks or acts her age.
The SVOD behemoth earlier this month bowed season four of acclaimed comedy, “Grace and Frankie,” co-starring timeless Jane Fonda (who just turned 80) and 79-year-old Lily Tomlin. Both actors shine with their 77-year-old male counterparts, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston.
But they’re all “teens” compared to Betty White, who at age 96 has inked a deal to reprise her role in a reboot of “The Golden Girls.” The original 80s series co-starred Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty and Rue McClanahan, all of whom have died.
It’s a strong statement in an industry obsessed with youth and millennial indifference toward tradition. A Time magazine study found female actors’ careers peak at age 30 in the number of roles available, compared to age 46 for male actors. The study found that while Sandra Bullock generated more paying roles (14) than George Clooney (2) at age 29 – at age 38, Clooney generated 11 roles compared to six for Bullock.
To watch Moreno guest-star on an episode of “Grace and Frankie” is to watch time stand still. In a career that spans almost 70 years, Moreno held her own among strong personalities Fonda, Tomlin, Marsha Mason (75) and Swoosie Kurtz (73).
Indeed, series creator Marta Kauffmann (“Friends”) has made a point to comedically showcase yesterday’s female (and male) stars coming to grips being seniors in a tech-savvy age — a dilemma no one can escape.
But will Hollywood take note?
Michael Pachter, media analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, says that while Netflix is again pushing the envelope, he believes Fonda, Tomlin, Moreno and White are outliers in an industry still preoccupied by youth.
“The biggest appeal of age is relatability to the target audience, so I presume these actors resonate with a demographic that Netflix is trying to capture,” Pachter said.