Calm down dear, it’s only a movie

// 25 May 2008

Inevitably there are loads of reviews of the new Indiana Jones movie doing the rounds at the moment (IMDB link here, may contain spoilers) – and many of them seem intent on slamming it for its over-reliance on CGI effects and implausible storyline. And there was me thinking those things were prerequisites for Hollywood blockbusters…

What I am interested in is the number of comments to the effect of how great Harrison Ford looks for his age (65). I’m all in favour of mature actors still finding gainful employment in their sixties – for example de Niro and Pacino. But I just can’t bring to mind any female actors in their sixties who are still playing leading roles.

Ageism? Sexism? Maybe both. It’s almost as if it’s okay for the old guys to relive their glory days, they’re obviously still young guns at heart, yay them for being up for it, ra ra ra – but if you’re a female actor, even over 40 (and that’s pushing it), you have nothing left to offer?

Eye candy, anyone?…

(Cross-posted at bird of paradox)

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 25 May 2008 at 11:07 am

Interesting how the focus has been on Harrison Ford’s age and how good physically he supposedly appears. Sounds to me like a clear case of justifying why an obviously elderly male is still trying to fool viewers his real age is still around 40! But then of course, all women actors are ‘over the hill’ once they reach that elderly age of 35+. After all a female actor’s sole talent lies supposedly lies in her physical youthful sexualised body. Male actors of course are all individuals with immense skills and expertise hence the reason why Ford despite his age is still portrayed as never having aged and is still a youthful 40 (sic). Bias and male discrimination against female actors – of course not. Just that screenwriters and Hollywood believe films are for male entertainment and therefore female actors below the age of 35 are ‘male sexualised commodities.’

Tom Hulley // Posted 25 May 2008 at 11:12 am

What’s ‘woman actress’ about? Belt and braces?

I thought ‘actor’ was used by women nowadays as it means someone who acts. ‘Actress’ was designed to marginalise like all the other ‘-ess’es.

Once women are considered for best actor awards instead of the residual ‘actress’ one then they will have equal status in the profession. Meanwhile Susan Sarandon and Shirley Maclaine, among others, outstyle the dilapidated Harrison Ford. Maggie Smith and Judy Dench from the UK also keep going impressively.

Best regards, Tom.

Glenn // Posted 25 May 2008 at 11:31 am

Dame Helen mirren, Dame Judy Dench and Julie walters may dissagree with your statement that society thinks “if you’re a woman actress, even over 40 (and that’s pushing it), you have nothing left to offer”

Helen G // Posted 25 May 2008 at 11:31 am

Tom: My apologies. I meant no offence to you or anyone else with my thoughtless use of the word “actress”. I have now amended my post using the phrase “woman actor” and trust this is acceptable to you.

Helen G // Posted 25 May 2008 at 11:35 am

Glenn: Not a statement, a question. At least, it is in my original post…

Tom Hulley // Posted 25 May 2008 at 11:41 am

No offence at all, Helen! The term just did seemed awkward in a piece about women being sidelined, as they often are, in entertainment.

It is good to think about language but I would not want to impose my preferences on anyone.

Jess // Posted 25 May 2008 at 11:49 am

OK, so I saw Indy on Friday night and was pleased to see Karen Allen (aged 56, I believe), as Marion Ravenwood once again.

She’s still quite a bit younger than Harrison, of course, but still, at least they didn’t drag in a much younger actress to reprise the role of love interest.

More of a problem was that… well.. her character goes from pissed off to fawning over Indy almost immediately. She gets some good action sequences, but… well…

Frankly, the film is only watchable at all if you steer your mind quickly away from the shit bits (the scene with the monkeys! oh my god!), and the offensive bits (e.g. the Indians in the Latin American scenes…)

Jess // Posted 25 May 2008 at 12:00 pm

@Glenn & Tom,

The problem is, Hollywood is heaving with older male actors scoring a wide range of parts in all sorts of movies. The number of women actors still working into their 40s and 50s and 60s is much, much smaller, and the parts they are offered are much less varied or interesting.

Hazel // Posted 25 May 2008 at 12:56 pm

Hollywood has very little to offer women full stop. If you want to see more than the occasional good role for women you have to turn to TV or to independent cinema.

May I recommend Melissa Silverstein’s excellent blog on this subject called “Women and Hollywood” (

Seph // Posted 25 May 2008 at 3:34 pm

While there are older female actors in Hollywood, they tend to only get roles specifically for older women (e.g the Queen) or get stuck playing a background ‘aged and wise’ character.

Wheras older male actors are still getting action hero roles, Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford are both past their prime and playing action heroes. Ian Mckellen and Christopher Lee (in their 60s and 80s, respectivly) are still getting roles thrown at them left right and centre.

Another thing i’ve noticed is there are certain older male actors (Val Kilmer and John Tavolta spring to mind) who’ve become rather chubby, and are still getting job offors.

monty // Posted 25 May 2008 at 3:40 pm

i can’t believe you didn’t mention marion, why no marion? Noting her presence would hardly be a spoiler. Hardly a balanced post when you neglect to mention they brought back the female lead from the first film.

Amanda // Posted 27 May 2008 at 11:11 am

I thought the fact that they used Karen Allen was actually pretty revolutionary. Putting aside her admitedly limited charaterisation it was great to see an older woman in that role. Ok so I have a lot of problems with the female sidekick in films like this but a big part of the problem is the way in which they are ditched at the end of each film and replaced with a younger and sexier model. I thought it was great that they actually portrayed an older woman in a meaningful relationship with the hero. It wasn’t great but it seems a step im the right direction.

Kuja // Posted 27 May 2008 at 3:46 pm

It’s probably because younger male actors are expected to play tough, strong characters while younger female actors are expected to look attractive. When it gets to older actors, it seems to be less about the looking good and more about fitting the part.

It must be hard to make the transition; if Julie Walters had started off being mindless eye candy, would she still be a respected actor today? Most of the ones who are used for their looks will fade when they age, but the ones who establish themselves for other reasons will (hopefully) stick around.

Headey // Posted 27 May 2008 at 6:17 pm

“I saw Indy on Friday night and was pleased to see Karen Allen (aged 56, I believe), as Marion Ravenwood once again.”

3 cheers for Ms Allen. I thought she was the best ‘love interest’ in the whole series. Sad to hear she ‘fawns’ over Indy, but I hope she insisted on showing the (mostly) gutsy character she did in the first film.

monty // Posted 28 May 2008 at 1:06 pm

hmm, i’m still wondering why karen allen was left out of this blog post. It seems like a glaring omission to me.

Helen G // Posted 28 May 2008 at 1:33 pm

Monty: It was an oversight on my part and I apologise.

BrevisMus // Posted 5 June 2008 at 2:43 pm

Coming late to this because I only saw the film yesterday.

Actually, I didn’t think Harrison Ford looked that great for 65! But I was pleased that the love interest was an older woman. It would have been easy for the filmmakers to replace Marion with some young hottie (hey, the rest of the film was completely implausible, what more did they have to lose?), and I like the fact that they didn’t.

(and whilst we’re being nitpicky – woman in a noun, not an adjective, so the phrase is ‘female actor’)

Helen G // Posted 5 June 2008 at 2:53 pm

BrevisMus: Thank you for pointing out my error, and my apologies – I haven’t acquitted myself very well in this post, that’s for sure…

BrevisMus // Posted 5 June 2008 at 5:20 pm

Sorry Helen – I didn’t want to be critical, but female/woman is one of my bugbears :)

Helen G // Posted 5 June 2008 at 5:30 pm

BrevisMus: No, you’re absolutely right to point it out – and it’s good for me to stop and think about these things…

Interestingly, I spotted a poster this morning for a new war film called something like “The Female Agent” – I spent the rest of my journey wondering if “The Male Agent” would have been considered, so I guess I was thinking about that usage, even though I hadn’t got it straight in my own mind.

belledame222 // Posted 7 June 2008 at 1:25 am

I just mostly thought it was a) racist as all hell b) feeling kind of phoned-in, for the most part. Don’t care about Harrison Ford’s age, but the franchise is really creaky. So’s Spielberg for that matter, as far as I’m concerned. He hasn’t really evolved so much as gone sour.

Lynn Angela Pisco // Posted 17 June 2008 at 10:17 am

I think it doesn’t matter how old both Karen Allen and Harrison Ford turned out to be one of the most respected actors of all time. Actually they seems to be more older and wiser at some point but whenever you watch them do these action scenes from this particular movie, they are absolutely awesome to do their own creative old school stunts work apparently come on now . Karen Allen is in the best shape ever no doubt at her age of 56 hasn’t change much since then . Harrison Ford in the other hand has still got it going on with his own fresh style like the whip and fight scenes as well . I think they will continue to do whatever it takes to make sure their fans enjoyed the wild ride for the next chapter and then let see if Marion Ravenwood herself can have her own fight scenes once and a while cause hey you will never know what’s going to happen within the future .

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