Jamie Denbo is speaking out against sexist age restrictions in Hollywood. The actress, known for her role as Ginsberg on Orange Is the New Black, posted a series of tweets Wednesday after she was told she was past the age limit for a role.
“I was just informed that at the age of 43, I am TOO OLD to play the wife of a 57 year old,” Denbo wrote, following it up with, “Oh, the characters also have an 18 year-old daughter. I am TOO OLD to be the mother of an 18 year-old.”
The actor in question, whom Denbo doesn’t name, is already cast – and she hasn’t missed the fact that the request for his onscreen wife’s age limit doesn’t match his real-life situation.
“The real wife of the 57 year-old actor is EASILY AT LEAST 50. But this —- wants to be tv married to a 38 year-old -TOPS,” she tweeted.
Sadly, I am not surprised to read this. That’s how Hollywood is. I noticed on Twitter that now many fans are trying to figure out who the male actor in question is, since Denbo still refuses to identify him, but I feel like that’s the wrong focus anyway. Shaming one actor isn’t going to change the bigger problem. Hollywood regularly casts older men with much younger female love interests, just as a matter of course. We’ll rarely see the dynamic reversed, with an older woman and significantly younger man, unless the film is specifically about the age difference between the woman and the man.
Maggie Gyllenhaal raised the issue a couple of years back when she claimed that at age 37 she was considered too old for the role of a 55 year old man’s girlfriend. Yet that same year, 24 year old Margot Robbie got to be the love interest of 46 year old Will Smith in FOCUS, a year after she played the wife of 39 year old Leo DiCaprio in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (in real life the characters they played were the same age). It’s also been noted how A-list actresses like Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, and Scarlett Johansson are routinely cast alongside much older men.
This is a cousin of the frequent trope I’ve noticed on TV sitcoms, in which men are routinely cast with much more attractive women as their wives. If you’re chubby, schlubby, “everyman” Kevin James, your sitcom wife will be hot, specifically she’ll be significantly thinner than you.
With co-star Erinn Hayes in current sitcom KEVIN CAN WAIT
With co-star Leah Remini in previous sitcom KING OF QUEENS
For the record, I’ll also point out the Remini is 6 years younger than James, while Hayes is 12 years younger than him. That’s right, from one sitcom to the next, Kevin James got older, his TV wife got younger…
Matt Feeney did a great article about the Chubby Husband/Skinny Wife sitcom trope on Slates years ago: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.
However, if the wife is a big woman on a sitcom, she’s rarely getting a skinny husband. No, she’ll get a husband who’s even bigger than she is (so the wife is still skinnier).
I don’t have any big moral conclusion to this. Just that I think that this is one more example of ways in which women still have a long way to go in our society.