Ronni Bennett at Gnomedex 2007
The World’s Oldest Blogger

Audience Discrimination in Hollywood

category_bug_ageism.gif Not long ago Julian, who blogs at The Tattler, discovered a disturbing new practice (is it a trend?) taking place in at least one preview screening in Hollywood.

“I wasn't upset by the fact they asked for my name; after all, common sense dictated that they probably needed it to identify me for their guest list.

“But, I paused when I noticed they wanted me to disclose my race and my gender!

“The one that really packed the punch was the notice that the individual making the reservation provide the age of the parties who were requesting to be put on the guest list.

“The film company was limiting entrance to those who were 17-50.”

The film in question, The Kingdom, is directed by Scott Stuber, produced by Michael Mann, distributed by Universal Pictures and stars Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. The plot, according to the Internet Movie Database, involves “a team of U.S. government agents...sent to investigate the bombing of an American facility in the Middle East.”

Julian tries to guess the reason for the age limitation:

“Are they afraid that the violence onscreen may induce a heart attack? If so, what a presumption!

“Or that citizens over 50 may not be able to fathom the issues pertaining to terrorism, race, or sensitive political tensions in the Middle East?…

“Maybe, they don't want to turn off a younger audience by seating them alongside a bunch of grey hairs, with wrinkles, in the audience?”

Julian then goes into an excellent dissertation on ageism in which he writes in part:

“Ageism, however, is different from other isms (sexism, racism, etc.), for primarily two reasons:

First, the individual may be ageist with respect to others. That is they may stereotype other people on the basis of age.

“Second, the individual may be ageist with respect to self so ageist attitudes may affect the self-concept.

“We live in a culture that reveres youth. To be young is to be alive, sexy, and full of energy. To be old is to be ‘senile,’ ‘worthless’, and having ‘one foot in the grave’.

“This is the attitude most often seen in modern society.

“In general there are at least nine known major stereotypes that reflect prejudice towards senior citizens.

“These include illness, impotency, ugliness, mental decline, mental illness, uselessness, isolation, poverty and depression.

“This discrimination allows the rest of us to separate ourselves from older people and view them as less than fully human.”

Although these points have been made here at Time Goes By many times, I have never said it better than Julian has.

Just when there appears to be some progress - when mainstream media occasionally takes the issue of age seriously without jokes or smirking, when young technologists at Gnomedex greet my presentation on elder technology with eagerness, and when a few corporations are beginning to see the value of retaining and hiring older workers - Hollywood dictates that only young people may see a movie.

As far as we know this proscription against elders is confined to one private screening in one theater in Hollywood. Public theaters restrict some movies to people older than 17 with various R and PG ratings, a system that was instituted due to pressure from parents. Are we now looking at the future possibility of an E rating? No one older than 50 admitted?

Let’s all boycott The Kingdom when it comes to a multiplex near us. And you might want to go thank Julian for his terrific rant against ageism. [Warning: light text on dark background]

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Alice (Graham) Pasupathi makes amends (sort of) for her dastardly deed in the desert in Confessions of a Nature Lover.]


Age should not enter into a person being able to view a movie !!

Hurrah for Julian!

Frankly, I rarely go to movies anymore unless I can go to the latest show. I just wait for the video so I can watch without distraction. Kids, this is a theater not your living room. Call me a cranky old broad but I don't need the distraction of children playing and talking on their cell phones.

That's not the kind of film I'd go to anyway, wouldn't even rent it on a DVD and would not have when I was younger. I wonder, don't know, but could it be that the previews were aimed at those they expect would go or do go most frequently to a particular type of film. If it was truly advanced screening or maybe even free, maybe they were asking them to give opinions on how well they liked it. Sometimes advances even change a movie's ending or so I have read. Obviously, I do not know their reasoning and maybe it was ageism but if it's economics, then they just wanted what they believed to be their market. I do notice when I go to movies, which is rarely, that age is a factor in who is there. When I saw YaYa Sisters on one of its first days, the whole theater was older women and a few men. With the Shrek films, it was mostly families with kids. Obviously since I go to few films, I am not an expert on this but if it was a marketing reason, then it's the cold nature of what makes money or who will buy something.

Am I being a bit simple or is it just possible that the screening people thought that those of us over 50 might be less likely to go see it? Therefore they had pre-profiled their possible audience to get a reaction.

Hollyweird only wants young empty headed celebrities, terrorists and thugs not to be discriminated against. Everybody else is fair game.
Julian truly hit the nail on the head.

This kind of thing has been going on for years; we lived in LA for 7 years and every time we walked on the 3rd St. Mall in Santa Monica there would be people w/clip boards offering tickets. And yes, they asked age and race and gender. BUT one additional consideration is that YOUNG PEOPLE GO TO MOVIES LOTS OF TIMES. If they like them the create the blockbusters because of their habit of going often. IF seniors spent the money they'd be in the choice demo. It's not like TV where advertisers don't want to look like their products are only for "old people" -- that's bad. This however has an empirical underpinning and, strategically we need to understand it, I think.

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