Can a Newly Enacted Law Actually Eliminate Age Discrimination in Hollywood? - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
23588
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-23588,single-format-standard,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,select-theme-ver-3.3,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.12,vc_responsive
 

Can a Newly Enacted Law Actually Eliminate Age Discrimination in Hollywood?

Can a Newly Enacted Law Actually Eliminate Age Discrimination in Hollywood?

The age discrimination that permeates Hollywood is well known throughout the industry and the public, so much so it is even satirized, such as in Amy Schumer’s viral parody entitled “Last F—able Day.”1 The sketch, which has several million views on YouTube, finds Amy casually hiking when she runs into Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette, and Julia Louis Dreyfus celebrating Julia’s last day as an actress who could believably play a love interest in Hollywood.2 Fey explains that there are subtle indications that hint to an actress when she has reached this point, jokingly stating, “You know how Sally Field was Tom Hanks’ love interest in Punchline, and then, like, 20 minutes later she was his mom in Forrest Gump?”3 Through a satirical lens this sketch highlights this kind of age discrimination that is unfortunately still pervasive in Hollywood.

 

One response to such age discrimination comes in the form of AB 1687 which Governor Jerry Brown of California signed into law in September 2016.4 The law requires certain entertainment websites, such as IMDb and Studio System, to either remove or not initially post an actor’s age or date of birth upon request.5 While it seems exceedingly unlikely that this law would benefit famous actors who have been in the spotlight for years and whose ages are common knowledge, California Assembly majority leader Ian Calderon argues it might prove to be useful for actors getting started in the industry from being excluded from castings simply because of their age.6 Gabrielle Carteris, current President of SAG-AFTRA and arguably best known for her role on Beverly Hills, 90210, argues that she would not have been given an audition for the role of a sixteen-year-old had they known she was actually twenty-nine years old.7 She maintains that the prevalence of electronic casting sites nowadays negatively affects actors as they push actors’ ages and birthdays on casting agents who may not even be looking for that information.8

 

This law will become effective on January 1, 20179 so the actual effects of this legislation are still unknown but it may be a step in the right direction, especially with regard to unknown actors looking to build their résumés. Whether or not this law will survive to that point is also up in the air at the moment as it has drawn legal criticism as to its constitutionality. Floyd Abrams, a famous First Amendment attorney, told The Hollywood Reporter that “[t]he statute seems to me of the most dubious constitutionality…Birth dates are facts. It’s hard to see how the government, consistently with the First Amendment‎, can bar or punish their disclosure.”10 Earlier this month IMDb filed suit against California Attorney General Kamala Harris, intending to overturn AB 1687 by arguing that instead of passing legislation that will actually help to eliminate age discrimination the State has limited the public’s access to factual information.11

 

Though this law does seem to move the industry in the right direction, its constitutionality is questionable and its potential beneficial effects may not be known for years. Hopefully the entertainment industry will find more ways to combat age discrimination enabling actors to land roles solely based on merit.

 

Russell Schneider

Russell Schneider is a second year student at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. Russell is also a member of the Fordham Moot Court Board and Fordham Dispute Resolution Society. He has a B.S. in Policy Analysis & Management from Cornell University.