Liv Tyler just joined a bunch of other post-30 women in speaking out about how there are too few Hollywood roles for older women. I always read what the women say because the aging process for women is so difficult. I want to know how other women handle it. I want to know if there is a secret to aging gracefully.
I see the first step is something like what Giselle did, wearing a burka to get plastic surgery. But sooner or later, you really end up facing a choice: Do you let yourself look older than 35, or do you redo your whole face?
When people say Renee Zwelleger looks like a completely different person, I think: Yes, that’s true. But so what? She decided to have a pre-35 face and a post-35 face. You can do that. If you’re willing to change your face, you can stay looking 35 for a pretty long time.
But Liv Tyler brings up a problem with that: “The only roles for a 38 year old woman are wives and girlfriends.”
I thought about that, and I though: OMG that’s how it should be. When I was filming for my reality TV show, the person bidding at TLC (I wish I knew her name, I quote her all the time) said that successful characters are remarkable and relatable.
That’s true for reality TV. (It’s why Hoarders can’t just show you 50 dead cats in someone’s freezer—they also tell you how the person’s father died right in front of her when she was a young girl and that made her scared to let go of anything that is dead.) But it’s also true for movies and television. Even something as not-like-us as the characters in Star Wars are, at their core, very relatable. Even Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) had to talk all the time about dating in 30 Rock because otherwise it would seem like there’s something wrong with her that she didn’t want to love someone.
Men don’t need to see themselves reflected back to themselves in a relationship. They need to see themselves reflected back as some sort of hero. Women want to see themselves reflected back as being competent in relationships.
That will be the most controversial paragraph in this post, I think. So I’ll defend it here: The vast majority of women want to have kids. This is not a right or wrong desire, it just is. If most women want kids then most women aim to be with a partner by the time they are in their early 30s because that’s baby-making time for women. This is why a middle-aged man who is not a husband in a movie seems fine. He has time, and men relate. But a middle-aged women who is putting her career before her family is not relatable to most women because most women don’t want that.
Pew Research says the vast majority of women who are mothers want to work part-time. Of course there are few part-time jobs that are worth featuring as a focal point of a movie. In fact, there are few part-time jobs that are even interesting enough to get women out of the house to do them unless money is very tight in the family.
So there are probably film roles for women who are really poor, going to work to support their family. But it’s not going to be pretty. It will either be a boring job because the woman does not have access to resources, or it will be a dangerous job, but then the movie will focus on the woman as a mother because that’s the only way to justify doing a dangerous job.
Liv Tyler also said that when women get older, interesting roles crop up again. That makes sense. Because that’s exactly what I’m thinking about my own life. And all the other moms I coach are thinking that as well. Raising kids is rewarding. But while you love your kids so much and blah blah, no one could think that the day-to-day life of a mom is interesting. It’s monotonous and difficult and unglamorous. So women think the movie of their own life will get interesting when their kids grow up, and they like seeing that in a movie.
I’m sorry to tell this to Liv Tyler, but it’s time to take care of kids. You can’t have a big career and be there for your kids. Listen to Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman. They are saying exactly what women in business are saying: you have to make hard choices.
Maybe it’s a gift to women that there are no good roles for women while they are raising kids. It gives them a break to raise their kids, which actually is probably what they want.
Hollywood is just like business because the women who are most satisfied when it comes time to have kids are the ones who had a big career in their 20s. Look at Jennifer Lawrence, or Anne Hathaway. They both say they want kids and they are preparing to scale back their career to do it. That’s what happens in business as well.
I always say that it doesn’t help you to think you’re special. It’s helps to look at everyone else who is like you. And this is true for all those Hollywood starlets. They’re just like you and me.