Barely a week goes by without a high profile name voicing their anger at how sexist and ageist Hollywood is. Despite it being 2015, women in their thirties are deemed too old to play the love interest of a fifty-something man, the gender pay gap is alive and kicking, there are fewer films with a female lead today than in 2002, and there are still alarmingly few female directors.
Jennifer Lawrence recently penned an essay on the gender pay gap for Lena Dunham's newsletter Lenny, after the Sony cyber attack leaked emails revealing that her male co-stars were paid more than her on American Hustle. “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likeable!” she wrote. “F**k that!”
Here's what other leading ladies and gentleman have had to say on the issue of sexism and ageism:
"It's still completely s**t. I don't think there's any appreciable improvement and I think that, for women, the question of how they are supposed to look is worse than it was even when I was young. So no, I am not impressed, at all." - Radio Times, July 2015
"To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's rights. It's time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America." - Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech at the Oscars, March 2015
Meryl Streep was a big fan of that one, and rightly so:
“Hollywood is run with this male point of view. Even if a woman runs a studio, she still does it with a male point of view. As long as that exists, you're still going to have this wish fulfilment. That men continue to be fascinating and attractive and virile, and women age and are no longer sexual or beautiful - it's a fantasy that has nothing to do with reality.” - The Wrap, May 2015
"It's f**king outrageous. It's ridiculous. And 'twas ever thus. We all watched James Bond as he got more and more geriatric and his girlfriends got younger and younger. It's so annoying." - The Wrap's Power Breakfast, June 2015
"There are a lot of roles that come in that are 'the girlfriend' or 'the hot piece'. It will say 'Derek: intelligent, good with kids, funny, really good at this' and then it will say 'Sandra: hot in a sort of cute way' and that's all you get." - London Evening Standard, August 2015
"When men - producers- say, 'You're old' to me that is the most laughable f**king ridiculous thing a moron could ever say. By the time you're 28 you're expired, you're playing mommy roles. We're not the ones putting ourselves in those places. We're allowing ourselves to be put in those positions. I just won't allow it." - The Telegraph, July 2014
"I have read a lot of scripts where the girl is just there to be the girl. It is an issue for me. It's not even about 'strong, female characters'. People think that means badass girls with guns - which is really fun to do sometimes - but it's just about women being portrayed as real humans. Real, complex, interesting humans." - The Independent, September 2015
"Thank you to the audiences who went to see Blue Jasmine. And perhaps to those of us in the industry still foolishly clinging to the idea female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round people." - Best Actress acceptance speech at the Oscars, March 2014
“Sexism is a big problem in Hollywood. Boys can talk about sex and have sex in films and it's cool but when girls to it they are just sluts. It's so prudish and puritanical. Hollywood is difficult for women - people making films want super-hot, young girls and then there are fewer great roles for women aged over 40.” - London Evening Standard, July 2015
"I have such a strong sense of self, there are certain lines I just won't cross. I'm really picky about the parts I choose. I can't be the slut. I cannot be just the girlfriend. I can't be the girl who gets empowered because she'[s been raped. I can't be the girl who gets empowered and then dies." - NJ.com, March 2015
“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time. I'm 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.” - The Wrap, May 2015
"When I was growing up in the film business I never saw a woman's face. Sometimes it was the lady who played my mom or occasionally it would be a makeup artist but most often it would really just be me and the script supervisor. Little by little, as time went on, a few female faces started coming onto crews, and it changed everything." - Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech, Athena Film Festival, February 2015
"I was a movie star and I produced a lot of my own movies, but I am 77-years-old now and those opportunities just aren't there. Ageism is alive and well. It is okay for men to get older because men become more desirable by being powerful. With women, it's all about how we look. Men are very visual, they want young women. So, for us, it's all about trying to stay young." - The Telegraph, May 2015
The strongest female characters in TV and film
The strongest female characters in TV and film
1/21 Elsa in Frozen (Idina Menzel)
This Disney hit does not involve Prince Charming coming to the rescue of a princess in distress. Instead, it focuses on the bond between two brave sisters who are far from defined by the men in their lives. Then of course there is the anthemic "Let It Go", sung triumphantly by Elsa as she decides to claim ownership of her identity and accept herself for who she truly is, regardless of hate from others.
2/21 Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones (Emilia Clarke)
The most credible contender for the Iron Throne is the diminutive yet fiercely powerful Daenerys.. She conquers armies, kingdoms and hearts by sticking to her principles, inspiring loyalty and remaining likeable as Khaleesi (Queen) despite making tough decisions to retain her stranglehold on the nations she commands.
Home Box Office
3/21 Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (Jennifer Lawrence)
Katniss draws upon her own resources for survival. Easy to underestimate on appearance, she more than proves herself with courage, intelligence and an impressive ability to think outside the box.
4/21 Ellen Ripley in Alien (Sigourney Weaver)
Often considered one of the best female protagonists of all-time, Ripley was one of the first heroines not to be defined by the men around her or by her relationship to them. The film was also praised for challenging gender roles.
20th Century Fox
5/21 Peggy Olson in Mad Men (Elisabeth Moss)
Peggy is promoted to become the first female writer at Don Draper's advertising firm since World War II. She hates double standards in the treatment of men and women and is a fierce gender equality supporter. Not just an innocent and pretty face.
6/21 Ryan Stone in Gravity (Sandra Bullock)
Dr Stone is a broken woman on the path to recovery after the sudden death of her 4-year-old daughter. Stranded in space, she realises the value of life and begins to make peace with herself after surviving the worst possible odds.
7/21 Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (Meryl Streep)
This 2011 movie follows the life of the longest-serving Prime Minister of the 20th century and what an intimidating figure she was.
8/21 Claire Underwood in House of Cards (Robin Wright)
The First Lady is TV’s finest example of dogged determination. Claire is steely, cold and often unlikeable, but she fights to the last and won’t let anyone get in the way of the Underwood’s plans for world domination. She’s clever, calculating and a rare example of a powerful woman in total control.
9/21 Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (Jennifer Ehle)
Notably strong-willed and independent for Jane Austen's time, Elizabeth is determined not to give in to her mother's desperation to find all her daughters rich husbands. Yes she ends up with one - but she marries him for love and they form a mutual, equal understanding and respect for each other.
10/21 Olivia Pope in Scandal (Kerry Washington)
Crisis manager and revered fixer Olivia runs her own consulting firm and her employees are "gladiators in suits". Fast-thinking and efficient, she is one of few main female protagonists on TV who are "emotionally strong, professional powerful and and personally complicated". Olivia is intense, feminine and a style trend-setter.
11/21 Cheryl Strayed in Wild (Reese Witherspoon)
Faced with huge psychological and physical challenges, Cheryl is determined to save herself from her demons and sets out on a 1,100 mile hike to do just that. It's hard not to warm to her heroism and self-motivation.
12/21 Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey (Maggie Smith)
The Dowager Countess rules the roost at Downton, no matter what her stubborn son Lord Grantham says or does. She can shut down any argument with a brilliantly acerbic one-liner (see some of the best here) and is well-known as a force to contend with - Violet certainly knows her own mind and isn't afraid to speak it. Rumours of her leaving sent shivers down our spines.
13/21 Red in Orange is the New Black (Kate Mulgrew)
One thing Red has in bucket loads is respect from the other prisoners in this Netflix original series. She runs a smuggling business but draws the line at drugs, and makes a plan to have Mendez removed when he tries to force her into changing her rules. Red also helps some inmates over drug addiction - she's pretty kickass.
14/21 Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Rooney Mara)
Lisbeth is a world class computer hacker and a rape survivor. She takes special pleasure in exposing and punishing men who abuse women. Compelling for her unconventionality, many have speculated that Lisbeth has Asperger's Syndrome.
15/21 Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street (Julie Hesmondhalgh)
Hayley was a non-confrontational, boundlessly kind and extremely resilient "fan favourite" on the soap. Corrie's first transgender character, she made the transition to a woman from Harold in her early twenties, facing many social challenges. Hayley's biggest hurdle came with a terminal pancreatic cancer diagnosis last year, when she made the incredibly hard decision to end her life on her terms.
16/21 Hermione Granger in Harry Potter (Emma Watson)
She might not be everybody's cup of tea but Hogwarts student Hermione is hard-working, tenacious, compassionate and stands her own alongside best friends Harry and Ron on their adventures.
17/21 Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska)
Charlotte Bronte's classic heroine is highly individualised for her time and determined to assert her own identity within a male-dominated society. She only marries Mr Rochester once she is sure that their love is built on equality.
18/21 Mulan in Mulan (Ming-Na Wen)
Mulan takes her father's place in the army because he is too frail to fight. She proves herself more capable than any man in Shang's charge and saves China. Really quite impressive.
19/21 Patsey in 12 Years a Slave (Lupita Nyong'o)
Nyong'o won an Oscar for her portrayal of gritty young slave girl Patsey in Steve McQueen's harrowing drama. She retains her hard-working attitude and will of defiance despite suffering relentless abuse at the hands of her owners.
20/21 Erin Brockovich in Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts)
This true story follows the life of an unemployed single mother of three, who fought tirelessly against the energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric Company after discovering their dangerous secret. As the film's tagline reads: 'She brought a small town to its feet and a huge company to its knees'.
21/21 Jane Wilde in The Theory of Everything (Felicity Jones)
Sure, Jane Wilde dedicated much of her life to her genius husband Stephen Hawking, but this film focuses on their marriage ahead of his career. Jane is strong enough to realise the depth of her feelings for a man given just two years to live and determined to face the odds
"At the beginning the pay disparity [between herself and X-Files co-star David Duchovny] was massive. [Sexism] is built in to our society. It's easy to miss and it's easy to get used to it." - Red, November 2014
“People say, 'Wow, how is it working with a female director?' I'm like, 'What are you talking about? It's like working with a person'. People ask, 'Is it like a female look at violence?' I don't even know what that means.” - The Hollywood Reporter, May 2015
“Once women passed childbearing age they could only be seen as grotesque on some level.” - On turning 40 and being offered three roles as witches, Vogue, December 2011
"I would be given back all my studio muscle provided I used it to beat another woman senseless and get so turned on by that thrashing that I would have to have urgent sex with my 60-year-old male costar whose buttocks were to be played by a gymnast. I'm still deciding whether or not I should take that job." - Elle's Women in Hollywood awards, October 2011
"The sad thing is the only two industries where women make more than men are fashion and pornography." - The Hollywood Reporter, May 2015