Ageism in Writing: Is It a Problem?
January 15, 2014 | 4:15 pm
Writing ought to be one vocation that’s truly ageless. After all, in principle you can keep going until the pen drops from your hand or your fingers cramp on the keyboard. It’s also a discipline where teens have produced timeless works. So age ought to be immaterial, right? Not necessarily, it seems: at least, if you take public recognition into account.
A current blog post from screenwriter Lee Jessup posulates an ageism problem in screenwriting. “Ageism and sexism have long been the looming clouds for many a creative person trying to make their way in the film and television industries,” he states. And although, asking “is ageism in Hollywood alive and well?” he answers ”not necessarily, or, in the very least, not as aggressively as in years past,” the news he relates isn’t exactly all positive. “I find that there is more hope for older writers these days. The naysayers will tell you that if you’re a day over 28, your chances to make it as a screenwriter are dead.”
Elsewhere, others cite the opposite problem. For example, writer Ryan Casey quotes in his blog “probably two of the most scathing comments I’ve ever received, and what’s the common theme? Age. Despite being aware of ageism, I’m very open about my age in my books, on my blog, across social media, etc. In case you don’t know, I’m 21.”
“The notion that age correlates with quality is, quite frankly, absurd,” insists Casey. And note that he’s making no claim for youthful writing. It outs both ways.
You could somewhat understand this issue in screenwriting, if the media titans are eager to catch the youth dollar. But, Jessup reassures us, “we are now in an age of building screenwriting careers, rather than having the ability to sell a single script. Agents and managers are a lot more eager to bank on writers who will produce for them again and again over a long period of time.”
I sincerely hope so. I also hope that there’s a place for every demographic, from young adult to retiree fiction. Self-publishing ought to make it even less of a problem. But with media corporations tweaking their decisions according to just about every other perceived or assumed prejudice going, I do wonder. Feedback invited.