At the age of fifty, they decided to count in the cinema

Catherine Peverity will long remember her fiftieth birthday. In the week of her birthday, the actress received an offer to advertise an earpiece, the advertisement of which stated that the wanted actress must be in her fifties.

When the young director saw her, he asked her if she had gone into the wrong room. Catherine Beverity replied, “Tit for tat: “Were you expecting a curly woman, with long white hair, and very elegantly dressed in purple?” shy gesture “So you’re looking for a 75-year-old woman, because a 50-year-old is”She said referring to herself. And the actress came to a conclusion that she likes to repeat. “When I came out of this test, I understood one thing: ‘He who is not represented does not exist.

While one in two French women is over 50, they are often absent from the screens that make up our society. A particularly glaring disappearance in the world of cinema, as evidenced by the Association of French Affiliated Actresses and Actresses (AAFA), which in 2015 created a commission called “The Tunnel of the 50-Year-Old Actress”, which actress Marina brought to me. According to a census conducted by the association, only 9% of roles in French cinema were attributed to women aged 50 and over in 2020. And this, while the big screen is societal and political, as shown by 75 again.e Edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

Pictures from last year

“We are pulling representations from another century”, regrets to Catherine Pivaretti, who also participated in the “Tunnel of Actresses 50 Years Ago” panel. She recalls the words of the anthropologist Françoise Herterre about two Epinal engravings representing the ages of life: on one, the 50-year-old is lonely and radiant; On the other hand, a woman, regardless of her age, never tastes loneliness and is generally accompanied by a male figure (dolls, husband, child, grandson, great-grandson). The legend of the inscription depicting the ages of the woman says: “At the age of fifty, she stops; for her grandson, she celebrates.” “We’re still there, the woman stops again. Epinal pictures today It’s the cinema “laments Catherine Bivaretti.

In the cinema, the decline of performances began even in the forties. The change occurs at age 50, as shown in a Collectif 50/50 study of French films released in 2019. Before the age of 50, the share of roles played by women was 42%; Between the ages of 50 and 64 it drops to 26%. However, the noteworthy fact: Virginie Evira, the 45-year-old actress and member of the group, is nothing but the mistress of the festivities for the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.

For Catherine Bivaretti, if the switch occurs at age 50, it is because it is the average age of menopause, which is the age at which a woman stops having children. “Continuing not to represent us is to say to us, ‘You are only useful in your sexual and desirable role’.”, she adds. conditional rejection of “Social menopause” Written by Melissa-Asley Pettit, Ph.D., a sociologist at the head of Mixing Generations, an office of research on aging.

A phenomenon subject to Omerta, according to Catherine Pivaretti: No one has seen actresses disappear as they get older. You had to die with your mouth shut, otherwise it would be detrimental to our careers.”Before explaining why the actresses took up the topic, she regretted it: “We wanted to prove that our disappearance was not an illusion, a figment of the imagination, but a systematic fact.” The challenge above all was to silence the counterexample argument, which is often used: “Just because you can name ten names doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The stars on the screen are the tree that hides the forest »Weary, Sophie Deschamps insists, since the height of her forty-three year career as a screenwriter.

women’s costume
men when shooting

Because for Fanny Ardant (73), Isabelle Huppert (69), Sophie Marceau (55), or Karen Viard (56), they are often mentioned, how many have had to drop the case? According to activists, the mechanism that makes women over 50 invisible is well established: once the role becomes mediocre, “A person with a name that is privileged”, attests to Sophie Deschamps, a screenwriter but also the former chair of the board of directors for the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers (SACD). As for small roles, they often remain a little thoughtful and a little feminine, “No one peels them”.

If we disappear from images, we disappear from the collective unconscious. It’s double violence, anti-ageing and gender-biased.”

Catherine Bivaretti, Actress and Co-Referent for the Committee
“The 50-Year-Old Actress Tunnel”

Because the film is a mass production, the thought of representations has to happen early in the creative process. In order to ensure her appearance, the presence of women in the film industry is thus a prerequisite for a screenwriter: “If we initially had equal opportunities for careers in film and television, there would have been a better equality of views. This is what needs to be fixed urgently.” According to studies conducted by the National Center for the Motion Picture and Film (CNC), women tend to occupy positions of screenwriter, fashion designer, hairstylist, or makeup artist, when men are responsible for production, audio or video recording. .

These works, as well as the speech editing born of the #MeToo and #Balancetonporc movements, have given impetus to initiatives to combat gender discrimination in the cinematic milieu. It suffices to bring about a change in the representations that, according to Catherine Bivaretti, are of interest to the whole of society: “The fight for invisibility is not only a struggle for actresses and women over 50, but also for young women.argue vigorously. If we disappear from images, we disappear from the collective unconscious. It’s double violence, anti-ageing and gender-biased.”

Cover these corpses that you
can’t see

Getting rid of women over 50 goes hand in hand with a young man who has been described as an eternal sign of beauty. In this surrounding youth, the signs of aging must be softened, hidden and transformed, and women who manage to do so — voluntarily or reluctantly — know this very quickly. “I often hear this phrase, which I must take as a compliment: ‘You don’t.’ I look at my age, I look at my age, but in people’s minds I don’t look like 57.”indignant Catherine Bivaretti.

A particularly pronounced phenomenon in professions where beauty capital supports employability. “Society tells women that you only look at them when they are young and beautiful.”Thierry Delcourt, a psychiatrist who specializes in art. Thus, actresses are pushed to conform to the idea that one can possess an attractive woman in order to continue working: “If you are no longer seen as a girl who can strip or swim in two pieces, you will have to fight to stay in the race for interesting roles”Screenwriter Sophie Deschamps attests.

No wonder, then, that lying about your age when casting actors is so common. A new example: the latest disappointment for French actress Agnes Chateau who starred in the series. the most beautiful life: “Fifteen minutes ago I got a negative response for a role because I wasn’t old enough. The character was 70 years old. I’m 68, but I looked too young. Had to tag”She says over the phone.

Here’s why screenwriter Sophie Deschamps, who has co-starred with women over 50, makes it a point of honor to match the actual age and age of the role: “People are their age. When I celebrate 50, it’s 50. We must leave the Molière years behind by accepting that actresses are of age for the role and stop rejuvenating the women who play the power figure.” Or the role of a lover as in the movie EiffelReleased in 2021.

Old Goat or Grandma Cakes?

But the opposite trend is to be put in the “grandmother’s” basket. Sociologist Melissa Asli Betty admits there is a tendency to “Considering that those over their fifties are a homogeneous group, as if they are all too old and lose their independence”. Watch the cliched roles that freeze existing representations, cited by Catherine Peverity: “Dry Old Goats, Sweet Grandma and Cougar”. Hollow images that women over 50 are trying to change to get rid of clichés that make them lose their liveliness on screen.

Are we presented with the reality of the woman who says ‘You see, I can’?Melissa asks Asli Betty. “We have to stop making housewives. We are not jam-grandmothers nor crazy people who talk to their fries. Women don’t talk to their pots. They have friends, a life, a job.”Protest against screenwriter Sophie Deschamps. This is what the series wanted to show Grace and FrankieBroadcast on Netflix since 2015, which counters these stereotypes by telling the story of two 70-year-old women.

According to storytelling researcher Monika Siejka, this type of innovative story unfolds more easily in the series thanks to the diversity of the communities on the streaming platforms, “who found there a greater scope for representation and expression”. Movies are also increasingly affected by this phenomenon, such as pinkstarring Françoise Fabien as a 78-year-old widow who rediscovers her sexuality.

If personal initiatives appear in the professional environment and associations, then all creative professions and institutions still have to be persuaded, as Catherine Peverity reminds us. AAFA interviewed them all: directors, screenwriters, producers, and directors. Now you have to be able to work with them. Without this, mentalities will change in fifty years. We don’t have time to wait.”She is grumpy, her voice is calm yet determined to move the lines, and this is in partnership with various actors in the film industry.

Recently, at the end of a meeting with CNC, it was precisely the commission that made a significant breakthrough: making the focus on actresses, which was made only once in 2020 to study the position of women in the film industry, permanent. It will now be published every two years, with the next deadline set for the end of 2022. A working group will also be formed jointly with CNC and the Ministry of Culture. The goal, according to Catherine Beverity: “Together, let’s see how we can change representations.”

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