The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) recently filed a brief in which the organization decided the first amendment should take a back seat to protecting its talent. Taking issue with IMDb’s policy of revealing the ages of actors and actresses, SAG filed a brief in District Court last month to prevent the website from disseminating publicly-available information.
Ageism is a real thing. In the tech world, for example, 30 was once considered over-the-hill. But as companies matured, their founders and CEOs did as well, decreasing some of the stigma. Now we have founders in their golden years and CEOs of Fortune 500 tech companies with grandchildren.
We’ve come a long way.
Hollywood, on the other hand, has not.
In a world that’s all-too-reliant on looks — often at the expense of talent — keeping an actor’s age under wraps is the equivalent of hiding that piss tape before a run for office. And in Hollywood, a piss tape could prove less damaging than finding out an actress is in her 40s.
One of these “actresses,” Junie Hoang even sued IMDb for publishing her real age. She wanted $1 million in damages because, as she claimed, the website was costing her leading roles by revealing her real age. Never mind the fact that, in her entire career, Hoang made less than $2,000 annually as an actor.
Note that the Actors Guild doesn’t claim that IMDb publishes age information that’s false, nor that it publishes true information obtained in an illegal manner. Rather SAG-AFTRA asserts that IMDb somehow has a legal responsibility to help actors obtain work by concealing their ages; that the state has the ability to judge what kinds of content have “value” in the “marketplace of ideas”; and that information of “little value” can be banned.
The larger issue at play is that of rampant ageism in Hollywood. And although we have laws on the books protecting us from this type of discrimination, SAG is instead choosing to challenge a site for disseminating information rather than focusing its attention on those perpetuating the practice.
As if journalism wasn’t already facing enough heat, SAG is now arguing that ensuring its actors remain employable should trump fact-based reporting. And while I see little value in releasing celebrity ages — granted, I see little value in celebrity culture in general — there’s nothing preventing IMDb from doing it… yet.