Women in America face challenges in the world of work. Female workers and leaders get paid seventy-three cents for every dollar a man earns. The Atlantic recently published an article about how women in media, though they are leaders of organizations, struggle to gain a gravitas to be compared with their male counterparts. While it is tempting to look at Hollywood and imagine that actresses have it easier than the common girl, a quick scratch shows that belief to be a fallacy. Some actresses, like Amy Adams, hope that they can find ways to help other women succeed, and in the case of Adams she wants to do so in a way that can create work for other actresses.
A 2013 The Hollywood Reporter conducted an interview with Amy Adams and six other of America’s best actresses. The discussion provided insight into the unique challenges that confronts strong and successful women who are working in today’s movie industry. While the effects of ageism weave through their conversation, the more deeper and profoundly interesting similarity emerged as they talked about how they have had the maneuver the emotional challenges of being creative. Actresses have the same creative and existential struggles that everyone else has and with the additional pressure of having the success of their careers pinned to their appearance, they tend to be vulnerable to professional discrimination as they age.
Regardless the mode of creativity, people who have devoted their professional careers to create art for other audiences are always vulnerable to rejection. Competition, discrimination, and the dependence on other people to approve of the creative’s work triggers the same feelings of existential angst that most humans struggle to manage. The actresses reported feelings of self-doubt, fears that they would not be able to succeed, frustrations over wanting roles that were given to other people, scathing reviews that cut to the quick, and periods when they had felt like the better alternative to staying in acting might be to quit altogether and find another avocation. Amy Adams and the other women agreed that they had to find ways to continue to create throughout their disappointments, like when roles are awarded to other actresses.
As the interview progressed, the sense that these actresses were aware of each others’ contributions to the craft emerged. Naomi Watts talked about how the adrenaline charge of being nervous about performing and getting roles – or not –was an energy that fed her. Amy Adams mentioned that she had read an article about how Naomi Watts dealt with the stress of being a professional in such a competitive industry, and it gave her the courage to continue her acting career at a time when she had considered leaving it. Sally Field talked about the vulnerability of sincerely wanting the role of Mary Todd Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s rendition of the sixteenth president’s life despite being ten years older than Daniel Day Lewis and twenty years older than the actual Mrs. Lincoln had been. All indications were that she wouldn’t get the role, though she did. In response to Fields’ mention that in her experience, roles are harder to come by for aging female actresses, Anne Hathaway told her that she had been working on a screenplay with Fields specifically in mind.
After the collaborative sharing of joys, heartbreaks and hopes, Amy Adams said that she realized that one of her biggest dreams was to be able to create work for other actresses. Helen Hunt explained that she wanted to have meatier discussions abut creativity and the process of living that about what it is like to win awards for her acting. There was a collective desire for conversation of depth among the women gathered in the room. Anne Hathaway expressed the hope that as a result of the empowerment that women in general were gaining over their own creativity, she sees a future where ageism does not overpower strong and creative women’s ability to dynamically contribute to the acting art.
By Kaley Perkins