American comedian Amy Schumer blew up social media this week with a parody sketch brilliantly skewering ageism in Hollywood. The skit,“Last F**kable Day,” features Schumer stumbling upon a trio of actresses, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, and Patricia Arquette, enjoying a beautiful celebratory picnic. The occasion? Louis-Dreyfus’ last f**kable day—according to the media—after which she will only be considered for roles as mothers, grandmothers and other characters generally deemed “undesirable.” As Louis-Dreyfus explains it, you know your career has officially peaked in the eyes of men (and some women) when “you go to wardrobe and the only thing they have for you to wear are long sweaters that cover you up head to toe.”
The skit is so bitingly funny in part because female viewers understand a much uglier truth is lurking just beneath its surface: sexism in Hollywood is still rampant, and the women involved are totally over it.
Now, increasingly, they’re also doing something about it.
One of the big ways women and minorities can ensure more accurate, equitable representation is by diversifying the people who devise the plots. Women’s involvement in Hollywood hovers around 30% industry-wide; when it comes to screenwriting that number drops significantly to about 15%. This eye-popping disparity may be why a new writer’s lab for female screenwriters over 40 has already received so much attention.
Funded largely by Hollywood superstar Meryl Streep, The Writer’s Lab is a partnership between New York Women In Film and Television (NYWIFT) and IRIS (a collective of female filmmakers) that will select eight female screenwriters for a three-day workshop of intensive script development and screenplay polishing. Each participant will be paired with already-successful female, writers and producers; the hope being to give a leg up to a demographic too often overlooked.
As NYWIFT director Terry Lawler noted in a statement: “After decades of ageism and sexism in our culture and in our films, the complex voices of mature women are in danger of being lost entirely. Women must address this inequality by taking ownership of that narrative.”