Ageism in Writing: Is It a Problem?

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.

ageism in writingA 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.

2 Comments on Ageism in Writing: Is It a Problem?

  1. I think the ageism is a two way street: there are few authors currently under 30 who would write a book that interests me. It’s probably not physical, but rather focus and culture. Their writing styles and ideas mostly seem to fixate on fast pace or cinematic action or YA. There are exceptions, but it seems like they are few and far between.

    Maybe the upcoming generations will toss aside the current tends and return to slower detailed writing, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ll have to be the old man yelling “You kids get off of my lawn” or it’s literary equivalent.

  2. Good post. A friend of mine in Hollywood, a screenwriter who actually had one of his screenplays released as a movie long ago, and still getting residuals from the movie, told me that he has not been able to get another screenplay greenlighted even with his track record because he is considered too OLD by Hollywood system. He’s 65. He wrote his money spinning screenplay for a very popular movie when he was 35. Since then, despite his track record, no offers. It does not make sense for writers: for actors or actresses where their faces are seen by moviegoers yes and sadly ageisim rules there too, and in some ways more understandbly, but a writer is such a word man or woman, texting, why should age make a difference. But John, who i went to college with in the 1960s, tells me it’s how Hollywood works. Strange.

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