On-screen seniors labelled an 'endangered species'

ACTORS over 60 have been labelled as an "endangered species", a new report reveals, despite the likes of Johnny Depp, Sean Connery, Helen Mirren and George Clooney leading the way for seniors.

According to the report on ageism, only 11% of the speaking characters in the 100 top-grossing films of 2015 were 60 or over, though they represent 18.5% of the population in America.

The report comes from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Commination's and Journalism and finds that older women are more likely to be completely absent on-screen, compared to older men.

The statistics show that 43% of the films had no older female characters at all and 78% didn't have any senior females in leading or supporting roles.

When the films did cast older actresses, they were outnumbered nearly three-to-one by their older male counterparts.

Of the 100 top-grossing films from 2015, only 10 leads or co-leads were played by actors 60 or older at the time of theatrical release, and the majority of those leads were male, with only three filled by female actors: Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren and Lin Shaye.

Among the male leads, only one senior was not white - Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight.

The report also found that older male characters are far more likely than older women to hold important jobs.

"Highly accomplished senior females in positions of power and authority were rare, with just nine women in these roles," it reads.

"In comparison, there were 69 older male characters with a high-clout occupation. Female role models for younger and older viewers were difficult to find in film."

The report concluded: "Overall, the portrait of seniors in film bears little resemblance to the reality of many individuals age 60 and above. Viewers of all ages should be able to see the vibrant, diverse community and experiences of older adults in the U.S. reflected on screen."

The one shortcoming of reports that study only the 100 top-grossing films in any given year is that the sample represents only a small slice of the industry's overall film output.

Acknowledging this the report noted that "a larger or longitudinal sample may offer more robust findings or trends in portrayals over time."

The report was prepared Dr Stacy L. Smith, Dr Katherine Pieper, and Marc Choueiti as part of University of Southern California's Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative, in partnership with Humana.

Originally posted on DEADLINE.

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